Summary

The battle continues. Macbeth keeps fighting, refusing to give up. Macduff meets him on the field, and they fight. Macbeth tells Macduff that he cannot harm Macbeth, since no one can who was born of a woman. Macduff gives him the news — he was not born, in the normal way; he was born by Caesarean section. Thus, Macduff was not born of a woman, and Macbeth realizes his last hope has now vanished. Macbeth tries to end the fight, but Macduff will not allow him to go, so Macbeth fights on and is killed. The English forces regroup and assess their losses, including Young Siward. Macduff comes back on stage with Macbeth’s head, and proclaims Malcolm the new king of Scotland. Malcolm promises peace and honor, and lets us know that Lady Macbeth was a suicide. He invites everyone to come to Scone for the coronation ceremony.

Enter

To come on stage.

Another part of the field.

Battle scenes were difficult to stage, so this scene could be combined with previous scenes. Action could be going on in several places at once, and the focus could shift from one part of the stage to another. The audience would understand that different things would take place in different areas.

Alarums.

Sounds of battle, trumpet calls, yells — all the noise of fighting.

Drum and colours.

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

Why should I play the Roman fool, and die / On mine own sword?

Many plays (including Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar) concerning the Romans depicted the noble death of a major character by suicide, falling on his own sword.

whiles I see lives, the gashes / Do better upon them.

As long as I live, wounds belong on others, not me.

Turn, hell-hound, turn!

Turn and face me, you dog from hell!

Of all men else I have avoided thee: / But get thee back . . .

You of all men I have avoided; but get back — I already have too much of your family’s blood on my hands.

I have no words: / My voice is in my sword . . .

I cannot speak, my wrath is so great. I’ll let my sword speak for me, you villain so bloody (thou blooder villain) no words can describe you (give thee out)!

Thou losest labour: / As easy mayst thou the intrenchant air . . .

You’re wasting your effort. You can just as easily cut (impress) the uncuttable (intrenchant) air as make me bleed.

Let fall thy blade on vulnerable crests; / I bear a charmed life, which must not yield, / To one of woman born.

Let your sword fall on helmets (crests) that are vulnerable (not mine); I have a charmed life, which cannot be taken by anyone who was born of a woman.

Despair thy charm; / And let the angel whom thou still hast served . . .

Give up your hope in that charm, and let the spirit you have served all this time tell you that Macduff was not born of a woman. Macduff was delivered early by Caesarean section (untimely ripp’d).

Delivery by Caesarean section (probably always fatal to the mother in those days) qualifies in many belief systems, even today, as “not being born” or “not being born naturally” or “not being born of a woman.”

Accursed be that tongue that tells me so, / For it hath cow’d my better part of man!

Let the person who tells me that be cursed, because that news has brought great fear to my courage (cow’d my better part of man)!

And be these juggling fiends no more believed, / That palter with us in a double sense . . .

And let these demons (juggling fiends) be believed no longer, they who deal with us duplicitously (deceitfully) — palter — who make a promise to our hearing, but break it when we rely on it.

The use of juggling may refer to the rising and descending of the apparitions.

Then yield thee, coward, / And live to be the show and gaze o’ the time . . .

There were only two choices in combat to the death: fight or yield (give up). If the winner chose to spare the other’s life when it was yielded, he became a prisoner. Macduff is offering Macbeth the chance to live, but as a prisoner, to be the “show of the time,” to be an object of public derision, bound to a stake, with a sign mocking his low state. The sign could be written instead “This is what happens to tyrants.”

I will not yield, / To kiss the ground before young Malcolm’s feet, / And to be baited with the rabble’s curse.

I will not yield, only to acknowledge Malcolm as king, and become the object of scorn and derision by the mob.

Though Birnam wood be come to Dunsinane, / And thou opposed, being of no woman born, / Yet I will try the last.

Even though Birnam wood has come to Dunsinane, and even though I now face a man born of no woman, I’ll still fight to the end (try the last) — maybe that will save me.

Before my body / I throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Macduff, / And damn’d be him that first cries, “Hold, enough!”

