Macbeth by William Shakespeare

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38 ‘Lest our old robes sit easier than our new!’ – A cautious glance at the changes in the world Macduff is witnessing. All now, symbolically, wear ‘new’ robes – they have a new set of shared beliefs and loyalties, or, indeed, shared falsehoods and lies – and such things might well sit less easily upon a man’s conscience. This, of course, is a further example of the play’s pervasive clothing imagery. Macduff is avoiding Macbeth’s coronation, while Rosse has decided to attend it, so there is an understandable tension between the two.

40-1 ‘and with those/ That would make good of bad, and friends of foes!’ – another phrase based upon antonymy, and a reversal of the witches’ ‘Fair is foul, and foul is fair’ (I.i.11).

Act Three: Scene One

2-3 ‘and I fear/ Thou playd’st most foully for’t.’ – The expression ‘foul play’ was current in Shakespeare’s time (he himself uses it in The Tempest ). The implication is that Macbeth has cheated in a game of chance. Banquo’s ironic understatement is combined with the word ‘foul’ – given, of course, considerable emphasis at the start of the play.

4 ‘It should not stand in thy posterity’ – The crown will not be retained by Macbeth’s descendents.

9-10 ‘May they not be my oracles as well,/ And set me up in hope?’ – Is there a hint here that Banquo, too, might be tempted by the prophecy to resort to violence, presumably against Macbeth? The first dramatic arc of the play – the temptation of Macbeth, his murder of the king and his usurpation of the throne – is complete, and Banquo now becomes the focus of the au

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William Shakespeare

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