Macbeth Quotes

“Fair is foul and foul is fair.” (I, i, 10) Speaker: WitchesContext: They have just said that they will meet Macbeth when the war is over upon the heathMeaning: What is good will be bad, and what is bad will be goodTheme: Order vs. Disorder
“…go pronounce his present death, And with his former title greet Macbeth.” (I, ii, 64-65) Speaker: King DuncanContext: The war has just ended and they have discovered that the thane of Cawdor had betrayed them.Meaning: The thane of Cawdor will be executed and the title will be given to Macbeth. His second prophecy has come true. Theme: Loyalty vs. Disloyalty
“All hail Macbeth that shalt be king hereafter!” (I, iii, 50) Speaker: WitchContext: The witches are giving their prophecies to Macbeth.Meaning: Macbeth will be king.Theme: Order vs. Disorder
“Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none.” (I, iii, 67) Speaker: WitchContext: The witches are giving their prophecies to Banquo. Meaning: Banquo will not be king but he will be the father of kings.Theme: Appearance vs. Reality
“…why do you dress me in borrowed robes?” (I, iii, 109-110) Speaker: MacbethContext: The thane of Cawdor was just executed for treason and Ross said that Macbeth is now thane of Cawdor.Meaning: “Why do you refer to me as the thane of Cawdor when he lives?”Theme: Order vs. Disorder
“And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, The instruments of darkness tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s In deepest consequence.” (I, iii, 123-126) Speaker: BanquoContext: The witches just told Banquo and Macbeth their propheciesMeaning: The agents of evil often tell us part of the truth in order to lead us to our destruction. They earn our trust by telling us the truth about little things, but then they betray us when it will damage us the most.Theme: Appearance v. Reality
“He was a gentleman on whom I built an absolute trust.” (I, iv, 12-13) Speaker: King DuncanContext: The thane of Cawdor was executed for treasonMeaning: I trusted the thane of Cawdor but he betrayed me. Irony: he won’t be able to trust the new thane of Cawdor (Macbeth)Theme: Appearance v. Reality
“The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step on which I must fall down, or else o’erleap for in my way it lies.” (I, iv, 48-50) Speaker: MacbethContext: Malcolm was named the prince of CumberlandMeaning: I have to either step over him or give up b/c he’s in my wayTheme: Order v. Disorder
“…Yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way.” (I, v, 16-18) Speaker: Lady MacbethContext: Lady Macbeth just received the letter from Macbeth stating the prophecy that he will be kingMeaning: You are too kind to do something evilTheme: Manliness v. Cowardice
“Come, you spirits that tend to mortal thoughts, unsex me here…” (I, v, 40-41) Speaker: Lady MacbethContext: Lady Macbeth is trying to muster her courage to make Macbeth kingMeaning: Make me like a manTheme: Nature v. Unnatural
“…look like th’ innocent flower, But be the serpent under’t.” (I, v, 65-66) Speaker: Lady MacbethContext: Lady Macbeth is telling Macbeth to act normal.Meaning: Look innocent but plot the murder of DuncanTheme: Manliness v. Cowardice
“To alter favor ever is to fear.” (I, v, 72) Speaker: Lady MacbethContext: Macbeth has just returned after Lady M reads his letter and they are starting to discuss killing the kingMeaning: To show an altered face is dangerous; don’t look suspiciousTheme: Order vs. Disorder
“I dare do all that may become a man, who dares do more is none” (I, vi, 46-47) Speaker: MacbethContext: They are in the midst of their plan to kill the kingMeaning: I’ll become more of a man, but murdering makes me less of a manTheme: Manliness v. Cowardice
“But screw your courage to the sticking-place, and we’ll not fail.” (I, vi, 60-61) Speaker: Lady MacbethContext: Macbeth is doubting their plan to kill the kingMeaning: Be courageous and our plan will not fail.Theme: Manliness v. Cowardice
“Hear it not Duncan, for it is a knell that summons thee to heaven, or to hell.” (II, i, 63-64) Speaker: MacbethContext: The “dinner” bell rings as a signal for Macbeth that it is time to kill DuncanMeaning: This bell is the signal to kill Duncan; Duncan is going to die nowTheme: Madness v. Sanity
“I had most need of blessing, and ‘Amen’ stuck in my throat.” (II, ii, 31-32) Speaker: MacbethContext: He is talking to Lady Macbeth after killing the king. He is talking about the guards saying their prayersMeaning: I needed a blessing the most because of what I just did but I couldn’t prayTheme: Madness v. Sanity
“Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more” (II, ii, 41-42) Speaker: MacbethContext: Macbeth has just killed Duncan and he’s freaking outMeaning: He can’t have any peace anymore.Theme: Sleep v. Awareness
“My hands are of your color, but I shame to wear a heart so white.” (II, ii, 62-63) Speaker: Lady MacbethContext: They are cleaning up after the murder of DuncanMeaning: My hands are as bloody as yours but I will not be as innocent and pure as youTheme: Manliness v. Cowardice
