Macbeth: Act 4, Scene 1
Thunder. Enter the three WITCHES.
1. brinded: brindled, streaked.
1Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.
2. hedge-pig: hedgehog.
2Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.
3. Harpier: Apparently the name of the familiar spirit of Third Witch. The name suggests "Harpy," which in Greek mythology is a loathsome monster with the head and chest of a woman, and the remainder of its body in the shape of a predatory bird.
3Harpier cries "'Tis time, 'tis time."
4Round about the cauldron go;
5. In the poison'd entrails throw: throw the poisoned entrails in.
5In the poison'd entrails throw.
6Toad, that under cold stone
7-8. Days ... got: has for thirty-one days and nights sweated out venom while sleeping.
7Days and nights has thirty-one
8Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
9Boil thou first i' the charmed pot.
10. double: In Shakespeare's time, "double" also meant "deceptive."
10Double, double toil and trouble;
11Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
12. fenny: inhabiting fens or swamps.
12Fillet of a fenny snake,
13In the cauldron boil and bake;
14Eye of newt and toe of frog,
15Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
16. fork: forked tongue. blind-worm's sting The blindworm is a legless lizard with a black forked tongue, which was thought to contain venom, and was called its "sting." 17. howlet's: owl's.
16Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
17Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,
18For a charm of powerful trouble,
19Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
20Double, double toil and trouble;
21Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
22Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
23. mummy: medicine made from mummified flesh. maw and gulf: stomach and gullet. 24. ravin'd: ravenous. 25. hemlock: a poisonous plant.
23Witches' mummy, maw and gulf
24Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark,
25Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark,
26Liver of blaspheming Jew,
27. Gall: gallbladder; bile. yew a tree considered a symbol of sadness. 28. Sliver'd: cut off.
27Gall of goat, and slips of yew
28Sliver'd in the moon's eclipse,
29. Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips: Both Turks and Tartars were considered to be cruelly violent.
29Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips,
30Finger of birth-strangled babe
31. drab: whore. To get rid of her baby on the sly, the whore would deliver it in a ditch and then strangle it. 32. slab: sticky. 33. chaudron: entrails.
31Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,
32Make the gruel thick and slab.
33Add thereto a tiger's chaudron,
34For the ingredients of our cauldron.
35Double, double toil and trouble;
36Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
37Cool it with a baboon's blood,
38Then the charm is firm and good.
**Enter HECAT and the other three
39-44. Enter HECAT ... [Exit HECATE.]: The general opinion of Shakespeare scholars is that everything between Hecate's entrance and her exit was inserted after Shakespeare wrote the play. A song by the name of "Black spirits" appears in a later play, Thomas Middleton's The Witch, which was performed about 1615. Open the text of the song.
39O well done! I commend your pains;
40And every one shall share i' the gains;
41And now about the cauldron sing,
42Live elves and fairies in a ring
43Enchanting all that you put in.
Music and a song: "Black spirits, etc."
44. pricking: tingling.
44By the pricking of my thumbs,
45Something wicked this way comes.
48How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!
49What is't you do?
A deed without a name.
50. that which you profess: i.e., the demonic arts in which you are expert.
50I conjure you, by that which you profess,
51Howe'er you come to know it, answer me:
52Though you untie the winds and let them fight
53. yesty: yeasty, foamy.
53Against the churches; though the yesty waves
54. Confound and swallow navigation up: i.e., destroy and drown all ships at sea. 55. bladed corn be lodged: ripe grain be beaten down [by storms]. 56. warders: keepers, guardians. 57. slope: bend.
54Confound and swallow navigation up;
55Though bladed corn be lodged and trees blown down;
56Though castles topple on their warders' heads;
57Though palaces and pyramids do slope
58-60. though the treasure / Of nature's germains tumble all together, / Even till destruction sicken: though the most precious seeds of nature fall into utter chaos, even to the point that death and destruction get sick of their own work.
58Their heads to their foundations; though the treasure
59Of nature's germains tumble all together,
60Even till destruction sicken, answer me
61To what I ask you.
