Macbeth Quotations

“There’s daggers in men’s smiles. The near in blood,The nearer bloody.” Speaker: DonalbainSituation: Just found out his father King Duncan was murdered; he says those close to them (related by blood) are more likely to murder them, so they must move to different cities so at least one of the brothers surviveSignificance: Foul and fair motif, as men may be smiling but also be hiding daggers; Donalbain is suspicious of Macbeth and his feelings about Duncan’s murder
“To show an unfelt sorrow is an officeWhich the false man does easy.” Speaker: MalcolmSituation: Just found out his father King Duncan was murdered; says it’s easy for a liar to pretend to be sad, referring to MacbethSignificance: Malcolm is also suspicious of Macbeth’s true feelings about Duncan’s murder
“Confusion now has made its masterpiece!Most sacrilegious murder hath broke opeThe Lord’s anointed temple, and stole thenceThe life of the building.” Speaker: MacduffSituation: People beginning to discover that Duncan has been murderedSignificance: Flattery to King James I (life of the building)
“A little water clears us of this deed.How easy is it, then! Your constancyHath left you unattended.” Speaker: Lady MacbethSituation: Right after the murder of Duncan, scolding Macbeth for being sensitiveSignificance: She feels that merely washing her hands will free her from the guilt
“Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this bloodClean from my hand? No, this my hand will ratherThe multitudinous seas incarnadine,Making the green one red.” Speaker: MacbethSituation: Feeling very guilty after murdering DuncanSignificance: The blood on his hands symbolizes his guilt, but according to him, he would only stain the ocean red; even all the water in the ocean cannot wash away his guilt
“There’s no art to find The mind’s construction in the face.” Speaker: DuncanSituation: After returning from the battle and discovering the Thane of Cawdor to be a traitorSignificance: Fair and foul motif; the Thane of Cawdor appeared innocent, but turned out to be a traitor
“Fair is foul, and foul is fair.” Speaker: All three witchesSituation: Right before the witches disappear at the beginning of the playSignificance: Motif of fair and foul; things are not always the way they seem; witches confuse man on what’s wrong/right
“Yet do I fear thy nature;It is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindnessTo catch the nearest way: thou wouldst be great,Art not without ambition, but withoutThe illness should attend it.” Speaker: Lady MacbethSituation: After receiving and reading the letter from Macbeth saying three witches told him he will be king and a messenger told him he now has the title of the Thane of Cawdor Significance: She feels that Macbeth is too nice to do what he needs to do in order to become king, even though he has the ambition
“Come, you spiritsThat tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,And fill me from the crown to the toe top-fullOf direst cruelty.” Situation: Trying to summon the bravery to murder DuncanSignificance: Women give life, but here Lady Macbeth seeks to take life and lose her feminine qualities so she can gain the cruelty and bravery of a man to murder Duncan
“Is this a dagger which I see before me,The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.Art thou not, fatal vision, sensibleTo feeling as to sight? Or art thou butA dagger of the mind, a false creation,Proceeding from the heat-oppress├Ęd brain?” Speaker: MacbethSituation: The few moments before murdering DuncanSignificance: Macbeth is havingvision of dagger because even though he has not murdered Duncan yet, his sinfulimagination and determination is already making him feel the heavy burden ofguil
“I have no spurTo prick the sides of my intent, but onlyVaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itselfAnd falls on th’ other.” Speaker: MacbethSituation: Duncan is currently staying in Macbeth’s castle and has just finished dining; Macbeth talks of his motives for murdering DuncanSignificance: His only motive to kill Duncan is ambition to become king, even though he knows ambition can lead to disaster
“If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere wellIt were done quickly. If the assassinationCould trammel up the consequence, and catchWith his surcease success; that but this blowMight be the be-all and the end-all here,But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,We’d jump the life to come.” Speaker: MacbethSituation: Duncan is currently staying in Macbeth’s castle; Macbeth contemplates whether he should kill DuncanSignificance: He says if the deed could be done without complications, it would be better to quickly get the murder over with; also would be willing to have worldly power and risk eternal damnation
“No more that Thane of Cawdor shall deceiveOur bosom interest.” Speaker: DuncanSituation: Just returned from battle and found out Thane of Cawdor is a traitor, so he will execute himSignificance: Macbeth is made the next Thane of Cawdor
“The Prince of Cumberland! That is a stepOn which I must fall down, or else o’erleap, For in my way it lies.” Speaker: MacbethSituation: Macebeth just found out that Malcolm will become Prince of CumberlandSignificance: Macbeth has malevolent thoughts, thinking that he must either get rid of him or give up his ambition to become king
“I am settled, and bend upEach corporal agent to this terrible feat.Away, and mock the time with fairest show.False face must hide what the false heart doth know.” Speaker: MacbethSituation: Made up his mind to murder DuncanSignificance: He says he must put on a facade and hide his true intentions to kill Duncan
“Had I but died an hour before this chance,I had lived a bless├Ęd time, for from this instantThere’s nothing serious in mortality.” Speaker: MacbethSituation: Right after murdering Duncan Significance: He regrets killing Duncan, and now he finds no meaning in life; foreshadows his downfall
“Fears and scruples shake us.In the great hand of God I stand, and thenceAgainst the undivulged pretense I fightOf treasonous malice.” Speaker: BanquoSituation: Right after finding out Duncan has been murderedSignificance: He vows he will find the person who murdered Duncan
“Bring forth men children only,For thy undaunted mettle should composeNothing but males.” Speaker: MacbethSituation: Right after hearing Lady Macbeth’s detailed plan of murdering DuncanSignificance: Macbeth wishes for her to only give birth to male children, because her fearless spirit could only create something masculine.
