Summary

The scene opens with Duncan arriving at Macbeth’s castle for a visit. He remarks on the pleasant location, meets Lady Macbeth at the gate, and they exchange courteous remarks. Duncan remains very well disposed toward Macbeth.

Enter

To come on stage.

Before

In front of.

Hautboys

Hautboys — French, literally, high woods, high-pitched woodwind instruments — oboes. The music of oboes is heard, welcoming the guests.

Pronounced OH-boys.

Torches

It’s probably early evening, and torches would have been set out to light the area in front of the castle, for the guests’ convenience. It’s not dark, however — the characters would not notice the birds’ nests at night.

a pleasant seat

A nice location.

the air / Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself

The air is fresh, and gentle breezes blow.

gentle senses

Duncan, being royalty, would have had senses more refined, more delicate, than those of ordinary people. Or at least he would have been told so.

This guest of summer . . . Smells wooingly here

Banquo speaks of the martlet, a bird that builds its nests in the nooks and crannies of temples, and can be relied on as a sign that the air in such places is fresh.

guest of summer — seen most during the summer

temple-haunting — frequently seen near temples (churches)

approve — demonstrate

mansionry — building mansions (nests)

wooingly — nice, friendly

jutty, frieze, buttress, coign of vantage

architectural features

pendent bed and procreant cradle — hanging and fertile bed (nest)

breed and haunt — live

Banquo is simply stating that wherever you see martlets nesting, the air is fresh and sweet there.

The love that follows us sometime is our trouble, / Which still we thank as love.

A chore (getting the castle ready for Duncan’s visit) performed out of love is still a chore, but we still thank you for the love.

Herein I teach you / How you shall bid God ’ild us for your pains, / And thank us for your trouble.

By accepting your gift, I show you how to ask God to shield us (’ild — shield, protect) and thank us for the opportunity to serve.

Scholarly opinion is divided on the meaning of this passage, with some favoring shield us (protect) and others preferring yield us (reward) as the meaning of ’ild us.

All our service . . . Your majesty loads our house

Even if we did everything we should do, did it twice, and then did it twice more, it would still be not enough, when compared with the honor of your visit. For all the past kind gestures, and all the new ones lately given, we offer hospitality to your travelers.

twice done . . . done double — again, things are doubled and redoubled, for the sake of exaggeration. poor and single business — barely adequate work, only done once, weak. against — compared to. loads — heaps on.

for those of old, / And the late dignities heap’d up to them, / We rest your hermits.

dignities heap’d up to them — new honors added to previous kindnesses

All this courteous speech, from both Duncan and Lady Macbeth, is exactly what we should be expecting at this point. Nothing has changed, outwardly.

Where’s the thane of Cawdor?

Where is Macbeth?

Duncan is deliberately using Macbeth’s new title, emphasizing and confirming the title yet again.

We coursed him at the heels

We rode almost on his heels.

had a purpose / To be his purveyor

Intended to arrive with him or before him.

purveyor — bringer

he rides well

He (Macbeth) rides quickly.

And his great love, sharp as his spur, hath holp him / To his home before us.

His love, as sharp as the spurs on his riding boots, has helped him arrive first.

holp — helped

Your servants ever / Have theirs, themselves and what is theirs, in compt, / To make their audit at your highness’ pleasure, / Still to return your own.

We, your servants, always give you back only that which is yours anyway, and has always been yours. So giving it to you is nothing more than giving you back your own.

in compt — on account, accounted for

conduct

Lead

continue our graces

Continue to hold him in high honor.

By your leave

When you’re ready.

Aside

In an aside, the character speaks privately to himself for a moment, or directly to the audience, or privately to some (but not all) of the other characters present.

As a matter of convention, an aside is always a true statement of what the character thinks. A character speaking in an aside may be mistaken, but may not be dishonest.

An aside (again as a matter of convention) cannot be heard by those not spoken to.

Exit

He leaves the stage.

Exeunt

Latin, literally “they leave.” Everyone leaves the stage.

Pronounced EX-ee-uhnt.