Macbeth Quotes

“Fair is foul, and foul is fair.” • The three witches are chanting to each other in the opening scene of the play.• The words mean that what appears good could be bad and what appears to be bad could be good (the theme).• This establishes the mood and one of the themes of the play (appearances deceive).
“No more that Thane of Cawdor shall deceive our bosom interest. Go pronounce his present death. And with his former title, greet Macbeth.” • This is the King Duncan speaking to Ross (The Thane of Ross who delivered the news of the victory over Norway, the Thane of Cawdor, and the news that the Thane of Cawdor had planned against them (a traitor).• King Duncan removes the Cawdor emblem from the Thane’s neck and hands it to Ross.• He tells Ross to announce that the Thane of Cawdor will be killed for treason and that Ross is to deliver the news to Macbeth that Macbeth is now named the Thane of Cawdor.
“So foul a day I have not seen” • Macbeth says this to Banquo on their return from battle right before they come upon the witches• Macbeth has just been in battle so is referring to the battle and deaths as being foul as well as fair. “Foul” (bad) because of the bloodiness of the battle (and the rainy, foggy weather) and “fair” (good) because of their victory over Norway.• This statement is a paradox as well as a motif that is said in different ways throughout the play
“Good sir, why do you start and seem to fear things that do sound so fair?” • This is Banquo speaking to Macbeth right after the witches have given the prediction that Macbeth will be King. • Macbeth seems to be fearful (startled) by this news.• Foreshadows the bad that will come with being kind and what he has to do to get there
“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 us in deepest consequence.” • Banquo says this to Macbeth after Ross and Angus deliver the title of Thane of Cawdor.• Macbeth is beginning to believe the witches and asks Banquo if he wishes that his sons will become King, which concerns Banquo – he fears that Macbeth needs to be warned of thinking this way.• These words of advice mean that sometime the devil (the witches) will plant “truths” in our minds to encourage us to act badly and lead us into darkness/evil.• Foreshadows the evil that will come upon Macbeth
“There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face. He was a gentleman on whom I had built an absolute trust.” • King Duncan says this after the Thane of Cawdor is hanged. His sons (Malcolm and Donalbain) suggest that he died with grace and honor – better than he lived his life. • King Duncan responds with these words – they mean that in a person’s face one cannot reveal what is going on in a person’s mind. The King has completed trusted this man who then betrays him.• This is ironic because he feels the same about Macbeth who will end up killing him
“The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step on which I must fall down, or else o’erleap, for in my way it lies.” • Macbeth says this to himself after the King has named the King’s son heir to the throne.• The words mean that Macbeth must somehow remove Malcom in order to have direct access to the throne.• Foreshadowing – hints that Macbeth will do something to make this happen.
“Glamis that art, and Cawdor; and shalt be what thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature; it is too full of the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way.” • Lady Macbeth says to herself after she receives the letter from Macbeth that describes the witches’ premonitions.• The quote addresses that the witches’ first two points are true and that Lady Macbeth will assure that the 3rd will come true – he will become king. She fears, however, that Macbeth is too good to make this happen.• Foreshadowing – it suggests that something will happen to make Macbeth King!
“Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t.” • Lady Macbeth says this to Macbeth when he returns from battle.• She wants Macbeth to “Man-up” – she wants him to appear to be kind on the outside but find his evilness on the inside (so he can find the will to murder the King).• A simile of Macbeth as an innocent flower
“…that we but teach bloody instructions, which being taught, return to plague the inventor.” • Macbeth is speaking to himself (a soliloquy) when the King arrives – in an attempt to talk himself out of killing the King.• These words reveal that Macbeth is fearful that those who commit evil acts (murder) will have the murder come back onto them.• Foreshadows what will happen to Macbeth
“The bell invites me. Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell that summons thee to heaven or to hell.” • Macbeth says this to himself when he is in deep thought about weather or not to murder King Duncan. • The bell that he hears is the bell that Lady Macbeth has rung to let him know that it is all clear to kill the King.• Macbeth is nervous and hopes that the King has not heard the bell because it is the bell that will lead to his death.• Personification of the bell and symbols Duncan’s death
Me thought I heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep, the innocent sleep, sleep that knits up the revealed sleeve of care…” • Macbeth is saying this to Lady Macbeth once he returns from murdering King Duncan• Macbeth believes that he heard someone scream these words while he was in the King’s room.
