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Act 4

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    Act IV, Scene 1

    A cavern. In the middle, a boiling cauldron.

    [Thunder. Enter the three Witches]

    • First Witch. Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.
    • Second Witch. Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.
    • Third Witch. Harpier cries 'Tis time, 'tis time.1550
    • First Witch. Round about the cauldron go;
      In the poison'd entrails throw.
      Toad, that under cold stone
      Days and nights has thirty-one
      Swelter'd venom sleeping got,1555
      Boil thou first i' the charmed pot.
    • All. Double, double toil and trouble;
      Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
    • Second Witch. Fillet of a fenny snake,
      In the cauldron boil and bake;1560
      Eye of newt and toe of frog,
      Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
      Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
      Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,
      For a charm of powerful trouble,1565
      Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
    • All. Double, double toil and trouble;
      Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
    • Third Witch. Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
      Witches' mummy, maw and gulf1570
      Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark,
      Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark,
      Liver of blaspheming Jew,
      Gall of goat, and slips of yew
      Silver'd in the moon's eclipse,1575
      Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips,
      Finger of birth-strangled babe
      Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,
      Make the gruel thick and slab:
      Add thereto a tiger's chaudron,1580
      For the ingredients of our cauldron.
    • All. Double, double toil and trouble;
      Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
    • Second Witch. Cool it with a baboon's blood,
      Then the charm is firm and good.1585

    [Enter HECATE to the other three Witches]

    • Hecate. O well done! I commend your pains;
      And every one shall share i' the gains;
      And now about the cauldron sing,
      Live elves and fairies in a ring,1590
      Enchanting all that you put in.

    [Music and a song: 'Black spirits,' &c]

    [HECATE retires]

    • Second Witch. By the pricking of my thumbs,
      Something wicked this way comes.1595
      Open, locks,
      Whoever knocks!

    [Enter MACBETH]

    • Macbeth. How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!
      What is't you do?1600
    • All. A deed without a name.
    • Macbeth. I conjure you, by that which you profess,
      Howe'er you come to know it, answer me:
      Though you untie the winds and let them fight
      Against the churches; though the yesty waves1605
      Confound and swallow navigation up;
      Though bladed corn be lodged and trees blown down;
      Though castles topple on their warders' heads;
      Though palaces and pyramids do slope
      Their heads to their foundations; though the treasure1610
      Of nature's germens tumble all together,
      Even till destruction sicken; answer me
      To what I ask you.
    • First Witch. Speak.
    • Second Witch. Demand.1615
    • Third Witch. We'll answer.
    • First Witch. Say, if thou'dst rather hear it from our mouths,
      Or from our masters?
    • Macbeth. Call 'em; let me see 'em.
    • First Witch. Pour in sow's blood, that hath eaten1620
      Her nine farrow; grease that's sweaten
      From the murderer's gibbet throw
      Into the flame.
    • All. Come, high or low;
      Thyself and office deftly show!1625

    [Thunder. First Apparition: an armed Head]

    • Macbeth. Tell me, thou unknown power,—
    • First Witch. He knows thy thought:
      Hear his speech, but say thou nought.
    • First Apparition. Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! beware Macduff;1630
      Beware the thane of Fife. Dismiss me. Enough.


    • Macbeth. Whate'er thou art, for thy good caution, thanks;
      Thou hast harp'd my fear aright: but one
      word more,—1635
    • First Witch. He will not be commanded: here's another,
      More potent than the first.

    [Thunder. Second Apparition: A bloody Child]

    • Second Apparition. Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth!
    • Macbeth. Had I three ears, I'ld hear thee.1640
    • Second Apparition. Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn
      The power of man, for none of woman born
      Shall harm Macbeth.