“The night has been unruly.” (II, ii, 52) Speaker: LennoxContext: Lennox is talking to Macbeth the morning after the murder of DuncanMeaning: The night was stormy. (Dramatic irony)Theme: Madness v. Sanity
“O, yet do I repent of my fury, that I did kill them.” (II, iii, 105-106) Speaker: MacbethContext: Macbeth had just killed the guards. Angry so his first reaction was to kill the ones who killed the king.Meaning: I killed them because they killed the king! (cover his tracks)Theme: Madness v. Sanity
“…I fear thou play’dst most foully for’t” (III, i, 2-3) Speaker: BanquoContext: Banquo is talking to himself about Macbeth being named KingMeaning: I think that Macbeth did something wrong to be KingTheme: Order v. Disorder
“They hailed him father to a line of kings. Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown…” (III, i, 60-61) Speaker: MacbethContext: Macbeth has just been crowned as king, and he is talking about how Banquo is a threat to him now because of his prophecies, and Macbeth decides he needs to kill him now tooMeaning: My reign as king is pointless and won’t last long because, according to Banquo’s prophecies, he will have sons who will take over. Theme: Order v. Disorder
“We have scorched the snake, not killed it:” (III, ii, 12) Speaker: MacbethContext: Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are talking in the castle after hiring the murderers to kill Banquo. Meaning: We have dealt with the problem now, but it will come back later.Theme: Madness v. Sanity
“…Duncan is in his grave; After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well.” (III, ii, 22-23) Speaker: MacbethContext: Duncan has been murdered.Meaning: Duncan is dead and at peaceTheme: Sleep v. Awareness
“There the grown serpent lies; the worm that’s fled hath nature that in time will venom breed, no teeth for th’ present.” (III, iv, 29-31) Speaker: MacbethContext: The murderers tell Macbeth that Banquo is dead but Fleance has escapedMeaning: Banquo lies dead and Fleance has fled. Fleance will eventually threaten my powerTheme: Order v. Disorder
“Thou canst not say I did it. Never shake thy gory locks at me.” (III, iv, 50-51) Speaker: MacbethContext: Banquet scene where Macbeth sees the ghost of BanquoMeaning: Macbeth cannot be blamed for Banquo’s murder because he did not do the killing himselfTheme: Madness v. Sanity
“…What, quite unmanned in folly?” (III, iv, 73) Speaker: Lady MacbethContext: Macbeth has just created a scene at the banquet because he thought he saw the ghost of BanquoMeaning: Has your foolishness paralyzed you?Theme: Madness v. Sanity
“It will have blood they say: blood will have blood.” (III, iv, 122) Speaker: MacbethContext: Lady Macbeth sends all the guests out due to Macbeth’s outbreak of angry emotionMeaning: Macbeth believes that once you do something wrong, you keep doing bad things (aka killing)Theme: Madness v. Sanity
“You lack the season of all natures, sleep.” (III, iv, 141) Speaker: Lady MacbethContext: After Macbeth’s crazy moment at dinner. Meaning: You have gone mad, you have lost your senses, you need to go sleep.Theme: Sleep v. Awareness
Macbeth considering the witches’ prophecies (I, iii, 127ff) Speaker: Macbeth (aside) Context: Banquo and Macbeth are talking about the witches’ prophecies. Macbeth is considering what the witches have told himMeaning: Two parts of the prophecy have come true- he is the Thane of Glamis and just became the Thane of Cawdor. If the prophecy is bad, then why have good things come from it? If the prophecy is good, then why does Macbeth think of horrid things? (thought of killing King Duncan).Theme:
“Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and caldron bubble.” (IV, i, 10-11) Speaker: WitchesContext: Hecate scolded the witches for giving Macbeth prophecies without her so they plan to make him overconfidentMeaning: Double the trouble of Macbeth and double it again. Theme: Nature v. Unnatural
“…for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth” (IV, i, 80-81) Speaker: Apparition (Bloody child)Context: Macbeth went to seek out the witchesMeaning: No one who is born of a woman will kill MacbethTheme: Order v. Disorder
Macbeth shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill Shall come against him” (IV, i, 92-94) Speaker: Apparition (Child w/ tree and crown)Context: The third prophecy Macbeth receives in his second visit with the witches Meaning: Macbeth won’t die until the woods outside his castle come to fight himTheme: Order v. Disorder
“…from this moment the very firstlings of my heart shall be the firstlings of my hand.” (IV, i 147-148) Speaker: MacbethContext: Macbeth was just told that Macduff went to EnglandMeaning: I will act on the first ideas that pop in my head (I don’t want to miss anyone like this again)Theme: Manliness v. Cowardice
“…When our actions do not, our fears make us traitors” (IV, ii, 3-4) Speaker: Lady MacduffContext: Lady Macduff is asking Ross why Macduff fled to EnglandMeaning: Macduff running away is making him seem like a traitor; Fear can make someone as guilty as their actionsTheme: Manliness v. Cowardice?
