Summary

In Dunsinane castle, Macbeth, surrounded by bad news, swears that he won’t give in to fear. He trusts the apparitions and their prophecies — that he won’t be conquered until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane, that he can’t be harmed by anyone born of a woman. He vows to fight on. A servant enters, telling him that ten thousand English soldiers have appeared. Macbeth begins his introspections, showing us how weary he is of fighting to keep his place. He asks the doctor how Lady Macbeth is doing, and if her mind can be cured. He vows again to fight until the end.

Enter

To come on stage.

Dunsinane

Dunsinane is the name of Macbeth’s castle.

Bring me no more reports; let them fly all

I don’t want any more reports of the situation. Take them all away.

Till Birnam wood remove to Dunsinane, / I cannot taint with fear.

Until Birnam wood leaves its site and comes to Dunsinane, I cannot allow myself to become contaminated with fear.

What’s the boy Malcolm? / Was he not born of woman?

Who cares about Malcolm? Wasn’t he born of a woman?

The spirits that know / All mortal consequences have pronounced me thus . . .

The supernatural spirits that know all destinies (mortal consequences) have said this of me: “Have no fear, Macbeth. No man that’s born of a woman will ever have power over you.”

Then fly, false thanes, / And mingle with the English epicures

Then run away, disloyal allies (false thanes), and join the soft English forces.

The mind I sway by and the heart I bear / Shall never sag with doubt nor shake with fear.

My mind and heart will never doubt or fear.

Macbeth frequently speaks brave words to encourage himself, and alternates between bravado and fear.

The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon! / Where got’st thou that goose look?

Be completely damned (damn thee black), you white-faced bird (loon)! Why do you look so scared?

There is ten thousand —

There are ten thousand . . .

The servant is so terrified of Macbeth’s rage that he can’t complete his message.

Geese, villain!

Ten thousand what? Geese?

Go prick thy face, and over-red thy fear, / Thou lily-liver’d boy . . .

Go scratch your cheeks and let the blood cover your white, cowardly (lily-livered) face (over-red thy fear). What soldiers (which soldiers)? Your white (linen) cheeks tell other people that you’re afraid, and let them know they should be afraid (Are counsellors to fear). What soldiers, cream-face?

Macbeth, in his haste, overlooks the fact that the servant would not likely be reporting the arrival of ten thousand soldiers loyal to Macbeth, ten thousand soldiers he didn’t already know about. Therefore, the soldiers in question must be the English forces everyone is expecting.

Take thy face hence.

Get out of my sight, go away (hence).

Seyton!

Macbeth calls for Seyton, one of his supporters.

I am sick at heart, / When I behold —

Macbeth begins another introspection, but breaks off to call for Seyton again.

Seyton, I say!

Macbeth calls again for Seyton.

This push / Will cheer me ever, or disseat me now . . .

This effort (push), this military confrontation, will make me happy forever, or will push me from the throne today.

I have lived long enough: my way of life / Is fall’n into the sear, the yellow leaf

Macbeth feels that he has already lived long enough, that he wouldn’t fight death, that the way he prefers to live has fallen away, the way summer leaves fall from trees in autumn.

Again, Macbeth alternates between hope and despair.

And that which should accompany old age, / As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends, / I must not look to have

I can’t count on having the good things that old age brings.

in their stead, / Curses, not loud but deep, mouth-honour, breath . . .

Instead, I’ll have curses. Not loud yelling, but heart-felt (deep) curses, lip-service (mouth-honour), nothing but breath, which the suffering heart would give up (would fain deny), but doesn’t dare to.

Seyton!

Macbeth calls again for Seyton.

I’ll fight till from my bones my flesh be hack’d. / Give me my armour.

I’ll fight until they hack the flesh from my bones. Bring me my armor.

’tis not needed yet.

It’s not something you need to do just yet. The English forces are coming, but they’re not that near.

I’ll put it on.

I’ll put it on anyway.

Send out more horses; skirr the country round; / Hang those that talk of fear. Give me mine armour.

Send out more horsed troops (horses). Search the countryside and draft anyone who can fight (skirr the country round). Hang anyone who says he’s afraid. Bring me my armor.

How does your patient, doctor?

Macbeth speaks to the doctor, who has been waiting throughout the scene. He asks how Lady Macbeth is doing.

Not so sick, my lord, / As she is troubled with thick coming fancies, / That keep her from her rest.

She’s not so much sick (physically) as she is bothered by troubling ideas, that come at her constantly and keep her from resting.

Cure her of that.

Fix that problem.

Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased . . .

Can’t you help a sick mind (a mind diseased)? Can’t you pull out (pluck) of the memory a sorrow with deep roots? Can’t you erase (raze out) the troubles written in the brain, and with some memory-erasing drug (oblivious antidote) cleanse the full weight of dangerous matters (perilous stuff) that weigh down the heart?

Macbeth is certainly speaking of Lady Macbeth here. But he might be describing his own internal state as well.

Therein the patient / Must minister to himself.

In such cases, there’s no help from medicine or doctors. The patient must help (minister to) himself.

Throw physic to the dogs; I’ll none of it.

Throw medicine (physic) away, then. I’ll have none of it.

Seyton, send out.

Seyton, send out the troops.

Doctor, the thanes fly from me. / Come, sir, dispatch.

Doctor, the thanes run away from my side, taking their troops with them. (To Seyton) Hurry up!

If thou couldst, doctor, cast / The water of my land, find her disease . . .

If you could, doctor, seek knowledge through examination of the waters (looking at brooks and rivers for signs, one of many pseudo-scientific skills doctors of the age were supposed to have), and find out what’s wrong with Scotland (find her disease), and then make it healthy (purge it to a sound and pristine health), I would applaud you, and keep applauding you until we heard the echoes.

Macbeth does not recognize that it is he that is the source of what’s wrong with Scotland.

Pull’t off, I say. —

Macbeth is speaking again to Seyton, who’s trying to get Macbeth’s armor on him.

What rhubarb, cyme, or what purgative drug, / Would scour these English hence? Hear’st thou of them?

What herb or plant or drug could we use to get rid of the English forces (scour these English hence)? Have you heard them?

your royal preparation / Makes us hear something.

With all the noise of preparing for war, yes, we’ve heard that the English are coming.

Bring it after me.

Macbeth again addresses Seyton, telling him to bring it (a piece of armor, perhaps) along after Macbeth has left.

I will not be afraid of death and bane, / Till Birnam forest come to Dunsinane.

I will have no fear of death or doom (bane), until Birnam wood comes to Dunsinane.

Macbeth has, for the moment, settled on a mood of grim optimism.

Were I from Dunsinane away and clear, / Profit again should hardly draw me here.

If I were not here at Dunsinane, not even money (profit) could get me to come here now.

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 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.