    • Macbeth. Then live, Macduff: what need I fear of thee?1645
      But yet I'll make assurance double sure,
      And take a bond of fate: thou shalt not live;
      That I may tell pale-hearted fear it lies,
      And sleep in spite of thunder.
      [Thunder. Third Apparition: a Child crowned, with a tree in his hand]1650
      What is this
      That rises like the issue of a king,
      And wears upon his baby-brow the round
      And top of sovereignty?
    • All. Listen, but speak not to't.1655
    • Third Apparition. Be lion-mettled, proud; and take no care
      Who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are:
      Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be until
      Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill
      Shall come against him.1660


    • Macbeth. That will never be
      Who can impress the forest, bid the tree
      Unfix his earth-bound root? Sweet bodements! good!
      Rebellion's head, rise never till the wood1665
      Of Birnam rise, and our high-placed Macbeth
      Shall live the lease of nature, pay his breath
      To time and mortal custom. Yet my heart
      Throbs to know one thing: tell me, if your art
      Can tell so much: shall Banquo's issue ever1670
      Reign in this kingdom?
    • All. Seek to know no more.
    • Macbeth. I will be satisfied: deny me this,
      And an eternal curse fall on you! Let me know.
      Why sinks that cauldron? and what noise is this?1675


    • First Witch. Show!
    • Second Witch. Show!
    • Third Witch. Show!
    • All. Show his eyes, and grieve his heart;1680
      Come like shadows, so depart!
      [A show of Eight Kings, the last with a glass in]
      his hand; GHOST OF BANQUO following]
    • Macbeth. Thou art too like the spirit of Banquo: down!
      Thy crown does sear mine eye-balls. And thy hair,1685
      Thou other gold-bound brow, is like the first.
      A third is like the former. Filthy hags!
      Why do you show me this? A fourth! Start, eyes!
      What, will the line stretch out to the crack of doom?
      Another yet! A seventh! I'll see no more:1690
      And yet the eighth appears, who bears a glass
      Which shows me many more; and some I see
      That two-fold balls and treble scepters carry:
      Horrible sight! Now, I see, 'tis true;
      For the blood-bolter'd Banquo smiles upon me,1695
      And points at them for his.
      [Apparitions vanish]
      What, is this so?
    • First Witch. Ay, sir, all this is so: but why
      Stands Macbeth thus amazedly?1700
      Come, sisters, cheer we up his sprites,
      And show the best of our delights:
      I'll charm the air to give a sound,
      While you perform your antic round:
      That this great king may kindly say,1705
      Our duties did his welcome pay.

    [Music. The witches dance and then vanish, with HECATE]

    • Macbeth. Where are they? Gone? Let this pernicious hour
      Stand aye accursed in the calendar!
      Come in, without there!1710

    [Enter LENNOX]

    • Lennox. What's your grace's will?
    • Macbeth. Saw you the weird sisters?
    • Lennox. No, my lord.
    • Macbeth. Came they not by you?1715
    • Lennox. No, indeed, my lord.
    • Macbeth. Infected be the air whereon they ride;
      And damn'd all those that trust them! I did hear
      The galloping of horse: who was't came by?
    • Lennox. 'Tis two or three, my lord, that bring you word1720
      Macduff is fled to England.
    • Macbeth. Fled to England!
    • Lennox. Ay, my good lord.
    • Macbeth. Time, thou anticipatest my dread exploits:
      The flighty purpose never is o'ertook1725
      Unless the deed go with it; from this moment
      The very firstlings of my heart shall be
      The firstlings of my hand. And even now,
      To crown my thoughts with acts, be it thought and done:
      The castle of Macduff I will surprise;1730
      Seize upon Fife; give to the edge o' the sword
      His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls
      That trace him in his line. No boasting like a fool;
      This deed I'll do before this purpose cool.
      But no more sights!—Where are these gentlemen?1735
      Come, bring me where they are.


    Act IV, Scene 2

    Fife. Macduff’s castle.

