Macbeth by William Shakespeare

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20 ‘a sorry sight’ – ‘a pitiable sight’. The confused – even mildly deranged – nature of the preceding dialogue gives the audience a sense both of the pair’s essential humanity and of the horror of what they have done.

25 ‘There are two lodg’d together’ – Presumably Malcolm and Donalbain. The audience have just been informed that the latter was sleeping in the ‘second chamber’. The fact that Macbeth heard them wake each other reminds Lady Macbeth that both sons are there. There doesn’t seem to be any plan as yet to blame the murder on the pair.

27 ‘hangman’s hands’ – The hangman was sometimes called upon to disembowel and quarter his victims, hence the relevance of the term to Macbeth’s bloodstained hands.

32-3 ‘These deeds must not be thought/ After these ways: so, it will make us mad.’ – Lady Macbeth rather desperately counsels her husband not to think so directly about the murder. Neither of them has as much strength and control over their thoughts and reactions as they expected would be the case. Her ‘so’ is an ellipsis for ‘to do so’, and the reference to madness proleptic of her own fate.

36 ‘Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care’ – a ‘sleave’ is a silk thread; when threads are ‘ravell’d’ they are loosening from the weave and becoming tangled together.

38 ‘Great Nature’s second course’ – the second course of a meal being, generally, the main one. The idea of this and the next line is that sleep nourishes and refreshes the mind and body.

44 ‘unbend’ – The image here is of a bow: strong and powerful only when it is bent .

45 ‘brainsickly’ – Lady Macbeth’s second reference to madness.

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William Shakespeare
the Unkindness of Ravens If you have found our critical notes helpful, why not try the first Tower Notes novel, a historical fantasy set in the time of the Anglo-Saxon invasions.

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The Unkindness of Ravens by Anthony Paul