Summary

In the countryside near Birnam wood, the English forces march toward Dunsinane. Malcolm suggests that every soldier should cut down a tree-branch and carry it in front of him, to confuse the enemy trying to estimate how many English soldiers there are. The latest reports have Macbeth still in the castle at Dunsinane. The soldiers march on.

Enter

To come on stage.

Dunsinane

Dunsinane is the name of Macbeth’s castle.

Country

The countryside.

Drum and colours.

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

That chambers will be safe.

When our houses will be safe.

We doubt it nothing.

We have no doubts about it.

Let every soldier hew him down a bough / And bear’t before him . . .

Malcolm suggests that each soldier should cut down a tree-branch (hew him down a bough), and carry it in front of him. This will conceal their numbers (shadow the numbers of our host) and make the defenders report their strength inaccurately (err in report of us).

We learn no other but the confident tyrant / Keeps still in Dunsinane, and will endure / Our setting down before ’t.

All our reports say (we learn no other) that Macbeth (the confident tyrant) remains (keeps) in the castle at Dunsinane, and will not interfere (will endure) when we set up for battle in front of it.

’tis his main hope: / For where there is advantage to be given . . .

It is Macbeth’s only hope, because when there’s an advantage to be gained, soldiers of every rank (Both more and less) have rebelled against him (given him the revolt), and no one serves in his army but those who must (constrained things), people whose heart isn’t in it.

Let our just censures / Attend the true event, and put we on / Industrious soldiership.

We’ll deal with defectors from Macbeth’s army justly, afterward; for now, let’s be (put we on) industrious soldiers.

The time approaches / That will with due decision make us know

The time is coming that will tell us what we have accomplished (what we shall say we have) and what we have left to do (what we owe). Speculation gives rise to unsure hope; there are some things (certain issues) that only war (strokes, as in battle) can settle. Let’s go to war.

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.

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.