62Say, if thou'dst rather hear it from our mouths,
63Or from our masters?
Call 'em; let me see 'em.
64Pour in sow's blood, that hath eaten
65. nine farrow: litter of nine. 65-66. grease that's sweaten / From the murderer's gibbet The "murderer's gibbet" is the gallows where a murderer is hung, and where the corpse was often left to hang as a warning to others. After about ten days in warm weather the liquefied fat of the corpse sweats through the skin, drips down, and forms puddles of grease.
65Her nine farrow; grease that's sweaten
66From the murderer's gibbet throw
67Into the flame.
Come, high or low;
68. Thyself and office: yourself and your function.
68Thyself and office deftly show!
an armed Head: a head wearing a helmet. This apparition may foreshadow Macbeth's beheading by Macduff.
Thunder. FIRST APPARITION, an armed Head.
69Tell me, thou unknown power
He knows thy thought:
70Hear his speech, but say thou nought.
71Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! beware Macduff;
72Beware the thane of Fife. Dismiss me. Enough.
He descends: The apparition is probably lowered through a trap door, as though sinking to hell.
73. caution: warning.
73Whate'er thou art, for thy good caution, thanks;
74. Thou hast harp'd my fear aright: you have touched the exact note of what I fear.
74Thou hast harp'd my fear aright. But one word more
75He will not be commanded. Here's another,
76More potent than the first.
a bloody Child.: This apparition foreshadows the hidden meaning of the prophecy that "none of woman born / Shall harm Macbeth." <More.>
Thunder. SECOND APPARITION, a bloody
77Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth!
78Had I three ears, I'ld hear thee.
79Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn
80The power of man, for none of woman born
81Shall harm Macbeth.
82Then live, Macduff; what need I fear of thee?
83But yet I'll make assurance double sure,
84. take a bond of fate: get a guarantee from fate. thou shalt not live: i.e., you, Macduff, must die. 85. That: so that. The "pale-hearted fear" is Macbeth's own; despite being told that "none of woman born / Shall harm Macbeth," he fears Macduff.
84And take a bond of fate: thou shalt not live;
85That I may tell pale-hearted fear it lies,
86And sleep in spite of thunder.
Thunder. THIRD APPARITION,
a Child crowned, with a tree in his hand.
What is this
87. like: in the likeneness of. the issue of a king: the descendant of a king. 88. round / And top of sovereignty: i.e., royal crown.
87That rises like the issue of a king,
88And wears upon his baby-brow the round
89And top of sovereignty?
Listen, but speak not to't.
90Be lion-mettled, proud; and take no care
91. Who chafes, who frets: i.e., who gets hot and bothered. conspirers: conspirators [against Macbeth].
91Who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are:
92Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be until
93Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill
94Shall come against him.
That will never be.
95. impress: draft as soldiers.
95Who can impress the forest, bid the tree
96. bodements: prophecies.
96Unfix his earth-bound root? Sweet bodements! good!
97. Rebellious dead: i.e., Banquo? Duncan? Editors often change this phrase to "Rebellious head," meaning "an armed force of rebellion on the march." 99-100. live ... custom: i.e., live out a full life, and die only of old age, as is customary. 101. art: magic.
97Rebellious dead, rise never till the wood
98Of Birnam rise, and our high-placed Macbeth
99Shall live the lease of nature, pay his breath
100To time and mortal custom. Yet my heart
101Throbs to know one thing: tell me, if your art
102. issue: descendants.
102Can tell so much, shall Banquo's issue ever
103Reign in this kingdom?
Seek to know no more.
104. I will be satisfied: i.e., I demand that you answer my question.
104I will be satisfied. Deny me this,
105And an eternal curse fall on you! Let me know.
106. Why sinks that cauldron?: Though there is no stage direction, this line indicates that the cauldron descends through a trap door. noise i.e., music. The word "noise" was also used to mean a "band of musicians." Hoboys: Ancestors of oboes.
106Why sinks that cauldron? and what noise is this?
