Fiction > Harvard Classics > William Shakespeare > Macbeth
William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Tragedy of Macbeth.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Act I
Scene III
[A heath near Forres]
Thunder. Enter the three Witches

  1. Witch.  Where hast thou been, sister?
  2. Witch.  Killing swine.
  3. Witch.  Sister, where thou?
  1. Witch.  A sailor’s wife had chestnuts in her lap,        4
And munch’d, and munch’d, and munch’d. “Give me!” quoth I.
“Aroint thee, witch!” the rump-fed ronyon 1 cries.
Her husband’s to Aleppo gone, master o’ the Tiger;
But in a sieve I’ll thither sail,        8
And, like a rat without a tail,
I’ll do, I’ll do, and I’ll do.
  2. Witch.  I’ll give thee a wind.
  1. Witch.  Thou’rt kind.        12
  3. Witch.  And I another.
  1. Witch.  I myself have all the other,
And the very ports they blow,
All the quarters that they know        16
I’ the shipman’s card. 2
I’ll drain him dry as hay.
Sleep shall neither night nor day
Hang upon his pent-house 3 lid;        20
He shall live a man forbid. 4
Weary sevennights nine times nine
Shall he dwindle, peak, and pine.
Though his bark cannot be lost,        24
Yet it shall be tempest-tost.
Look what I have.
  2. Witch.  Show me, show me.
  1. Witch.  Here I have a pilot’s thumb,        28
Wreck’d as homeward he did come.  Drum within.
  3. Witch.  A drum, a drum!
Macbeth doth come.
  All.  The weird sisters, hand in hand,        32
Posters of the sea and land,
Thus do go about, about;
Thrice to thine, and thrice to mine,
And thrice again, to make up nine.        36
Peace! the charm’s wound up.

  Macb.  So foul and fair a day I have not seen.
  Ban.  How far is ’t call’d to Forres? What are these
So wither’d and so wild in their attire,        40
That look not like the inhabitants o’ the earth,
And yet are on ’t? Live you? or are you aught
That man may question? You seem to understand me,
By each at once her choppy finger laying        44
Upon her skinny lips. You should be women,
And yet your beards forbid me to interpret
That you are so.
  Macb.        Speak, if you can. What are you?        48
  1. Witch.  All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis!
  2. Witch.  All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!
  3. Witch.  All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be King hereafter!
  Ban.  Good sir, why do you start, and seem to fear        52
Things that do sound so fair? [To the Witches.] I’ the name of truth,
Are ye fantastical, 5 or that indeed
Which outwardly ye show? 6 My noble partner
You greet with present grace and great prediction        56
Of noble having 7 and of royal hope,
That he seems rapt withal; to me you speak not.
If you can look into the seeds of time,
And say which grain will grow and which will not,        60
Speak then to me, who neither beg nor fear
Your favours nor your hate.
  1. Witch.  Hail!
  2. Witch.  Hail!        64
  3. Witch.  Hail!
  1. Witch.  Lesser than Macbeth, and greater.
  2. Witch.  Not so happy, yet much happier.
  3. Witch.  Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none;        68
So all hail, Macbeth and Banquo!
  1. Witch.  Banquo and Macbeth, all hail!
  Macb.  Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more.
By Sinel’s death I know I am thane of Glamis;        72
But how of Cawdor? The thane of Cawdor lives,
A prosperous gentleman; and to be king
Stands not within the prospect of belief
No more than to be Cawdor. Say from whence        76
You owe this strange intelligence, or why
Upon this blasted heath you stop our way
With such prophetic greeting. Speak, I charge you.  Witches vanish.
  Ban.  The earth hath bubbles, as the water has,        80
And these are of them. Whither are they vanish’d?
  Macb.  Into the air; and what seem’d corporal melted
As breath into the wind. Would they had stay’d!
  Ban.  Were such things here as we do speak about,        84
Or have we eaten on the insane root
That takes the reason prisoner?
  Macb.  Your children shall be kings.
  Ban.        You shall be King.        88
  Macb.  And thane of Cawdor too; went it not so?
  Ban.  To the self-same tune and words. Who’s here?
Enter ROSS and ANGUS

