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9.5: Shakespeare, William. MacBeth Act 2 (1623)

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    Act II, Scene 1

    Court of Macbeth’s castle.


    [Enter BANQUO, and FLEANCE bearing a torch before him]

    • Banquo. How goes the night, boy?
    • Fleance. The moon is down; I have not heard the clock.570
    • Banquo. And she goes down at twelve.
    • Fleance. I take't, 'tis later, sir.
    • Banquo. Hold, take my sword. There's husbandry in heaven;
      Their candles are all out. Take thee that too.
      A heavy summons lies like lead upon me, 575
      And yet I would not sleep: merciful powers,
      Restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature
      Gives way to in repose!
      [Enter MACBETH, and a Servant with a torch]
      Give me my sword. 580
      Who's there?
    • Macbeth. A friend.
    • Banquo. What, sir, not yet at rest? The king's a-bed:
      He hath been in unusual pleasure, and
      Sent forth great largess to your offices. 585
      This diamond he greets your wife withal,
      By the name of most kind hostess; and shut up
      In measureless content.
    • Macbeth. Being unprepared,
      Our will became the servant to defect; 590
      Which else should free have wrought.
    • Banquo. All's well.
      I dreamt last night of the three weird sisters:
      To you they have show'd some truth.
    • Macbeth. I think not of them: 595
      Yet, when we can entreat an hour to serve,
      We would spend it in some words upon that business,
      If you would grant the time.
    • Banquo. At your kind'st leisure.
    • Macbeth. If you shall cleave to my consent, when 'tis, 600
      It shall make honour for you.
    • Banquo. So I lose none
      In seeking to augment it, but still keep
      My bosom franchised and allegiance clear,
      I shall be counsell'd.605
    • Macbeth. Good repose the while!
    • Banquo. Thanks, sir: the like to you!

    [Exeunt BANQUO and FLEANCE]

    • Macbeth. Go bid thy mistress, when my drink is ready,
      She strike upon the bell. Get thee to bed. 610
      [Exit Servant]
      Is this a dagger which I see before me,
      The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
      I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
      Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible 615
      To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
      A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
      Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
      I see thee yet, in form as palpable
      As this which now I draw. 620
      Thou marshall'st me the way that I was going;
      And such an instrument I was to use.
      Mine eyes are made the fools o' the other senses,
      Or else worth all the rest; I see thee still,
      And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood, 625
      Which was not so before. There's no such thing:
      It is the bloody business which informs
      Thus to mine eyes. Now o'er the one halfworld
      Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse
      The curtain'd sleep; witchcraft celebrates 630
      Pale Hecate's offerings, and wither'd murder,
      Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf,
      Whose howl's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace.
      With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design
      Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth, 635
      Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear
      Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,
      And take the present horror from the time,
      Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives:
      Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives. 640
      [A bell rings]
      I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.
      Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell
      That summons thee to heaven or to hell.



    Act II, Scene 2

    The same.


    [Enter LADY MACBETH]

    • Lady Macbeth. That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold;
      What hath quench'd them hath given me fire.
      Hark! Peace!
      It was the owl that shriek'd, the fatal bellman, 650
      Which gives the stern'st good-night. He is about it:
      The doors are open; and the surfeited grooms
      Do mock their charge with snores: I have drugg'd
      their possets,
      That death and nature do contend about them, 655
      Whether they live or die.
    • Macbeth. [Within] Who's there? what, ho!
    • Lady Macbeth. Alack, I am afraid they have awaked,
      And 'tis not done. The attempt and not the deed
      Confounds us. Hark! I laid their daggers ready; 660
      He could not miss 'em. Had he not resembled
      My father as he slept, I had done't.
      [Enter MACBETH]
      My husband!
    • Macbeth. I have done the deed. Didst thou not hear a noise?665
    • Lady Macbeth. I heard the owl scream and the crickets cry.
      Did not you speak?
    • Macbeth. When?
    • Lady Macbeth. Now.
    • Macbeth. As I descended?670
    • Lady Macbeth. Ay.
    • Macbeth. Hark!
      Who lies i' the second chamber?
    • Lady Macbeth. Donalbain.
    • Macbeth. This is a sorry sight.675

    [Looking on his hands]

