macbeth quotes

“fair is foul and foul is fair” The witches are speaking to each other. They’ve just met as the battle is going on. When the battle is over, they plan to meet Macbeth at the heath. Establishes the ominous mood. Foreshadows the traitors. Paradox. Thematic (appearances deceive). Things aren’t always what they seem to be.
“No more that thane of Cawdor shall deceive our bosom interest. Go pronounce his present death. And with his former title, greet Macbeth.” King Duncan is speaking to the thane of Ross (who had just delivered the news of their victory). Duncan has heard about Macbeth’s brave fighting, and wants to reward him. Dramatic irony (audience knows about new title but Macbeth doesn’t). Couplet (emphasizes the point, makes it more poetic). “The thane of Cawdor will no longer be traitorous, go announce his execution. Macbeth will become Cawdor.”
“So fair and foul a day I have not seen.” Macbeth is talking to Banquo right before they meet the witches. As they’re walking back home after the battle has ended, he’s referring to the battle/deaths as foul but the victory as fair. Paradox (appears false because opposite things but actually true). “The day is both good and bad.”
“Good sir, why do you start and seem to fear things that do sound so fair?” Banquo is speaking to Macbeth after the 3 witches predicted the 3 titles for Macbeth, who is intimidated by this “future of greatness”. Possible foreshadow (will he believe the premonitions?). “Dear Macbeth, why are you startled by and fear things that sound so good?”
“But ’tis strange; and oftentimes to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray us in deepest consequence.” Banquo is speaking to Macbeth after they are delivered the news that Macbeth is the new thane of Cawdor. Macbeth is beginning to believe the witches, which worries Banquo who fears that he will become corrupt. Foreshadows Macbeth’s evil deeds to come. “Sometimes the devil will plant ‘truths’ in our minds to encourage us to do bad things.”
“There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face. He was a gentleman on whom I had built an absolute trust.” Duncan is speaking to his son Malcolm right after Cawdor was hanged. Duncan is upset and hurt by Cawdor’s betrayal.Thematic (appearances deceive). Ironic (Macbeth becomes a traitor too). “It’s not easy to reveal your true thoughts with your facial expressions. I trusted him a lot.”
“The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step on which I must fall down, or else o’erleap, for in my way it lies.” Macbeth is speaking in an aside to himself. Duncan has just named his son Malcom the Prince of Cumberland as heir to the throne. Macebeth, who is starting to believe the witches’ premonitions, finds the need to start planning to get rid of Malcolm too in order to become king (foreshadow). “The Prince of Cumberland! I must either surrender or overcome him, because he is in my way.”
“Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be what thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature; it is too full of the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way.” Lady Macbeth is talking to herself after she reads Macbeth’s letter detailing the witches’ 3 predictions. She fears that Macbeth won’t have the guts to kill Duncan in order to become king himself. Characterization (Lady Macbeth is evil, power-hungry, and willing to kill to get what she wants). “You are thane of Glamis and Cawdor, and you will be what you were promised. But I’m afraid that you are too good-hearted to take the easiest way (which is usually corrupt).”
“Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t.” Lady Macbeth is giving Macbeth a pep talk before they have dinner with Duncan. She tells him to look pleasant, but have evil in his heart. Thematic (appearances deceive) accomplished by simile/metaphor combo. “Look like a pleasant flower, but be an evil serpent.”
“…that we but teach bloody instructions, which being taught, return to plague the inventor.” Macbeth is talking to himself as he loses the will to kill Duncan. He is beginning to worry/consider the consequences that would come with killing such a beloved king. Foreshadows the violence and consequences to come (how one evil act will lead to more anxiety and more killing). “That such bloody actions return to haunt the person who committed them.”
“The bell invites me. Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell that summons thee to heaven or to hell.” Macbeth is talking to himself as he prepares himself to kill Duncan. He is following the imaginary dagger to Duncan’s bed, real dagger in hand, and Lady Macbeth sounds the bell for the “all-clear”. Couplet emphasizes the action about to happen and makes it more poetic.
“Me thought I heard a voice cry, ‘Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep, the innocent sleep, sleep that knits up the revealed sleeve of care…'” Macbeth is talking to Lady Macbeth after he killed Duncan, during which he thought he heard someone yell this (but did he actually hear it or was it just his paranoia?). Personification (making sleep seem like a live object because he can kill it). Irony (sleep is supposed to be the most peaceful time, but Macbeth killed Duncan while he was sleeping). “I thought I heard some one yell, ‘You will sleep no more! Macbeth murders peace, the good peace, peace that untangles (by knitting up) the tangled yarn.”
“Infirm of purpose. Give me the daggers. The sleeping and the dead are but as pictures; ’tis the eye of childhood that fears a painted devil.” Lady Macbeth is scolding Macbeth for being a coward so haunted by his recent action. He killed Duncan but didn’t finish the deed by planting the bloody evidence on the sleeping servants. Simile (comparing the dead and sleeping to paintings). Thematic (strong woman). “Weakling. Give me the daggers. The sleeping and dead are like pictures. It is only the memories of childhood that make you fear something that looks real but can’t hurt you.”
