I ran out of creative juices haha so now I’m just doing quote explanations for Macbeth. Because this is what I’m learning in class and I might as well share it because I struggle with Shakespeare. So yeah, these are awful because of that and especially because I dozed off in class (every class nowadays, actually, because I don’t ever sleep more than 5 hours anymore haha) so anyone who looks at this should read the book anyway in case I’m wrong. But really, I’m not very good at English; I’m more of a science-y gal anyway.
“So foul and fair a day I have not seen” (1.3.38).
Context: This quote was stated by Macbeth, to Banquo. Macbeth and Banquo had just been to war, as in that same day, Macbeth had killed the king of Norway, thus ending the war. They have went off on their own, while the other troops set up camp. They are talking about the day.
Meaning: Macbeth either said: “I have not seen a day that was as awful yet as nice as today is” or “I have not seen a day that was as ugly yet as beautiful as today is.”
Significance: This quote is important as it will be the underlying theme of the play. It means that things that appear good can be bad, and things that appears bad can be good. Macbeth’s line demonstrates dramatic irony, as the witches have said it before in the first scene— which also makes it a motif— without Macbeth’s knowledge.
Lesser than Macbeth and greater.
Not so happy, yet much happier. (1.3.68-69)
Context: This quote was stated by the three witches, to Banquo. Macbeth and Banquo had just been to war, and have went off on their own, before seeing the three witches. The three witches hail Macbeth, telling him that he will become king, and Banquo tells them to give him a prophesy too. The witches are telling Banquo what will happen to him in his future.
Meaning: The witches said: “You, Banquo, will not be as great as Macbeth, but at the same time you’ll be greater. You’ll not be as fortunate, yet at the same time you’ll be more fortunate.”
Significance: This follows the motif of ambiguity, similar to all the statements the witches make. The line is intentionally confusing, in order to trick Macbeth and Banquo, leading to their destruction. This is also a paradox.
“This supernatural soliciting / Cannot be ill, cannot be good. If ill, / Why hath it given me earnest of success, / Commencing in a truth? I am Thane of Cawdor: / If good, why do I yield to that suggestion / Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair / And make my seated heart knock at my ribs, / Against the use of nature? Present fears / Are less than horrible imaginings.” (1.3.130-138).
Context: This quote was stated by Macbeth, to himself. He had just received a prophesy from the three witches and had been confronted by the king’s men. They tell him that he is the Thane of Cawdor, thus completing two out of the three parts of the prophesy the witches told him.
Meaning: Macbeth said: “The supernatural temptation cannot be evil, but is cannot be good either. If it is bad, why has it promised me success that turned out to be true? I am Thane of Cawdor. If it is good, why do I give way to the suggestion of murdering the king, when the image of it makes my hair stand up and my heart beat unnaturally fast. The current fears I have right now are not as scary as my horrible imaginations of murdering Duncan.”
Significance: Macbeth believes the prophesy does not seem bad, as what he was promised turned out to be true, but it cannot be good either, as he is now thinking of murdering the kind. This line follows the motif of “fair is foul, and foul is fair.” This also shows that Macbeth is violent and power-hungry. Although many believe that Lady Macbeth is most blameworthy for the murder of Duncan, Macbeth was the first to think of killing him, despite the prophesy not mentioning anything about killing. This quote contains paradoxes.
“Come, you spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, / And fill me, from the crown to the top, top-full / Of direst cruelty! Make thick my blood. / Stop up the access and passage to remorse, / That no compunctious visitings of nature / Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between / The effect and it! Come to my woman’s breasts, / And take my milk for gall, you murd’ring ministers, / Wherever in your sightless substances / You wait on nature’s mischief. Come, thick night, / And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, / That my keen knife see not the wound it makes, / Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark / To cry “Hold, hold!” (220.127.116.11).
Context: This quote was said by Lady Macbeth, to supernatural agents. She has just received a letter from Macbeth, her husband, telling of his prophesy.
Meaning: Lady Macbeth said: “Come, supernatural agents that support my deadly thoughts, make me less womanly and fill me with most foul cruelty. Thicken my blood so my body does not have any access to compassion and make me falter in my deadly purpose or make me fail in achieving my goal. Come to my breasts and exchange my milk for bile, you murdering spirits, wherever you wait invisibly for evil. Come, night, and cover yourself with the burial cloak of the darkest smoke of hell, so my sharp knife cannot see the wound it makes, nor can the heavens see through the dark and tell me to stop my evilness.”
Significance: Lady Macbeth is asking for malicious spirits to make her less feminine, as compassion and kindness was considered to be womanly traits during that time period. This is what Lady Macbeth believes her husband should be, because he is a man, but he is not, and thus Lady Macbeth considers doing the evil deed for him, as evidenced when she says “my keen knife sees not the wound it makes.” This fits with the motif that women who are not feminine are evil, as the witches were also gender ambiguous, since they had beards. Milk is also considered a nurturing and mother-like substance, and she asks for it to be replaced with bile. Bile is one of the four humors, and having too much bile was thought to have made a person angry, quick-tempered, and reactive. Blood, on the other hand, is considered to be the best humor and is associated with good. However, despite Lady Macbeth’s desire for cruelty, this quote shows that she is actually violent and power-hungry like Macbeth. Despite the fact that the prophesy mentions nothing about murder, Lady Macbeth’s mind immediately jumps to it. However, it is shown that she is more ambitious in that she is more willing to commit the murder than her husband. There is also a motif of darkness hiding evil intent, as Macbeth had asked for darkness to hide his dark desires in Act 1, Scene 4. This quote contains metaphors and personification.
Hopefully I’ll update something actually decent next time (or like, actually update lol)!