    • Lady Macbeth. A foolish thought, to say a sorry sight.
    • Macbeth. There's one did laugh in's sleep, and one cried
      That they did wake each other: I stood and heard them: 680
      But they did say their prayers, and address'd them
      Again to sleep.
    • Lady Macbeth. There are two lodged together.
    • Macbeth. One cried 'God bless us!' and 'Amen' the other;
      As they had seen me with these hangman's hands. 685
      Listening their fear, I could not say 'Amen,'
      When they did say 'God bless us!'
    • Lady Macbeth. Consider it not so deeply.
    • Macbeth. But wherefore could not I pronounce 'Amen'?
      I had most need of blessing, and 'Amen' 690
      Stuck in my throat.
    • Lady Macbeth. These deeds must not be thought
      After these ways; so, it will make us mad.
    • Macbeth. Methought I heard a voice cry 'Sleep no more!
      Macbeth does murder sleep', the innocent sleep, 695
      Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care,
      The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
      Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
      Chief nourisher in life's feast,—
    • Lady Macbeth. What do you mean?700
    • Macbeth. Still it cried 'Sleep no more!' to all the house:
      'Glamis hath murder'd sleep, and therefore Cawdor
      Shall sleep no more; Macbeth shall sleep no more.'
    • Lady Macbeth. Who was it that thus cried? Why, worthy thane,
      You do unbend your noble strength, to think 705
      So brainsickly of things. Go get some water,
      And wash this filthy witness from your hand.
      Why did you bring these daggers from the place?
      They must lie there: go carry them; and smear
      The sleepy grooms with blood.710
    • Macbeth. I'll go no more:
      I am afraid to think what I have done;
      Look on't again I dare not.
    • Lady Macbeth. Infirm of purpose!
      Give me the daggers: the sleeping and the dead 715
      Are but as pictures: 'tis the eye of childhood
      That fears a painted devil. If he do bleed,
      I'll gild the faces of the grooms withal;
      For it must seem their guilt.

    [Exit. Knocking within]

    • Macbeth. Whence is that knocking?
      How is't with me, when every noise appals me?
      What hands are here? ha! they pluck out mine eyes.
      Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood
      Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather 725
      The multitudinous seas in incarnadine,
      Making the green one red.

    [Re-enter LADY MACBETH]

    • Lady Macbeth. My hands are of your colour; but I shame
      To wear a heart so white. 730
      [Knocking within]
      I hear a knocking
      At the south entry: retire we to our chamber;
      A little water clears us of this deed:
      How easy is it, then! Your constancy 735
      Hath left you unattended.
      [Knocking within]
      Hark! more knocking.
      Get on your nightgown, lest occasion call us,
      And show us to be watchers. Be not lost 740
      So poorly in your thoughts.
    • Macbeth. To know my deed, 'twere best not know myself.
      [Knocking within]
      Wake Duncan with thy knocking! I would thou couldst!



    Act II, Scene 3

    The same.


    [Knocking within. Enter a Porter]

    • Porter. Here's a knocking indeed! If a
      man were porter of hell-gate, he should have
      old turning the key.
      [Knocking within] 750
      knock, knock! Who's there, i' the name of
      Beelzebub? Here's a farmer, that hanged
      himself on the expectation of plenty: come in
      time; have napkins enow about you; here 755
      you'll sweat for't.
      [Knocking within]
      knock! Who's there, in the other devil's
      name? Faith, here's an equivocator, that could 760
      swear in both the scales against either scale;
      who committed treason enough for God's sake,
      yet could not equivocate to heaven: O, come
      in, equivocator.
      [Knocking within] 765
      knock, knock! Who's there? Faith, here's an
      English tailor come hither, for stealing out of
      a French hose: come in, tailor; here you may
      roast your goose. 770
      [Knocking within]
      knock; never at quiet! What are you? But
      this place is too cold for hell. I'll devil-porter
      it no further: I had thought to have let in 775
      some of all professions that go the primrose
      way to the everlasting bonfire.
      [Knocking within]
      Anon, anon! I pray you, remember the porter.

    [Opens the gate]

    [Enter MACDUFF and LENNOX]