I’m ready to fight now. Let’s do it! And let damnation take the one who quits first.

Flourish.

A flourish was a brief tune played on ceremonial trumpets, marking the coming and going of royalty.

I would the friends we miss were safe arrived.

I wish our friends were here and safe from the battle.

Some must go off: and yet, by these I see, / So great a day as this is cheaply bought.

Some must die, but judging by how many are here, there can’t be much left to do. The day may be important, but it didn’t cost us much to win it.

Your son, my lord, has paid a soldier’s debt: / He only lived but till he was a man . . .

Ross tells Siward that his son, Young Siward, has paid the ultimate price (a soldier’s debt), and only lived long enough to be thought of as a man, rather than a boy.

The which no sooner had his prowess confirm’d . . .

And no sooner had his fierceness in combat (prowess) confirmed that he was indeed a man, in refusing to flinch (in unshrinking station), he died like a man.

Ay, and brought off the field: your cause of sorrow / Must not be measured by his worth, for then / It hath no end.

Yes, and his body has been recovered from the field. You must not grieve as much as he was worth; if you do, you will never stop grieving.

Had he his hurts before?

Siward asks if the wounds Young Siward suffered were on his front. First, he must have been wounded — any competent soldier engaged in combat to the death would sustain some wounds. Second, if his wounds were on his front, then he must have been facing the enemy who wounded him, and not trying to get away (in which case his wounds would be on his back). He met his death bravely.

Why then, God’s soldier be he!

Then he fought in an honorable, or godly, fashion, and deserves honor.

Had I as many sons as I have hairs, / I would not wish them to a fairer death: / And so, his knell is knoll’d.

If I had as many sons as I have hairs (with pun on heirs), I could not wish for all of them a better death. And thus we acknowledge his death (his knell is knoll’d).

He’s worth more sorrow, / And that I’ll spend for him.

His loss is greater than that, to me, and I’ll mourn him further.

He’s worth no more: / They say he parted well, and paid his score: / And so, God be with him!

This sounds cold, but Siward is repeating what he has said earlier — that his son’s died honorably in battle, and no one could ask for a more honorable end. He died (parted) well, he paid his debt (score), and may God bless him!

Here comes newer comfort.

Here comes better news.

Hail, king! for so thou art

Macduff addresses Malcolm, hailing him as King of Scotland.

behold, where stands / The usurper’s cursed head

See here Macbeth’s cursed head.

the time is free

We have regained our freedom.

I see thee compass’d with thy kingdom’s pearl . . .

I see you surrounded (compass’d) by the best of your kingdom (your kingdom’s pearl — the nobility), who speak in their minds the greeting (salutation) I want them to say with me when I speak it aloud: Hail, King of Scotland!

We shall not spend a large expense of time . . .

We (the “royal we”) will act quickly to repay your love and loyalty.

My thanes and kinsmen, / Henceforth be earls, the first that ever Scotland / In such an honour named.

Those who were thanes are now to be known as earls, Scotland’s first such. An earl is a title of nobility, but not of royalty.

What’s more to do, / Which would be planted newly with the time . . .

What remains to be done, which should be done right away (planted newly with the time), such as calling home friends in exile (like Donalbain), who ran from the traps of the tyrant, and finding those who supported Macbeth (the cruel ministers / Of this dead butcher) . . .

and his fiend-like queen, / Who, as ’tis thought, by self and violent hands / Took off her life

And his evil queen (Lady Macbeth), who, as it’s thought, killed herself (took off her life, with self and violent hands) . . .

this, and what needful else / That calls upon us, by the grace of Grace, / We will perform in measure, time and place

We will do all this, and anything else that needs doing (That calls upon us), with the help of God (by the grace of Grace), doing all in proper amount, proper time, and proper place.

So, thanks to all at once and to each one, / Whom we invite to see us crown’d at Scone.

So, thanks to everyone and each one; we invite you all to the coronation ceremony at Scone.

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, fighting.

Latin, literally “they leave.” They leave the stage, fighting the whole time.

Pronounced EX-ee-uhnt.

Exeunt

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

Pronounced EX-ee-uhnt.