Fiction > Harvard Classics > William Shakespeare > Macbeth
William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Tragedy of Macbeth.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Act I
Scene V
[Inverness. Macbeth’s castle]
Enter LADY MACBETH, alone, with a letter

  Lady M.  [Reads.]  “They met me in the day of success; and I have learn’d by the perfect’st report, they have more in them than mortal knowledge. When I burn’d in desire to question them further, they made themselves air, into which they vanish’d. Whiles I stood rapt in the wonder of it, came missives from the King, who all-hail’d me ‘Thane of Cawdor;’ by which title, before, these weird sisters 1 saluted me, and referr’d me to the coming on of time, with ‘Hail, King that shalt be!’ This have I thought good to deliver thee, my dearest partner of greatness, that thou mightst not lose the dues of rejoicing, by being ignorant of what greatness is promis’d thee. Lay it to thy heart, and farewell.”
Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be
What thou art promis’d. Yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness        4
To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great,
Art not without ambition, but without
The illness 2 should attend it. What thou wouldst highly,
That wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false,        8
And yet wouldst wrongly win. Thou ’dst have, great Glamis,
That which cries, “Thus thou must do, if thou have it;”
And that which rather thou dost fear to do
Than wishest should be undone. Hie thee hither        12
That I may pour my spirits in thine ear,
And chastise with the valour of my tongue
All that impedes thee from the golden round 3
Which fate and metaphsical 4 aid doth seem        16
To have thee crown’d withal.
Enter a Messenger

        What is your tidings?
  Mess.  The King comes here to-night.
  Lady M.          Thou ’rt mad to say it!        20
Is not thy master with him? who, were ’t so,
Would have inform’d for preparation.
  Mess.  So please you, it is true; our thane is coming.
One of my fellows had the speed of him,        24
Who, almost dead for breath, had scarcely more
Than would make up his message.
  Lady M.        Give him tending;  Exit Messenger.
He brings great news.        28
        The raven himself is hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements. Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal 5 thoughts, unsex me here,        32
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty! Make thick my blood;
Stop up the access and passage to remorse, 6
That no compunctious visitings of nature 7        36
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
The effect and it! Come to my woman’s breasts
And take 8 my milk for gall, you murd’ring ministers,
Wherever in your sightless 9 substances        40
You wait on nature’s mischief! Come, thick night,
And pall 10 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        44
To cry, “Hold, hold!”

      Great Glamis! worthy Cawdor!
Greater than both, by the all-hail hereafter!
Thy letters have transported me beyond        48
This ignorant present, and I feel now
The future in the instant.
  Macb.        My dearest love,
Duncan comes here to-night.        52
  Lady M.        And when goes hence?
  Macb.  To-morrow, as he purposes.
  Lady M.        O, never
Shall sun that morrow see!        56
Your face, my thane, is as a book where men
May read strange matters. To beguile the time, 11
Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,
Your hand, your tongue; look like the innocent flower,        60
But be the serpent under ’t. He that’s coming
Must be provided for; and you shall put
This night’s great business into my dispatch,
Which shall to all our nights and days to come        64
Give solely sovereign sway and masterdom.
  Macb.  We will speak further.
  Lady M.        Only look up clear;
To alter favour 12 ever is to fear.        68
Leave all the rest to me.  Exeunt.
Note 1. The three Fates. [back]
Note 2. Wickedness. [back]
Note 3. Crown. [back]
Note 4. Supernatural. [back]
Note 5. Murderous. [back]
Note 6. Pity. [back]
Note 7. Natural feelings of compunction. [back]
Note 8. Change. [back]
Note 9. Invisible. [back]
Note 10. Wrap. [back]
Note 11. Deceive onlookers. [back]
Note 12. Countenance. [back]


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