    [Enter LADY MACDUFF, her Son, and ROSS]

    • Lady Macduff. What had he done, to make him fly the land?
    • Ross. You must have patience, madam.1740
    • Lady Macduff. He had none:
      His flight was madness: when our actions do not,
      Our fears do make us traitors.
    • Ross. You know not
      Whether it was his wisdom or his fear.1745
    • Lady Macduff. Wisdom! to leave his wife, to leave his babes,
      His mansion and his titles in a place
      From whence himself does fly? He loves us not;
      He wants the natural touch: for the poor wren,
      The most diminutive of birds, will fight,1750
      Her young ones in her nest, against the owl.
      All is the fear and nothing is the love;
      As little is the wisdom, where the flight
      So runs against all reason.
    • Ross. My dearest coz,1755
      I pray you, school yourself: but for your husband,
      He is noble, wise, judicious, and best knows
      The fits o' the season. I dare not speak
      much further;
      But cruel are the times, when we are traitors1760
      And do not know ourselves, when we hold rumour
      From what we fear, yet know not what we fear,
      But float upon a wild and violent sea
      Each way and move. I take my leave of you:
      Shall not be long but I'll be here again:1765
      Things at the worst will cease, or else climb upward
      To what they were before. My pretty cousin,
      Blessing upon you!
    • Lady Macduff. Father'd he is, and yet he's fatherless.
    • Ross. I am so much a fool, should I stay longer,1770
      It would be my disgrace and your discomfort:
      I take my leave at once.


    • Lady Macduff. Sirrah, your father's dead;
      And what will you do now? How will you live?1775
    • Son. As birds do, mother.
    • Lady Macduff. What, with worms and flies?
    • Son. With what I get, I mean; and so do they.
    • Lady Macduff. Poor bird! thou'ldst never fear the net nor lime,
      The pitfall nor the gin.1780
    • Son. Why should I, mother? Poor birds they are not set for.
      My father is not dead, for all your saying.
    • Lady Macduff. Yes, he is dead; how wilt thou do for a father?
    • Son. Nay, how will you do for a husband?
    • Lady Macduff. Why, I can buy me twenty at any market.1785
    • Son. Then you'll buy 'em to sell again.
    • Lady Macduff. Thou speak'st with all thy wit: and yet, i' faith,
      With wit enough for thee.
    • Son. Was my father a traitor, mother?
    • Lady Macduff. Ay, that he was.1790
    • Son. What is a traitor?
    • Lady Macduff. Why, one that swears and lies.
    • Son. And be all traitors that do so?
    • Lady Macduff. Every one that does so is a traitor, and must be hanged.
    • Son. And must they all be hanged that swear and lie?1795
    • Lady Macduff. Every one.
    • Son. Who must hang them?
    • Lady Macduff. Why, the honest men.
    • Son. Then the liars and swearers are fools,
      for there are liars and swearers enow to beat1800
      the honest men and hang up them.
    • Lady Macduff. Now, God help thee, poor monkey!
      But how wilt thou do for a father?
    • Son. If he were dead, you'ld weep for
      him: if you would not, it were a good sign1805
      that I should quickly have a new father.
    • Lady Macduff. Poor prattler, how thou talk'st!

    [Enter a Messenger]

    • Messenger. Bless you, fair dame! I am not to you known,
      Though in your state of honour I am perfect.1810
      I doubt some danger does approach you nearly:
      If you will take a homely man's advice,
      Be not found here; hence, with your little ones.
      To fright you thus, methinks, I am too savage;
      To do worse to you were fell cruelty,1815
      Which is too nigh your person. Heaven preserve you!
      I dare abide no longer.


    • Lady Macduff. Whither should I fly?
      I have done no harm. But I remember now1820
      I am in this earthly world; where to do harm
      Is often laudable, to do good sometime
      Accounted dangerous folly: why then, alas,
      Do I put up that womanly defence,
      To say I have done no harm?1825
      [Enter Murderers]
      What are these faces?
    • First Murderer. Where is your husband?
    • Lady Macduff. I hope, in no place so unsanctified
      Where such as thou mayst find him.1830
    • First Murderer. He's a traitor.
    • Son. Thou liest, thou shag-hair'd villain!
    • First Murderer. What, you egg!
      [Stabbing him]
      Young fry of treachery!1835
    • Son. He has kill'd me, mother:
      Run away, I pray you!
      [Exit LADY MACDUFF, crying 'Murder!' Exeunt]
      Murderers, following her]1840

    Act IV, Scene 3

    England. Before the King’s palace.