“Will all great Neptune’s Oceans wash this blood from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red.” Macbeth is talking to himself as Lady Macbeth is returning from the servants as the guilt of his crime really starts to settle in. Hyperbole (the blood on his hands will turn a whole ocean red) used to show Macbeth’s stress, paranoia, and guilt. “Will all of the water in the oceans wash Duncan’s blood from my hands? No, my hands will turn the whole ocean red with blood.”
“Our separated fortunes shall keep us both the safer. Where we are, there’s daggers in men’s smiles. The near in blood, the nearer bloody.” Donalbain is speaking to Malcolm, planning an escape from Macbeth’s castle. Donalbain will go to Ireland, Malcolm to England. They are worried (and rightly so) that they will be the next targets now that Duncan is dead. Thematic (fair is foul and foul is fair) because of the daggers in men’s smiles. “We’ll be safer if we separate. Wherever we are, men will smile but have murder in their hearts. The nearer we are in blood relations to Duncan, the more likely we are to be murdered.”
“Thou hast it now, King, Cawdor, Glamis, all as the weird women promised, and I fear thou played most foully for it.” Banquo is speaking to Macbeth before the ceremonial feast. Banquo is beginning to suspect that Macbeth cheated in order to make the witches’ premonitions come true. Here, Shakespeare allows the audience to enter Banquo’s mind in order to push the plot forward by establishing a new conflict (Macbeth must now take care of Banquo’s knowledge of his evil doings). “You have it all now: King, Cawdor, Glamis, just as the witches predicted; but I suspect that you cheated to win.”
“Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown and put a barren scepter in my grip, then to be wrenched with an unlimited hand, no son of mine succeeding.” Macbeth is talking to himself, resentful that he did all of the work but none of his sons will succeed him. He feels he disturbed the peace in his life for nothing. He realizes that he must kill Banquo and sons so that Banquo’s prediction won’t come true and Macbeth can stop worrying. Thematic (fair is foul and foul is fair). Plant’s the “why” seed for the audience of why Macbeth must kill Banquo. “They placed a pointless crown on my head and gave me a scepter I can’t pass on. It will be taken by someone else, and no son of mine will succeed me.”
Naught’s had, all’s spent, where our desire is got without content. ‘Tis safer to be that which we destroy than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy.” Lady Macbeth is talking to herself at the beginning of Act 3, scene 2. Couplets (once again to emphasize the Macbeths’ guilt and anxiety). They are reacting differently: Lady Macbeth is done and sad, Macbeth feels he must continue killing before he feels comfortable. Later Macbeth notes the same thing: they are tortured souls, while Duncan is at peace. “If you’re not satisfied in getting what you want, then you’ve spent everything but gained nothing. It is better to be the person murdered than to be the killer tormented by anxiety and guilt.”
“There the grown serpent lies; the worm that’s fled hath nature that in time will venom breed, no teeth for the present.” Macbeth is speaking to the first murderer, who just informed that Banquo is dead but Fleance escaped. Macbeth is not too worried yet because Fleance is so young. Metaphor (Macbeth compares Banquo to a serpent and Fleance to a little serpent). Goes along with the prediction: as long as Fleance lives, Banquo’s descendents could one day rule. “The old snake lies dead in a ditch; the little snake that escaped will later become dangerous, but for now poses no threat.”
“It will have blood; they say, blood will have blood.” Macbeth is speaking to Lady Macbeth after he sees Banquo’s ghost during the ceremonial feast. Thematic (what goes around, comes around, which means that there’s more killing and blood to come). “There’s an old saying; the dead will have their revenge.”
“I am in blood stepped in so far that should I wade no more, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go’er.” Macbeth is still speaking with Lady Macbeth after the ceremonial feast. Macbeth plans to go to the witches to learn more, and is trying to deal with Macduff’s absence. He fear’s for his safety, so decides to keep killing people until he feels better since it would be just as hard to continue killing as to go back to being good. Imagery/slight hyperbole (wades in a river of blood). “I am so far in a river of blood that it would be as hard to go back to noble, honest goodness as it would be to keep killing people.”
“My strange and self abuse is the initiate fear that wants hard use; we are yet but young in deed.” Macbeth is still speaking to Lady Macbeth after the ceremonial feast. He says that his hallucinations come from being an murderer, inexperienced in dealing with the aftermath, which is why the guilt is upsetting him. Couplet (make the line more poetic). A little of his hubris, just brushing off the murder and hallucinations as nothing more than inexperience. “My strange self-delusions just come from inexperience. We’re still just beginners when it come to crimes.”
“Security is mortal’s chiefest enemy.” Hecate, after scolding the 3 witches for not consulting her before giving Macbeth their 3 premonitions, decides to add her own little charm to the mix. She plans to instill hubris in Macbeth’s heart and give him the hallucinations. Refers to Macbeth’s tragic flaw (hubris) which he first develops because of Hecate’s charm. “Overconfidence/a false sense of security is man’s greatest enemy.”