“Infirm of purpose. Give me the daggers. The sleeping and the dead are but as pictures; ’tis the eye of childhood that fears a painted devil.” • Lady Macbeth says this to Macbeth when he sees that he has returned with the bloody daggers. The daggers need to be returned to the room so it will look like the guards have killed Duncan.• Macbeth is too afraid to return the crime scene because he does not want to see what he has done. Lady M. tells him to get a grip! Only children are afraid of things that are not alive or real.• Lady M. takes the daggers back to the room.• Simile
“Will all great Neptune’s Oceans wash this blood from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red.” • “Incarnadine” mean the color blood red.• Macbeth is speaking to himself when Lady M. returns the daggers. His hands are full of blood and attempts to wash them.• The water is turning red from the blood. He words question whether all of the waters from the oceans will be able to do this. He concludes that there is enough blood to turn the green seas into red.• This shows the guilt and stress that Macbeth is feeling.• It’s a hyperbole – an extreme exaggeration.
“Our separated fortunes shall keep us both the safer. Where we are, there’s daggers in men’s smiles. The near in blood, the nearer bloody.” • The King’s sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, are speaking after the discovery of their father’s death.• Malcolm (heir to the thrown) declares that they are not safe here – they could be next, so they decide to leave the country. (Donalbain to Ireland and Malcomb to England.) The closer they are to the blood (the murder), the closer they are to being bloody themselves.• There are “daggers in men’s smiles” = they cannot trust anyone.• Thematic – “Fair is foul and foul is fair”
“Thou hast it now, King, Cawdor, Glamis, all as the weird women promised, and I fear thou played most foully for it.” • Banquo says this to himself at the crowning of Macbeth as King.• He is the only one who knows the witches’ promises and he suspects now that Macbeth killed the King.
“I am in blood stepped in so far that should I wade no more, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go’er.” • Macbeth says this to himself after his dream and torment over killing• This means that Macbeth is tired of tormenting himself – he’s already killed the King and Banquo so instead of feeling guilty about it, he will continue with his “spree” to eliminate all who are in his path.• Foreshadowing – he will continue to kill those who are in his way.
“Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble.” • These are the witches who are chanting this when Macbeth comes to see them.• These words clearly imply the trouble that Macbeth is in.• This leads to the 3 new premonitions by the witches:Beware MacduffDo not fear any man born of womanMacbeth will be king until Birnam Woods come to Dunsinane (Macbeth’s castle).
“From this moment, the very firstlings of my heart shall be the very firstlings of my hand.” • Macbeth says this to himself when he first hears that Macduff has fled to England.• This means that once he has a thought (his “very firstlings”) he will act on it immediately (the “firstlings of my hand.”• He does and immediately orders the execution of Macduff’s family.• This reveals how evil/deranged that Macbeth is becoming.
“I have done no harm. But I remember now I am in this earthly world; where to do harm is often laudable, to do good sometimes accounted dangerous folly. Why then, alas, say I have done no harm?” • This is Lady Macduff responding to a messenger who suggests that she leave her home because he fears that she and her family are in danger.• Lady Macduff only believes that her husband has abandoned her and is not clear on whether or not he is a traitor so she claims that she has no reason to hide – she has done nothing wrong.• She thinks, however, that doing evil things in this world is often praised (laudable) and being good can be stupid or dangerous, so her offering her innocence holds no weight.• This is Shakespeare revealing a possible belief about humanity and/or a theme.
“…let grief convert to anger; blunt not the heart, enrage it.” • This is Malcolm speaking to Macduff after he has heard the news of his family’s murders.• Malcolm is encouraging Macduff to take his grief and turn it into anger- become angry and seek revenge on Macbeth.
“Here’s the blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.” • This is Lady Macbeth speaking to herself (her hands, actually) in the midst of her sleepwalking.• She is looking at her hands and sees blood – she has become tortured by the murders.• Hyperbole – the exaggeration that there is not enough perfume in Arabia to “sweeten” her hands.
“Foul whisperings are abroad; unnatural deed so breed unnatural troubles; infected minds to their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets.”• This is the doctor speaking to the nurse after he has witnessed Lady Macbeths’s sleepwalking and has listened to her words.• His words reveal that she has done something bad and the doctor knows that she is being tormented by it – at night those secrets are revealed to pillows that cannot hear. • This is the doctor speaking to the nurse after he has witnessed Lady Macbeths’s sleepwalking and has listened to her words.• His words reveal that she has done something bad and the doctor knows that she is being tormented by it – at night those secrets are revealed to pillows that cannot hear.• Personification
“I have lived long enough. My way of life is fall’n into sear, the yellow leaf; and that which should accompany old age as honor, love, obedience, troops of friends, I must not look to have.” • This is Macbeth speaking to himself. He now knows that there is a plan to attack his castle.• He has come to the realization that as one ages, he will have all of the above (friends, honor, love) but Macbeth realizes that he will have none of these.• metaphor
“Of all men else I have avoided thee. My soul is charged with too much blood of thine already.” • This is Macbeth speaking to Macduff in the final scene.• When he comes face-to-face with Macduff (his former friend) he declares that he wanted to avoid Macduff because he does not want to have Macduff’s murder on his conscience, as well. He has murdered too many already.