    [Enter MALCOLM and MACDUFF]

    • Malcolm. Let us seek out some desolate shade, and there
      Weep our sad bosoms empty.
    • Macduff. Let us rather
      Hold fast the mortal sword, and like good men1845
      Bestride our down-fall'n birthdom: each new morn
      New widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows
      Strike heaven on the face, that it resounds
      As if it felt with Scotland and yell'd out
      Like syllable of dolour.1850
    • Malcolm. What I believe I'll wail,
      What know believe, and what I can redress,
      As I shall find the time to friend, I will.
      What you have spoke, it may be so perchance.
      This tyrant, whose sole name blisters our tongues,1855
      Was once thought honest: you have loved him well.
      He hath not touch'd you yet. I am young;
      but something
      You may deserve of him through me, and wisdom
      To offer up a weak poor innocent lamb1860
      To appease an angry god.
    • Macduff. I am not treacherous.
    • Malcolm. But Macbeth is.
      A good and virtuous nature may recoil
      In an imperial charge. But I shall crave1865
      your pardon;
      That which you are my thoughts cannot transpose:
      Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell;
      Though all things foul would wear the brows of grace,
      Yet grace must still look so.1870
    • Macduff. I have lost my hopes.
    • Malcolm. Perchance even there where I did find my doubts.
      Why in that rawness left you wife and child,
      Those precious motives, those strong knots of love,
      Without leave-taking? I pray you,1875
      Let not my jealousies be your dishonours,
      But mine own safeties. You may be rightly just,
      Whatever I shall think.
    • Macduff. Bleed, bleed, poor country!
      Great tyranny! lay thou thy basis sure,1880
      For goodness dare not cheque thee: wear thou
      thy wrongs;
      The title is affeer'd! Fare thee well, lord:
      I would not be the villain that thou think'st
      For the whole space that's in the tyrant's grasp,1885
      And the rich East to boot.
    • Malcolm. Be not offended:
      I speak not as in absolute fear of you.
      I think our country sinks beneath the yoke;
      It weeps, it bleeds; and each new day a gash1890
      Is added to her wounds: I think withal
      There would be hands uplifted in my right;
      And here from gracious England have I offer
      Of goodly thousands: but, for all this,
      When I shall tread upon the tyrant's head,1895
      Or wear it on my sword, yet my poor country
      Shall have more vices than it had before,
      More suffer and more sundry ways than ever,
      By him that shall succeed.
    • Macduff. What should he be?1900
    • Malcolm. It is myself I mean: in whom I know
      All the particulars of vice so grafted
      That, when they shall be open'd, black Macbeth
      Will seem as pure as snow, and the poor state
      Esteem him as a lamb, being compared1905
      With my confineless harms.
    • Macduff. Not in the legions
      Of horrid hell can come a devil more damn'd
      In evils to top Macbeth.
    • Malcolm. I grant him bloody,1910
      Luxurious, avaricious, false, deceitful,
      Sudden, malicious, smacking of every sin
      That has a name: but there's no bottom, none,
      In my voluptuousness: your wives, your daughters,
      Your matrons and your maids, could not fill up1915
      The cistern of my lust, and my desire
      All continent impediments would o'erbear
      That did oppose my will: better Macbeth
      Than such an one to reign.
    • Macduff. Boundless intemperance1920
