Macbeth: Act 2, Scene 1



with a torch before him:  Fleance has the torch "before him" because he is trying to find his way. Later we learn that "the moon is down" and the stars shed no light. Thus does Shakespeare let us know that it is a very dark night.
           Enter BANQUO, and FLEANCE with a torch
           before him.


      BANQUO
  1   How goes the night, boy?
Elise Edwards as Fleance; Maclin Schweger as Banquo.

Image Source: Southeast Missouri State University

      FLEANCE
  2   The moon is down; I have not heard the clock.

      BANQUO
  3   And she goes down at twelve.

      FLEANCE
                                                      I take't, 'tis later, sir.

      BANQUO
4. husbandry: thriftiness.
  4   Hold, take my sword. There's husbandry in heaven;
5. Take thee that too: Here editors often add a stage direction, "Gives him his belt and dagger." 6. A heavy summons lies like lead upon me: i.e., I am extremely sleepy. 7. And yet I would not sleep: but I don't want to sleep. powers: angels charged with helping people fight demons. 8. Restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature / Gives way to in repose!: If Macbeth had said these lines, they would be easier to interpret: Macbeth has been having "cursed thoughts" of killing his king, which his human nature has given way to. But what could be Banquo's "cursed thoughts"?
  5   Their candles are all out. Take thee that too.
  6   A heavy summons lies like lead upon me,
  7   And yet I would not sleep. Merciful powers,
  8   Restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature
  9   Gives way to in repose!

            Enter MACBETH, and a Servant with a torch.

                                        Give me my sword.
 10   Who's there?

      MACBETH
 11   A friend.

      BANQUO
 12   What, sir, not yet at rest? The king's a-bed:
 13   He hath been in unusual pleasure, and
14.largess: gratuities. your offices: service locales in Macbeth's castle such as the kitchen, the stable, and the laundry. 16-17. and shut up / In measureless content: and [he] concluded by expressing his measureless content.
 14   Sent forth great largess to your offices.
 15   This diamond he greets your wife withal,
 16   By the name of most kind hostess; and shut up
 17   In measureless content.

      MACBETH
17-19. Being unprepared ... wrought: i.e., because we were unprepared for King Duncan's visit, what we wanted to do to entertain the king had to give way to what we could do with limited resources; otherwise, our desire to serve the king would have had free rein.
                                               Being unprepared,
 18   Our will became the servant to defect;
 19   Which else should free have wrought.

      BANQUO
                                                                 All's well.
 20   I dreamt last night of the three weird sisters:
 21   To you they have show'd some truth.

      MACBETH
                                                       I think not of them;
 22   Yet, when we can entreat an hour to serve,
 23   We would spend it in some words upon that business,
 24   If you would grant the time.

      BANQUO
                                             At your kind'st leisure.

      MACBETH
25. If you shall cleave to my consent, when 'tis: if you give me your support when the time comes.
 25   If you shall cleave to my consent, when 'tis,
 26   It shall make honour for you.

      BANQUO
26-29. So I lose none ... counsell'd: under the condition that I lose no honor [personal integrity] in seeking to increase my honor [recognition and rewards], but always keep my heart free from guilt and my loyalties clear [of taint], I am willing to listen [to your proposal].
                                                 So I lose none
 27   In seeking to augment it, but still keep
 28   My bosom franchised and allegiance clear,
 29   I shall be counsell'd.

      MACBETH
                                       Good repose the while!

      BANQUO
 30   Thanks, sir: the like to you!

            Exit Banquo [with Fleance].

      MACBETH
31. thy mistress: Lady Macbeth.
 31   Go bid thy mistress, when my drink is ready,
Image Source:
Pinterest / Macbeth.
 32   She strike upon the bell. Get thee to bed.

            Exit [Servant].

 33   Is this a dagger which I see before me,
 34   The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
 35   I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
36-37. sensible / To feeling: discernible to the sense of touch.
 36   Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
 37   To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
 38   A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
39. heat-oppressed: fevered. The "heat" comes from obsessively thinking about the murder that he is about to commit.
 39   Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
 40   I see thee yet, in form as palpable
 41   As this which now I draw.
 42   Thou marshall'st me the way that I was going;
42-43. Thou marshall'st me ... use: you guide me the way I was already going, and [you are] the same kind of weapon I had planned to us.
 43   And such an instrument I was to use.
 44   Mine eyes are made the fools o' the other senses,
 45   Or else worth all the rest; I see thee still,
46. dudgeon: hilt. gouts: large clots.
 46   And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,
47. Which was not so before: i.e. The blood wasn't there a minute ago. 48-49. It is ... eyes: it is the [thought of] the bloody actions [involved in killing the king] which creates these forms [of the dagger and of the gouts of blood] seen by my eyes. 49. half-world: hemisphere. 50. abuse: deceive. 51. curtain'd sleep: sleep behind bed curtains. 52. Pale Hecat's off'rings: rites and sacrifices dedicated to Hecate [goddess of witchcraft and the moon]. 53. Alarum'd: called into action. 54. Whose howl's his watch: whose howl is his watchword. In the extended metaphor that Macbeth uses, the wolf stalks about, looking for victims, and howls to "withered Murder" when one is found. thus with his stealthy pace: The "thus" seems to indicate that Macbeth now starts towards King Duncan's door, stalking his prey like a wolf. 55. With Tarquin's ravishing strides: Tarquin was a famous rapist, and the primary meaning of the word "ravish" is "to seize, carry away, rape, violate." his design: the object of his plot; his victim. 58. prate: snitch on someone. 59. And take the present horror from the time: and remove the present sense of horror from the occasion. 60. Whiles I threat, he lives: while I make threats King Duncan still lives.
 47   Which was not so before. There's no such thing:
 48   It is the bloody business which informs
 49   Thus to mine eyes. Now o'er the one half-world
 50   Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse
 51   The curtain'd sleep; witchcraft celebrates
 52   Pale Hecat's off'rings; and wither'd Murder,
 53   Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf,
 54   Whose howl's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace,
 55   With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design
 56   Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth,
 57   Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear
 58   Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,
 59   And take the present horror from the time,
 60   Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives:
 61   Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.

            A bell rings.

 62   I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.
 63   Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell
 64   That summons thee to heaven or to hell.

           Exit.