Macbeth by William Shakespeare

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106-7 ‘Who can be wise, amaz’d, temperate and furious,/ Loyal and neutral, in a moment?’ – more of the play’s constant flow of antithetical pairings.

108 ‘Th’expedition’ – ‘haste, hastiness’.

110 ‘golden blood’ – Perhaps in the sense of ‘precious’. Lady Macbeth promised earlier in the scene to ‘gild the faces of the grooms’ with Duncan’s blood (55), so perhaps Shakespeare still had that image in his mind when he wrote this line, with its striking contrast of ‘silver’ and ‘golden’.

111 ‘his gash’d stabs’ – The combination of assonance with a variety of different consonantal phonemes is striking.

111-2 ‘a breach in nature/ For ruin’s wasteful entrance’ – The Elizabethan and Jacobean conception of nature was closely bound up with the idea of order. It was natural that certain things had their place and purpose, and to disturb that order was unnatural . This phrase implies that Duncan’s murder is like a crack in the boundaries of the ordered cosmos, allowing chaos to seep back into the realm of God’s Creation.

114 ‘Unmannerly’ – ‘discourteously’. An understatement, perhaps with a glance at ‘unmanly’.

114 ‘breech’d’ – ‘covered, as with a pair of breeches’; a grim pun, recalling the ‘breach in nature’ of a few lines before.

118-9 ‘Why do we hold our tongues, that most may claim/ This argument for ours?’ – The question is ironic. Malcolm has probably already sensed that those who are ‘holding forth’ are those who are most likely to be guilty: Macbeth has been dominating the ‘argument’ with his words, while Lady Macbeth has just thrown a faint.

119-21 ‘What should be spoken/ Here, where our fate, hid in an auger-hole,/ May rush, and seize us?’ – The idea behind this strange expression is that demonic forces – witches and such-like – were thought capable of passing through the tiny hole made by an auger or bradawl. Intriguingly, Donalbain seems to sense the involvement of the supernatural in his father’s murder.

122-3 ‘Nor our strong sorrow/ Upon the foot of motion.’ – Malcolm is saying that their sorrows are as yet still , as if seated or lying down; soon they will stand and move forward, and it is then that they will make themselves felt.

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William Shakespeare
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