      In nature is a tyranny; it hath been
      The untimely emptying of the happy throne
      And fall of many kings. But fear not yet
      To take upon you what is yours: you may
      Convey your pleasures in a spacious plenty,1925
      And yet seem cold, the time you may so hoodwink.
      We have willing dames enough: there cannot be
      That vulture in you, to devour so many
      As will to greatness dedicate themselves,
      Finding it so inclined.1930
    • Malcolm. With this there grows
      In my most ill-composed affection such
      A stanchless avarice that, were I king,
      I should cut off the nobles for their lands,
      Desire his jewels and this other's house:1935
      And my more-having would be as a sauce
      To make me hunger more; that I should forge
      Quarrels unjust against the good and loyal,
      Destroying them for wealth.
    • Macduff. This avarice1940
      Sticks deeper, grows with more pernicious root
      Than summer-seeming lust, and it hath been
      The sword of our slain kings: yet do not fear;
      Scotland hath foisons to fill up your will.
      Of your mere own: all these are portable,1945
      With other graces weigh'd.
    • Malcolm. But I have none: the king-becoming graces,
      As justice, verity, temperance, stableness,
      Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness,
      Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude,1950
      I have no relish of them, but abound
      In the division of each several crime,
      Acting it many ways. Nay, had I power, I should
      Pour the sweet milk of concord into hell,
      Uproar the universal peace, confound1955
      All unity on earth.
    • Macduff. O Scotland, Scotland!
    • Malcolm. If such a one be fit to govern, speak:
      I am as I have spoken.
    • Macduff. Fit to govern!1960
      No, not to live. O nation miserable,
      With an untitled tyrant bloody-scepter'd,
      When shalt thou see thy wholesome days again,
      Since that the truest issue of thy throne
      By his own interdiction stands accursed,1965
      And does blaspheme his breed? Thy royal father
      Was a most sainted king: the queen that bore thee,
      Oftener upon her knees than on her feet,
      Died every day she lived. Fare thee well!
      These evils thou repeat'st upon thyself1970
      Have banish'd me from Scotland. O my breast,
      Thy hope ends here!
    • Malcolm. Macduff, this noble passion,
      Child of integrity, hath from my soul
      Wiped the black scruples, reconciled my thoughts1975
      To thy good truth and honour. Devilish Macbeth
      By many of these trains hath sought to win me
      Into his power, and modest wisdom plucks me
      From over-credulous haste: but God above
      Deal between thee and me! for even now1980
      I put myself to thy direction, and
      Unspeak mine own detraction, here abjure
      The taints and blames I laid upon myself,
      For strangers to my nature. I am yet
      Unknown to woman, never was forsworn,1985
      Scarcely have coveted what was mine own,
      At no time broke my faith, would not betray
      The devil to his fellow and delight
      No less in truth than life: my first false speaking
      Was this upon myself: what I am truly,1990
      Is thine and my poor country's to command:
      Whither indeed, before thy here-approach,
      Old Siward, with ten thousand warlike men,
      Already at a point, was setting forth.
      Now we'll together; and the chance of goodness1995
      Be like our warranted quarrel! Why are you silent?
    • Macduff. Such welcome and unwelcome things at once
      'Tis hard to reconcile.