    • Macduff. Was it so late, friend, ere you went to bed,
      That you do lie so late?
    • Porter. 'Faith sir, we were carousing till the
      second cock: and drink, sir, is a great 785
      provoker of three things.
    • Macduff. What three things does drink especially provoke?
    • Porter. Marry, sir, nose-painting, sleep, and
      urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes, and unprovokes;
      it provokes the desire, but it takes 790
      away the performance: therefore, much drink
      may be said to be an equivocator with lechery:
      it makes him, and it mars him; it sets
      him on, and it takes him off; it persuades him,
      and disheartens him; makes him stand to, and 795
      not stand to; in conclusion, equivocates him
      in a sleep, and, giving him the lie, leaves him.
    • Macduff. I believe drink gave thee the lie last night.
    • Porter. That it did, sir, i' the very throat on
      me: but I requited him for his lie; and, I 800
      think, being too strong for him, though he took
      up my legs sometime, yet I made a shift to cast
    • Macduff. Is thy master stirring?
      [Enter MACBETH] 805
      Our knocking has awaked him; here he comes.
    • Lennox. Good morrow, noble sir.
    • Macbeth. Good morrow, both.
    • Macduff. Is the king stirring, worthy thane?
    • Macbeth. Not yet.810
    • Macduff. He did command me to call timely on him:
      I have almost slipp'd the hour.
    • Macbeth. I'll bring you to him.
    • Macduff. I know this is a joyful trouble to you;
      But yet 'tis one.815
    • Macbeth. The labour we delight in physics pain.
      This is the door.
    • Macduff. I'll make so bold to call,
      For 'tis my limited service.


    • Lennox. Goes the king hence to-day?
    • Macbeth. He does: he did appoint so.
    • Lennox. The night has been unruly: where we lay,
      Our chimneys were blown down; and, as they say,
      Lamentings heard i' the air; strange screams of death, 825
      And prophesying with accents terrible
      Of dire combustion and confused events
      New hatch'd to the woeful time: the obscure bird
      Clamour'd the livelong night: some say, the earth
      Was feverous and did shake.830
    • Macbeth. 'Twas a rough night.
    • Lennox. My young remembrance cannot parallel
      A fellow to it.

    [Re-enter MACDUFF]

    • Macduff. O horror, horror, horror! Tongue nor heart 835
      Cannot conceive nor name thee!
    • Macbeth. [with Lennox] What's the matter.
    • Macduff. Confusion now hath made his masterpiece!
      Most sacrilegious murder hath broke ope
      The Lord's anointed temple, and stole thence 840
      The life o' the building!
    • Macbeth. What is 't you say? the life?
    • Lennox. Mean you his majesty?
    • Macduff. Approach the chamber, and destroy your sight
      With a new Gorgon: do not bid me speak; 845
      See, and then speak yourselves.
      [Exeunt MACBETH and LENNOX]
      Awake, awake!
      Ring the alarum-bell. Murder and treason!
      Banquo and Donalbain! Malcolm! awake! 850
      Shake off this downy sleep, death's counterfeit,
      And look on death itself! up, up, and see
      The great doom's image! Malcolm! Banquo!
      As from your graves rise up, and walk like sprites,
      To countenance this horror! Ring the bell.855

    [Bell rings]

    [Enter LADY MACBETH]

    • Lady Macbeth. What's the business,
      That such a hideous trumpet calls to parley
      The sleepers of the house? speak, speak!860
    • Macduff. O gentle lady,
      'Tis not for you to hear what I can speak:
      The repetition, in a woman's ear,
      Would murder as it fell.
      [Enter BANQUO] 865
      O Banquo, Banquo,
      Our royal master's murder'd!
    • Lady Macbeth. Woe, alas!
      What, in our house?
    • Banquo. Too cruel any where. 870
      Dear Duff, I prithee, contradict thyself,
      And say it is not so.

    [Re-enter MACBETH and LENNOX, with ROSS]

    • Macbeth. Had I but died an hour before this chance,
      I had lived a blessed time; for, from this instant, 875
      There 's nothing serious in mortality:
      All is but toys: renown and grace is dead;
      The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees
      Is left this vault to brag of.


