Summary

Lennox speaks to another lord, and they consider all the reasons why things might have happened the way they have, trying to understand where blame belongs. Maybe Macbeth is not guilty of these crimes and poorly understood happenings. Maybe Banquo shouldn’t have been out late at night. Maybe Malcolm and Donalbain really did kill their father. And even Macduff is doing some strange things, like staying away from the banquet. The lord observes that Malcolm has gone to England, where he is urging the King of England to send the Earl of Northumberland to make war on Macbeth.

Enter

To come on stage.

My former speeches have but hit your thoughts . . .

You know what I’ve said before, and you can figure things out for yourself (interpret further); but I say also that unusual things have been done (things have been strangely borne).

The gracious Duncan / Was pitied of Macbeth . . .

Macbeth pitied Duncan, indeed, Duncan was dead; and Banquo walked alone late at night, when it’s dangerous. You can even say, if you like, that Fleance killed Banquo, because Fleance ran away. And it’s dangerous to walk alone at night.

Lennox is reciting all the reasons why Macbeth might still be considered innocent. Maybe it’s all coincidence, he says.

Who cannot want the thought how monstrous / It was . . .

Who can avoid the thought of how evil (monstrous) it was for Malcolm and Donalbain to kill their father? It’s a damnable fact! And how Macbeth grieved! Didn’t he immediately (straight), in righteous (pious) rage, kill the two servants, who were drunk and asleep? Wasn’t that the right thing to have done? And the wise thing, too — it would have angered anyone to hear those men deny killing Duncan.

Lennox continues to list reasons why Macbeth might not deserve suspicion.

So that, I say, / He has borne all things well . . .

Therefore, I say Macbeth has done well so far, and I think that if he had Malcolm and Donalbain locked up (under his key) — which I hope he won’t — they would find out what it means to kill a father, and so would Fleance. Certainly Macbeth would punish them as they deserve.

But, peace! for from broad words and ’cause he fail’d . . .

But enough of that! I hear that Macduff now lives in disgrace because he spoke too loosely (used broad words) and didn’t show up (he fail’d / His presence) at Macbeth’s feast. Can you tell me, sir, where Macduff keeps (bestows) himself?

The son of Duncan, / From whom this tyrant holds the due of birth . . .

Malcolm, the son of Duncan, from whom Macbeth has usurped (taken) his birthright — to rule Scotland — now lives at the English court, and is received by King Edward (of England) with such respect that his unhappy situation doesn’t detract from the honor he is shown.

They refer here to England’s King Edward the Confessor, who founded Westminster Abbey.

thither Macduff / Is gone to pray the holy king . . .

That’s where Macduff has gone, to ask (pray) the good king (Edward) to act, and enlist the forces of the Earl of Northumberland (also known as Siward), and make ready for war, so that with his help (and with God approving — with Him above / To ratify the work), we can once more provide food for our families, sleep at night, use knives to carve meat at banquets (rather than to kill), proclaim our loyalty to a deserving king and receive deserved honors from him — all things we long for now.

and this report / Hath so exasperate the king . . .

This information has reached Macbeth, and upset him; he now prepares for war.

Sent he to Macduff?

Did Macbeth send any message to Macduff, perhaps asking him to return and give up his plans for war?

He did: and with an absolute “sir, not I,” . . .

He did, but Macduff said “Absolutely not,” and the foreboding (cloudy) messenger rudely turned his back to Macduff, as if to say “You’ll be sorry someday for giving this answer.”

And that well might / Advise him to a caution . . .

And that could well influence him to be cautious, to hold back, as far as his wisdom can convince him.

Some holy angel / Fly to the court of England . . .

Lennox hopes that some angel might go to England and bring a message to Macduff, so that he will quickly return to Scotland and bring relief, where they now suffer under a Macbeth’s unrighteous rule (a hand accursed).

I’ll send my prayers with him.

I agree. I too pray for the angel to reach Macduff.

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

The character leaves the stage.

Exeunt Murderers.

Latin, literally “they leave.” The Murderers leave the stage.

Pronounced EX-ee-uhnt.

Exeunt all but Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

Latin, literally “they leave.” Most of the players leave the stage, leaving Macbeth alone with Lady Macbeth.

Pronounced EX-ee-uhnt.

Exeunt

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

Pronounced EX-ee-uhnt.