  Ross.  The King hath happily receiv’d, Macbeth,
The news of thy success; and when he reads        92
Thy personal venture in the rebels’ fight,
His wonders and his praises do contend
Which should be thine or his. Silenc’d with that,
In viewing o’er the rest o’ the self-same day,        96
He finds thee in the stout Norweyan ranks,
Nothing afeard of what thyself didst make,
Strange images of death. As thick as hail
Came post with post; and every one did bear        100
Thy praises in his kingdom’s great defence,
And pour’d them down before him.
  Ang.        We are sent
To give thee from our royal master thanks;        104
Only to herald thee into his sight,
Not pay thee.
  Ross.  And, for an earnest 8 of a greater honour,
He bade me, from him, call thee thane of Cawdor;        108
In which addition, 9 hail, most worthy thane!
For it is thine.
  Ban.  [Aside.]  What, can the devil speak true?
  Macb.  The thane of Cawdor lives; why do you dress me        112
In borrowed robes?
  Ang.        Who was the thane lives yet;
But under heavy judgement bears that life
Which he deserves to lose. Whether he was combin’d        116
With those of Norway, or did line 10 the rebel
With hidden help and vantage, or that with both
He labour’d in his country’s wreck, I know not;
But treasons capital, confess’d and prov’d,        120
Have overthrown him.
  Macb.  [Aside.]  Glamis, and thane of Cawdor!
The greatest is behind. [To ROSS and ANGUS.] Thanks for your pains.
[To BAN.]  Do you not hope your children shall be kings,        124
When those that gave the thane of Cawdor to me
Promis’d no less to them?
  Ban.        That trusted home 11
Might yet enkindle you unto the crown,        128
Besides the thane of Cawdor. 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’s        132
In deepest consequence.
Cousins, a word, I pray you.
  Macb.        [Aside.]  Two truths are told,
As happy prologues to the swelling act        136
Of the imperial theme. 12—I thank you, gentlemen.
[Aside.] This supernatural soliciting
Cannot be ill, cannot be good. If ill,
Why hath it given me earnest of success,        140
Commencing in a truth? I’m thane of Cawdor.
If good, why do I yield to that suggestion 13
Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair
And make my seated heart knock at my ribs,        144
Against the use 14 of nature? Present fears
Are less than horrible imaginings.
My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, 15
Shakes so my single state of man 16 that function 17        148
Is smother’d in surmise, 18 and nothing is
But what is not.
  Ban.        Look, how our partner’s rapt.
  Macb.  [Aside.]  If chance will have me King, why, chance may crown me,        152
Without my stir.
  Ban.        New honours come upon him,
Like our strange garments, cleave not to their mould
But with the aid of use.        156
  Macb.        [Aside.]  Come what come may,
Time and the hour runs through the roughest day. 19
  Ban.  Worthy Macbeth, we stay upon your leisure.
  Macb.  Give me your favour; 20my dull brain was wrought 21        160
With things forgotten. Kind gentlemen, your pains
Are regist’red where every day I turn
The leaf to read them. Let us toward the King.
[To BAN.] Think upon what hath chanc’d, and, at more time,        164
The interim having weigh’d it, let us speak
Our free 22 hearts each to other.
  Ban.        Very gladly.
  Macb.  Till then, enough. Come, friends.  Exeunt.        168
Note 1. A contemptuous term for a woman. [back]
Note 2. Chart, or dial of the compass. [back]
Note 3. Like a lean-to. [back]
Note 4. Accursed. [back]
Note 5. Imaginary. [back]
Note 6. Seem. [back]
Note 7. Present possession. [back]
Note 8. Instalment in advance. [back]
Note 9. Title. [back]
Note 10. Strengthen. [back]
Note 11. Thoroughly. [back]
Note 12. Drama of kingship. [back]
Note 13. Temptation. [back]
Note 14. Custom. [back]
Note 15. In my imagination. [back]
Note 16. Weak human condition. [back]
Note 17. Power of action. [back]
Note 18. Speculation. [back]
Note 19. The thing appointed arrives whatever obstacles seem to lie between. [back]
Note 20. Pardon. [back]
Note 21. Perplexed. [back]
Note 22. Frank. [back]


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