    [Enter a Doctor]

    • Malcolm. Well; more anon.—Comes the king forth, I pray you?2000
    • Doctor. Ay, sir; there are a crew of wretched souls
      That stay his cure: their malady convinces
      The great assay of art; but at his touch—
      Such sanctity hath heaven given his hand—
      They presently amend.2005
    • Malcolm. I thank you, doctor.

    [Exit Doctor]

    • Macduff. What's the disease he means?
    • Malcolm. 'Tis call'd the evil:
      A most miraculous work in this good king;2010
      Which often, since my here-remain in England,
      I have seen him do. How he solicits heaven,
      Himself best knows: but strangely-visited people,
      All swoln and ulcerous, pitiful to the eye,
      The mere despair of surgery, he cures,2015
      Hanging a golden stamp about their necks,
      Put on with holy prayers: and 'tis spoken,
      To the succeeding royalty he leaves
      The healing benediction. With this strange virtue,
      He hath a heavenly gift of prophecy,2020
      And sundry blessings hang about his throne,
      That speak him full of grace.

    [Enter ROSS]

    • Macduff. See, who comes here?
    • Malcolm. My countryman; but yet I know him not.2025
    • Macduff. My ever-gentle cousin, welcome hither.
    • Malcolm. I know him now. Good God, betimes remove
      The means that makes us strangers!
    • Ross. Sir, amen.
    • Macduff. Stands Scotland where it did?2030
    • Ross. Alas, poor country!
      Almost afraid to know itself. It cannot
      Be call'd our mother, but our grave; where nothing,
      But who knows nothing, is once seen to smile;
      Where sighs and groans and shrieks that rend the air2035
      Are made, not mark'd; where violent sorrow seems
      A modern ecstasy; the dead man's knell
      Is there scarce ask'd for who; and good men's lives
      Expire before the flowers in their caps,
      Dying or ere they sicken.2040
    • Macduff. O, relation
      Too nice, and yet too true!
    • Malcolm. What's the newest grief?
    • Ross. That of an hour's age doth hiss the speaker:
      Each minute teems a new one.2045
    • Macduff. How does my wife?
    • Ross. Why, well.
    • Macduff. And all my children?
    • Ross. Well too.
    • Macduff. The tyrant has not batter'd at their peace?2050
    • Ross. No; they were well at peace when I did leave 'em.
    • Macduff. But not a niggard of your speech: how goes't?
    • Ross. When I came hither to transport the tidings,
      Which I have heavily borne, there ran a rumour
      Of many worthy fellows that were out;2055
      Which was to my belief witness'd the rather,
      For that I saw the tyrant's power a-foot:
      Now is the time of help; your eye in Scotland
      Would create soldiers, make our women fight,
      To doff their dire distresses.2060
    • Malcolm. Be't their comfort
      We are coming thither: gracious England hath
      Lent us good Siward and ten thousand men;
      An older and a better soldier none
      That Christendom gives out.2065
    • Ross. Would I could answer
      This comfort with the like! But I have words
      That would be howl'd out in the desert air,
      Where hearing should not latch them.
    • Macduff. What concern they?2070
      The general cause? or is it a fee-grief
      Due to some single breast?
    • Ross. No mind that's honest
      But in it shares some woe; though the main part
      Pertains to you alone.2075
    • Macduff. If it be mine,
      Keep it not from me, quickly let me have it.
    • Ross. Let not your ears despise my tongue for ever,
      Which shall possess them with the heaviest sound
      That ever yet they heard.2080
    • Macduff. Hum! I guess at it.
    • Ross. Your castle is surprised; your wife and babes
      Savagely slaughter'd: to relate the manner,
      Were, on the quarry of these murder'd deer,
      To add the death of you.2085
    • Malcolm. Merciful heaven!
      What, man! ne'er pull your hat upon your brows;
      Give sorrow words: the grief that does not speak
      Whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break.
    • Macduff. My children too?2090
    • Ross. Wife, children, servants, all
      That could be found.
    • Macduff. And I must be from thence!
      My wife kill'd too?
    • Ross. I have said.2095
    • Malcolm. Be comforted:
      Let's make us medicines of our great revenge,
      To cure this deadly grief.
    • Macduff. He has no children. All my pretty ones?
      Did you say all? O hell-kite! All?2100
      What, all my pretty chickens and their dam
      At one fell swoop?
    • Malcolm. Dispute it like a man.
    • Macduff. I shall do so;
      But I must also feel it as a man:2105
      I cannot but remember such things were,
      That were most precious to me. Did heaven look on,
      And would not take their part? Sinful Macduff,
      They were all struck for thee! naught that I am,
      Not for their own demerits, but for mine,2110
      Fell slaughter on their souls. Heaven rest them now!
    • Malcolm. Be this the whetstone of your sword: let grief
      Convert to anger; blunt not the heart, enrage it.
    • Macduff. O, I could play the woman with mine eyes
      And braggart with my tongue! But, gentle heavens,2115
      Cut short all intermission; front to front
      Bring thou this fiend of Scotland and myself;
      Within my sword's length set him; if he 'scape,
      Heaven forgive him too!
    • Malcolm. This tune goes manly.2120
      Come, go we to the king; our power is ready;
      Our lack is nothing but our leave; Macbeth
      Is ripe for shaking, and the powers above
      Put on their instruments. Receive what cheer you may:
      The night is long that never finds the day.2125


    Act 4 is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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