Fiction > Harvard Classics > William Shakespeare > Macbeth
William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Tragedy of Macbeth.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Act I
Scene VII
[Corridor in Macbeth’s castle]
Hautboys and torches. Enter a Sewer, and divers Servants with dishes and service, over the stage. Then enter MACBETH

  Macb.  If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well
It were done quickly. If the assassination
Could trammel 1 up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease 2 success; that but this blow        4
Might be the be-all and the end-all here,
But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
We’d jump 3 the life to come. But in these cases
We still 4 have judgement here, that we but teach        8
Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return
To plague the inventor. This even-handed justice
Commends 5 the ingredients of our poison’d chalice
To our own lips. He’s here in double trust:        12
First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,
Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,
Who should against his murderer shut the door,
Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan        16
Hath borne his faculties 6 so meek, hath been
So clear 7 in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongu’d, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off;        20
And pity, like a naked new-born babe
Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubin hors’d
Upon the sightless couriers of the air,
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,        24
That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself
And falls on the other—        28

        How now! what news?
  Lady M.  He has almost supp’d. Why have you left the chamber?
  Macb.  Hath he ask’d for me?
  Lady M.        Know you not he has?
  Macb.  We will proceed no further in this business.        32
He hath honour’d me of late; and I have bought
Golden opinions from all sorts of people,
Which would be worn now in their newest gloss,
Not cast aside so soon.        36
  Lady M.        Was the hope drunk
Wherein you dress’d yourself? Hath it slept since?
And wakes it now, to look so green and pale
At what it did so freely? From this time        40
Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard
To be the same in thine own act and valour
As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that
Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life,        44
And live a coward in thine own esteem,
Letting “I dare not” wait upon “I would,”
Like the poor cat i’ the adage? 8
  Macb.        Prithee, peace!        48
I dare do all that may become a man;
Who dares do more is none.
  Lady M.        What beast was’t, then,
That made you break this enterprise to me?        52
When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And, to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more the man. Nor time nor place
Did then adhere, 9 and yet you would make both.        56
They have made themselves, and that their fitness now
Does unmake you. I have given suck, and know
How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me;
I would, while it was smiling in my face,        60
Have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums
And dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this.
  Macb.        If we should fail?        64
  Lady M.        We fail!
But screw your courage to the sticking-place,
And we’ll not fail. When Duncan is asleep—
Whereto the rather shall his day’s hard journey        68
Soundly invite him—his two chamberlains
Will I with wine and wassail 10 so convince 11
That memory, the warder of the brain,
Shall be a fume, and the receipt 12 of reason        72
A limbeck 13 only. When in swinish sleep
Their drenched 14 natures lie as in a death,
What cannot you and I perform upon
The unguarded Duncan? what not put upon        76
His spongy officers, who shall bear the guilt
Of our great quell? 15
  Macb.        Bring forth men-children only;
For thy undaunted mettle should compose        80
Nothing but males. Will it not be receiv’d, 16
When we have mark’d with blood those sleepy two
Of his own chamber, and us’d their very daggers,
That they have done ’t?        84
  Lady M.        Who dares receive it other,
As we shall make our griefs and clamour roar
Upon his death?
  Macb.        I am settled, and bend up        88
Each corporal agent to this terrible feat.
Away, and mock the time with fairest show;
False face must hide what the false heart doth know.  Exeunt.
Note 1. Catch, as in a net. [back]
Note 2. Cessation of the consequence. [back]
Note 3. Risk. [back]
Note 4. Always. [back]
Note 5. Presents. [back]
Note 6. Official powers. [back]
Note 7. Blameless. [back]
Note 8. The proverb runs: “The cat would eat fish, but she will not wet her feet.” [back]
Note 9. Suit. [back]
Note 10. Carousing. [back]
Note 11. Overcome. [back]
Note 12. Receptacle. [back]
Note 13. Alembic, still. [back]
Note 14. Drowned. [back]
Note 15. Murder. [back]
Note 16. Believed. [back]


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