“I must also feel it as man…” (IV, iii, 221) Speaker: MacduffContext: Macduff just received news that his wife and children are dead. Malcolm said that he should use this as vengeanceMeaning: I must mournTheme: Manliness v. Cowardice
“The night is long that never found a day.” (IV, iii, 240) Speaker: MalcolmContext: After Macduff found out that his wife and children were killed, Malcolm is encouraging him to use his anger to bring revenge to Macbeth, and he tells Macduff that it is time to find and kill Macbeth.Meaning: The army is ready; A new day will rise soon and we can go get revenge on Macbeth. Theme: Appearance v. Reality?
“What, will these hands ne’er be clean?” (V, i, 38) Speaker: Lady MacbethContext: After hearing about the murder of MacDuff’s family she starts to sleepwalk and talk in her sleep. Meaning: After Macbeth killed the king Lady Macbeth told him to wash his hand and it will be over, but really the deed is done and it can not be taken back or fixedTheme: Madness v. Sanity
“Unnatural deeds do breed unnatural troubles.” (V, i, 62-63) Speaker: DoctorContext: The doctor talking to the gentlewoman after he observes Lady Macbeth sleepwalking/talkingMeaning: Unnatural acts will cause supernatural things to happenTheme: Natural v. Unnatural
“More needs she the divine than the physician” (V, i, 65) Speaker: DoctorContext: The doctor and Macbeth are talking about Lady Macbeth’s health, and Macbeth gets angry because the doctor says he can’t do anything for her.Meaning: I can’t help her because it is not a physical health issue, she is mentally ill, and only she can cure that herself.Theme: Order v. Disorder
“Now does he feel his secret murders sticking on his hands.” (V, ii, 17-18) Speaker: AngusContext: Menteith, Caithness, Angus, and Lennox are talking about joining Malcolm and his army to fight against MacbethMeaning: All of Macbeth’s murders are coming back to get him (karma) and he should feel guilty Theme: Appearance v. Reality
“Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased…?” (V, iii, 40) Speaker: MacbethContext: Macbeth is talking to the doctor about what he can do to make Lady Macbeth betterMeaning: Macbeth is asking the doctor to make Lady Macbeth better. He wants the doctor to give her medicine so she stops feeling guilty about all they have done. Theme: Madness v. Sanity
“It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” (V, v, 26-28) Speaker: MacbethContext: Macbeth is talking to Seyton after he told him that Lady Macbeth had killed herselfMeaning: Macbeth says that life is pointless. He compares life to a play and says that all the commotion happens on stage and then when it is over, the actor then leave and nothing that they did matters anymore. Theme: Appearance vs. Reality
“I looked toward Birnam, and anon, methought, the wood began to move.” (V, v, 33-34) Speaker: MessengerContext: The messenger is reporting to Macbeth what he saw when Malcolm’s army was approaching the castle.Meaning: He saw trees coming toward the castle. In one of the prophecies, the witches told Macbeth that the woods would attack the castle, but it’s actually the army using trees as camouflage to disguise how big their army actually is.Theme: Appearance v. Reality
“Macduff was from his mother’s womb untimely ripped.” (V, viii, 15-16) Speaker: MacduffContext: Macduff is fighting Macbeth. Macbeth states the witches’ prophecy: …which must not yield to one of woman bornMeaning: Macduff was not born naturally, but was born by c-section, so he is able to defeat Macbeth and the witches’ prophecies were true.Theme: Natural vs. Unnatural
“As she is troubled with thick-coming fancies That keep her from rest…Canst thou not minister a mind diseased.”(V, iii) Speaker: Macbeth and the DoctorContext: The Doctor is explaining to Macbeth that his wife is ill. Meaning: No medicine can cure her. Only she can cure herself. Macbeth asks the doctor if there is a pill or medicine that can cure her. Theme: Madness vs. Sanity
“She should have died hereafter; There would have been a time for a word. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.” (V, v) Speaker: MacbethContext: Macbeth just finds out from Seyton that his wife is deadMeaning: She would have eventually died. If not today, then the next day, or the day after that. Eventually we run out of tomorrows. Theme: Sleep vs. Awakeness

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