[Ominous music from] Hoboys.
110Show his eyes, and grieve his heart;
111. Come like shadows, so depart: Come like shadows (spirits, ghosts), and leave the same way.
111Come like shadows, so depart!
A show of eight KINGS, [the eighth] with
a glass in his hand, and BANQUO last.
112. Thou ... Banquo: you look too much like the ghost of Banquo. Down!: Macbeth is demanding that the spirit sink out of sight. 114. other: second. is like: matches.
112Thou art too like the spirit of Banquo. Down!
113Thy crown does sear mine eye-balls. And thy hair,
114Thou other gold-bound brow, is like the first.
115A third is like the former. Filthy hags!
116. Start, eyes!: jump [out their sockets], [my] eyes! Macbeth doesn't want to see any more.
116Why do you show me this? A fourth! Start, eyes!
117What, will the line stretch out to the crack of doom?
118Another yet! A seventh! I'll see no more:
119. bears a glass: holds a mirror.
119And yet the eighth appears, who bears a glass
120Which shows me many more; and some I see
121. two-fold balls and treble scepters: This indicates kingship of both England and Scotland. <More.>
121That two-fold balls and treble scepters carry:
122Horrible sight! Now, I see, 'tis true;
123. blood-bolter'd: with hair matted with blood.
123For the blood-bolter'd Banquo smiles upon me,
124And points at them for his.
What, is this so?
125-132. Ay, sir . . pay: It is the opinion of many Shakespearean scholars that lines 125-132 were inserted after Shakespeare wrote the play, in order to introduce the dance of the witches. Those scholars also believe that Shakespeare didn't intend the witches to dance. 126. amazedly: as in a trance. 127. sprites: spirits. 130. antic round: wild dance. 131. That: in order that.
125Ay, sir, all this is so. But why
126Stands Macbeth thus amazedly?
127Come, sisters, cheer we up his sprites,
128And show the best of our delights:
129I'll charm the air to give a sound,
130While you perform your antic round,
131That this great king may kindly say,
132. Our duties did his welcome pay: our ceremonies repaid the welcome he gave us. This is snide; Macbeth, rather than welcoming the witches, called them "hags" and demanded information from them.
132Our duties did his welcome pay.
Music. The Witches dance and vanish.
133Where are they? Gone? Let this pernicious hour
134Stand aye accursed in the calendar!
135. Come in, without there: come in, whoever is there, outside.
135Come in, without there!
What's your grace's will?
136Saw you the weird sisters?
No, my lord.
137. Came they not by you?: didn't they come past you?.
137Came they not by you?
No, indeed, my lord.
138Infected be the air whereon they ride;
139And damn'd all those that trust them! I did hear
140. horse: horses.
140The galloping of horse. Who was't came by?
141'Tis two or three, my lord, that bring you word
142Macduff is fled to England.
Fled to England!
143Ay, my good lord.
144-146. Time ... with it : time, you forestall my dreadful exploits; the always-fleeing purpose is never overtaken unless the deed goes with it. In all probability, Macbeth's "purpose" had been to kill Macduff. Now he is angry with himself that he let slip his chance to do so. He reflects that we never catch up with what we intend to do unless we do it right away. 147. firstlings: first born.
144Time, thou anticipatest my dread exploits:
145The flighty purpose never is o'ertook
146Unless the deed go with it; from this moment
147The very firstlings of my heart shall be
148The firstlings of my hand. And even now,
149To crown my thoughts with acts, be it thought
150The castle of Macduff I will surprise;
151. Seize upon Fife: take possession of Fife [Macduff's castle and all his land].
151Seize upon Fife; give to the edge o' the sword
152His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls
153. That trace him in his line: follow him in his family line; i.e., are related to him in any way. Macbeth plans to wipe out anyone who might have any possible claim to Fife.
153That trace him in his line. No boasting like a fool;
154This deed I'll do before this purpose cool.
155But no more sights!Where are these gentlemen?
156Come, bring me where they are.