Summary

This scene is set in the countryside near Macbeth’s castle, Dunsinane. The English army, led by Malcolm and Macduff, approach the castle and the forest of Birnam (Birnam wood) nearby. They discuss the situation, including the rumors that Macbeth may be mad, and those that say he cannot command his own troops.

Enter

To come on stage.

Dunsinane

Dunsinane is the name of Macbeth’s castle.

Drum and colours.

Marching soldiers, and all the props that go with them — drumbeats, flags (colours), etc.

The English power is near, led on by Malcolm, / His uncle Siward and the good Macduff

The English soldiers are near, led by Malcolm, and Siward (the Earl of Northumberland), and Macduff.

Revenges burn in them . . .

They are driven by the desire for revenge. Their motivations (their dear causes) would be enough to set in motion (excite) even a man near death (the mortified man).

Near Birnam wood / Shall we well meet them; that way are they coming.

We’ll certainly meet them near the forest of Birnam (Birnam wood), because that’s the way they’re coming.

We should be alert to the fact that Birnam wood was mentioned in the prophecies of the apparitions.

I have a file / Of all the gentry . . .

One of the groups of men in my area is made up of all the young noblemen, including Siward’s son, and many other unrough (smooth-chinned, beardless) youth, who are just starting to grow their beards (even now / Protest their first of manhood). Donalbain is not among them.

What does the tyrant?

What is Macbeth doing?

Great Dunsinane he strongly fortifies . . .

He makes his castle, Dunsinane, ready for war (fortifies). Some say he’s mad. Other people, who hate him less, call his preparation bravery and fury. One thing’s certain, though — he can’t keep his own troops well disciplined and organized (cannot buckle his distemper’d cause / Within the belt of rule).

Now does he feel / His secret murders sticking on his hands . . .

He’s beginning to pay for his murders, which are coming back to haunt him (sticking on his hands). There are small rebellions (revolts) that rebuke (upbraid) his not keeping faith with his own forces — his own soldiers move only according to their orders, and don’t do that because they love him (nothing in love).

now does he feel his title / Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe / Upon a dwarfish thief.

Macbeth, says Angus, begins to see how little the title of king means, when the troops are not loyal to the crown. The title hangs loosely about him, because even though he has the title, he can’t use the authority effectively.

Who then shall blame / His pester’d senses to recoil and start . . .

Even his senses and all else that is within him might rebel and condemn itself for being part of him.

To give obedience where ’tis truly owed . . .

We will give obedience where it truly belongs (where ’tis truly owed), which will be the medicine that cures the sick country (the sickly weal), and in purging our country we’ll pour out every drop of our blood (each drop of us).

Or so much as it needs . . .

Or as much blood as needs to be shed, to wet the king’s flower (cover it in blood) and drown his supporters (weeds). Let’s march to Birnam.

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 Lady Macduff

Lady Macduff runs off the stage, pursued by the murderers, yelling “Murder!” She is killed, offstage, as the conventions of the day would require — killing a woman onstage would have been considered too brutal. But make no mistake — Lady Macbeth is killed by the murderers.

Exeunt, marching.

Latin, literally “they leave.” The soldiers leave the stage, marching to the battle.

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.