Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Scenes from the Tragedies
Macbeth before the Deed
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
From ‘Macbeth

IF it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well
It were done quickly: if the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease success; that but this blow
Might be the be-all and the end-all here,        5
But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
We’d jump the life to come.—But in these cases,
We still have judgment here; that we but teach
Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return
To plague th’ inventor: thus even-handed justice        10
Commends th’ ingredients of our poisoned chalice
To our own lips. He’s here in double trust:
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,        15
Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead, like angels trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off;        20
And pity, like a naked new-born babe,
Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubim, horsed
Upon the sightless couriers of the air,
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,
That tears shall drown the wind.—I have no spur        25
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself
And falls on the other.—
*        *        *        *        *
Go: bid thy mistress, when my drink is ready,
She strike upon the bell. Get thee to bed.—  [Exit Servant.]        30
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
To feeling, as to sight? or art thou but        35
A dagger of the mind, a false creation.
Proceeding from the heat-oppressèd brain?
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I draw.
Thou marshal’st me the way that I was going;        40
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,
Which was not so before.—There’s no such thing:        45
It is the bloody business, which informs
Thus to mine eyes.—Now o’er the one half world
Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse
The curtained sleeper; witchcraft celebrates
Pale Hecate’s offerings; and withered murder,        50
Alarumed 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,
Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear        55
The 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.
[A bell rings.]
I go, and it is done: the bell invites me.        60
Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell
That summons thee to heaven or to hell.  [Exit.]

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