“He’s here in double trust:First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,Who should against his murderer shut the door,Not bear the knife myself.” Speaker: MacbethSituation: Talking to himself and thinking about the reasons Duncan wouldn’t suspect him as a threat Significance: Fair and foul motif, as Macbeth is the host but he plans to kill his visitor; irony, because Duncan is completely unaware that his host Macbeth intends to murder him
“Come, thick night, And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, That my keen knife see not the wound it makes, Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, To cry ‘Hold, hold!'” Speaker: Lady Macbeth Situation: Waiting for Duncan to arrive at her castle and trying to summon the courage to take lifeSignificance: She calls for night to hide the evil deed of killing Duncan
“Present fearsAre less than horrible imaginings:My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical,Shakes so my single state of man that functionIs smother’d in surmise, and nothing isBut what is not.” Speaker: MacbethSituation: Right after the witches tell him he will be king and disappearSignificance: Macbeth is already thinking about murder in order to get what he wants and become king, but he is too afraid
“Were such things here as we do speak about?Or have we eaten on the insane rootThat takes the reason prisoner?” Speaker: BanquoSituation: Right after the witches give Macbeth and Banquo prophecies and disappearSignificance: Banquo questions if the witches were real and or if they were hallucinating
“Hie thee hither,That I may pour my spirits in thine earAnd chastise with the valor of my tongueAll that impedes thee from the golden round,” Speaker: Lady MacbethSituation: She received a letter from Macbeth saying he encountered three witches he told him he will be king, and messengers told him he now has the title of Thane of Cawdor; she responds to the letter in her mind (apostrophe, talking to Macbeth even though he’s not present) Significance: She wants Macbeth to hurry home so she can convince him to do whatever it takes to become king.
“To beguile the time,Look like the time. Bear welcome in your eye,Your hand, your tongue. Look like th’ innocent flower,But be the serpent under ‘t.” Speaker: Lady MacbethSituation: Telling Macbeth what to do when Duncan stays in their castle for the nightSignificance: Fair and foul motif, as Macbeth is instructed to look warm and welcoming in order to hide his true, malicious intentions
“But ’tis strange.And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,The instruments of darkness tell us truths,Win us with honest trifles, to betray ‘sIn deepest consequence.” Speaker: BanquoSituation: Telling Macbeth to not believe everything he hears because things are sometimes too good to be trueSignificance: Fair and foul motif, as the instruments of darkness (the witches) speak truth in order to indirectly lead man astray
“Had he not resembled my father as he slept,I had done’t.” Speaker: Lady MacbethSituation: Lady Macbeth is waiting for Macbeth to murder DuncanSignificance: She admits that if Duncan did not resemble her father, holy or earthly, she would have been able to murder him; flattery to KJI, since Duncan is compared to God in that he is like a holy father (in the Great Chain of Being, kings are one step below gods)
“Who can be wise, amazed, temp’rate, and furious,Loyal and neutral, in a moment? No man.Th’ expedition of my violent loveOutrun the pauser, reason.” Speaker: MacbethSituation: Right after the murder of Duncan, Macbeth admits to Macduff he killed the guardsSignificance: Motif of reason and passion; Macbeth claims he loved Duncan so much he killed guards out of fury
“The Thane of Cawdor lives. Why do you dress meIn borrowed robes?” Speaker: MacbethSituation: Macbeth had just been greeted as Thane of Cawdor by Ross and Angus.Significance: The witches statement has come true and causes Macbeth to lean more towards his ambition of becoming King.