    • Donalbain. What is amiss?
    • Macbeth. You are, and do not know't:
      The spring, the head, the fountain of your blood
      Is stopp'd; the very source of it is stopp'd.
    • Macduff. Your royal father 's murder'd.885
    • Malcolm. O, by whom?
    • Lennox. Those of his chamber, as it seem'd, had done 't:
      Their hands and faces were an badged with blood;
      So were their daggers, which unwiped we found
      Upon their pillows: 890
      They stared, and were distracted; no man's life
      Was to be trusted with them.
    • Macbeth. O, yet I do repent me of my fury,
      That I did kill them.
    • Macduff. Wherefore did you so?895
    • Macbeth. Who can be wise, amazed, temperate and furious,
      Loyal and neutral, in a moment? No man:
      The expedition my violent love
      Outrun the pauser, reason. Here lay Duncan,
      His silver skin laced with his golden blood; 900
      And his gash'd stabs look'd like a breach in nature
      For ruin's wasteful entrance: there, the murderers,
      Steep'd in the colours of their trade, their daggers
      Unmannerly breech'd with gore: who could refrain,
      That had a heart to love, and in that heart 905
      Courage to make 's love known?
    • Lady Macbeth. Help me hence, ho!
    • Macduff. Look to the lady.
    • Malcolm. [Aside to DONALBAIN] Why do we hold our tongues,
      That most may claim this argument for ours?910
    • Donalbain. [Aside to MALCOLM] What should be spoken here,
      where our fate,
      Hid in an auger-hole, may rush, and seize us?
      Let 's away;
      Our tears are not yet brew'd.915
    • Malcolm. [Aside to DONALBAIN] Nor our strong sorrow
      Upon the foot of motion.
    • Banquo. Look to the lady:
      [LADY MACBETH is carried out]
      And when we have our naked frailties hid, 920
      That suffer in exposure, let us meet,
      And question this most bloody piece of work,
      To know it further. Fears and scruples shake us:
      In the great hand of God I stand; and thence
      Against the undivulged pretence I fight 925
      Of treasonous malice.
    • Macduff. And so do I.
    • All. So all.
    • Macbeth. Let's briefly put on manly readiness,
      And meet i' the hall together.930
    • All. Well contented.

    [Exeunt all but Malcolm and Donalbain.]

    • Malcolm. What will you do? Let's not consort with them:
      To show an unfelt sorrow is an office
      Which the false man does easy. I'll to England.935
    • Donalbain. To Ireland, I; our separated fortune
      Shall keep us both the safer: where we are,
      There's daggers in men's smiles: the near in blood,
      The nearer bloody.
    • Malcolm. This murderous shaft that's shot 940
      Hath not yet lighted, and our safest way
      Is to avoid the aim. Therefore, to horse;
      And let us not be dainty of leave-taking,
      But shift away: there's warrant in that theft
      Which steals itself, when there's no mercy left.945



    Act II, Scene 4

    Outside Macbeth’s castle.


    [Enter ROSS and an old Man]

    • Old Man. Threescore and ten I can remember well:
      Within the volume of which time I have seen
      Hours dreadful and things strange; but this sore night 950
      Hath trifled former knowings.
    • Ross. Ah, good father,
      Thou seest, the heavens, as troubled with man's act,
      Threaten his bloody stage: by the clock, 'tis day,
      And yet dark night strangles the travelling lamp: 955
      Is't night's predominance, or the day's shame,
      That darkness does the face of earth entomb,
      When living light should kiss it?
    • Old Man. 'Tis unnatural,
      Even like the deed that's done. On Tuesday last, 960
      A falcon, towering in her pride of place,
      Was by a mousing owl hawk'd at and kill'd.
    • Ross. And Duncan's horses—a thing most strange and certain—
      Beauteous and swift, the minions of their race,
      Turn'd wild in nature, broke their stalls, flung out, 965
      Contending 'gainst obedience, as they would make
      War with mankind.
    • Old Man. 'Tis said they eat each other.
    • Ross. They did so, to the amazement of mine eyes
      That look'd upon't. Here comes the good Macduff. 970
      [Enter MACDUFF]
      How goes the world, sir, now?
    • Macduff. Why, see you not?
    • Ross. Is't known who did this more than bloody deed?
    • Macduff. Those that Macbeth hath slain.975
    • Ross. Alas, the day!
      What good could they pretend?
    • Macduff. They were suborn'd:
      Malcolm and Donalbain, the king's two sons,
      Are stol'n away and fled; which puts upon them 980
      Suspicion of the deed.
    • Ross. 'Gainst nature still!
      Thriftless ambition, that wilt ravin up
      Thine own life's means! Then 'tis most like
      The sovereignty will fall upon Macbeth.985
    • Macduff. He is already named, and gone to Scone
      To be invested.
    • Ross. Where is Duncan's body?
    • Macduff. Carried to Colmekill,
      The sacred storehouse of his predecessors, 990
      And guardian of their bones.
    • Ross. Will you to Scone?
    • Macduff. No, cousin, I'll to Fife.
    • Ross. Well, I will thither.
    • Macduff. Well, may you see things well done there: adieu! 995
      Lest our old robes sit easier than our new!
    • Ross. Farewell, father.
    • Old Man. God's benison go with you; and with those
      That would make good of bad, and friends of foes!


    This page titled 9.5: Shakespeare, William. MacBeth Act 2 (1623) is shared under a Public Domain license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Heather Ringo & Athena Kashyap (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative) .