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Macbeth – significant quotes and their meanings from Acts 1-5

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Act 1

1. “Fair is foul, and foul is fair,” is stated in line 10 by the witches in the opening of the play. The significance of this paradox is that it sets us up for the doubleness of the play. It means what is fair to the witches is foul to man.

2. “Though his bark cannot be lost, / Yet it shall be tempest-tossed,” is stated in lines 24 and 25 by the first witch while she and the other witches are discussing a recent experience of hers with a sailor. The significance is that it gives us insight on the capabilities of the witches. It means the first witch can’t destroy the sailor’s boat, but she can make him miserable with a storm, meaning witches can only play with man, not destroy him.

3. “So foul and fair a day I have not seen,” is stated in line 38 by Macbeth while him and Banquo discuss his defeat. The siginificance is Macbeth paraphrasing what the witches said. It means the day is fair because he won the battle, but foul because he’s exhausted and is bleeding.

4. “The Thane of Cawdor lives: why do you dress me / In borrowed clothes?” is stated in line 109 and 110 by Macbeth after he finds out that the Thane of Cawdor is alive. The significance is that the second prediction of the witches has come true. It means if the Thane of Cawdor lives, why are you talking to me like I am the Thane of Cawdor?

5. “Two truths are told, as happy prologues to / the swelling act / Of the imperial theme,” is stated in lines 127 through 129 by Macbeth after he finds out the Thane of Cawdor is alive. The significance of this image of drama is that Macbeth sees that he is the Thane as a prologue of what’s going to be. It means the two predictions of the witches have come true, and they’re prologues to Macbeth becoming king.

6. “New honors come upon him, / Like our strange garments, cleave not to their mold / But with the aid of use,” is stated in lines 144 through 146 by Banquo after the second prediction of the witches comes true. The significance of this quote is that it’s used as clothes imagery. Banquo tries to say that Macbeth is uncomfortable in his new title, and he compares this to having new clothes. Your old clothes are never as comfortable as your new ones, thus Macbeth’s new title will never be as comfortable for him as his old one.

7. “Nothing in his life / Became him like leaving it,” is stated in lines 7 and 8 by Malcolm while Duncan and Malcolm discuss the execution of the Thane of Cawdor. The significance is that the quote confirms the death of the Thane of Cawdor. It means the Thane died with more dignity than he had lived.

8. “Yet do I fear thy nature; / It is too full o’th’ milk of human kindness / To catch the nearest way,” is stated in lines 11 through 13 by Lady Macbeth after she reads the letter Macbeth has sent her about the witches. The significance is that Lady Macbeth shows how calculating and emotionless she is. It implies that Macbeth is too kind to murder.

9. “Come, you spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,” is stated in lines 35 and 36 by Lady Macbeth after she receives the letter from Macbeth. The significance is that Lady Macbeth shows her practical nature. It means Lady Macbeth wants all womanly factors, such as sensitivity and fear, to be taken out of her and she’s asking the witches to do this. She wants to help Macbeth commit his evil deeds and to do this, she believes she cannot possess such features.

10. “Look like th’ innocent flower. / But the serpent under ‘t,” is stated in lines 60 and 61 by Lady Macbeth during her discussion with Macbeth of their plans for Duncan’s murder. The significance is Lady Macbeth shows how cold and practical she is. It means Lady Macbeth sees fear in Macbeth, and she tells him that he must hide this fear, so no one sees the evil he is about to do.

11. “If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well / It were done quickly,” is stated in lines 1 and 2 by Macbeth while he contemplates the murder of Duncan. The significance of this soliloquy is that Macbeth is only human, and has doubts + fears that make him that much human. But he has no morals, he knows the seriousness of the murder, but not the moral of the murder. It means that if Macbeth is going to commit murder, he assumes he might as well do it quickly, before he loses his nerve.

12. “Bloody instructions, which being taught, return / To plague the inventor,” is stated in lines 9 and 10 by Macbeth while he contemplates the murder of Duncan. The significance is that Macbeth is only human, he knows right from wrong, and has fear and doubts of committing wrong. It means since we are taught to murder, murder will eventually come back to us.

13. “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. / Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums, / And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you / Have done to this,” is stated in lines 54 through 59 by Lady Macbeth while she tries to build confidence in Macbeth, trying to convince him to be unafraid like her. The

significance is that Lady Macbeth could never break her promises/vows. The meaning includes Lady Macbeth giving an example to Macbeth of how loyal she feels she must remain in keeping a promise. She says that even though she knows the pleasure of nursing a child, if promised to kill him, she will, even if he is looking up at her smiling.

14. “False face must hide what the false heart doth know,” is stated in line 82 by Macbeth while he concludes that he must commit the murder of Duncan. The significance is that he comes to the conclusion he will do this in secret. Macbeth paraphrases what Lady Macbeth said about him being innocent. It means Macbeth must put on a false face to hide what his traitorous heart knows.

Act 2

1. “Is this a dagger which I see before me, / The handle toward my hand?” is stated in lines 33 and 34 by Macbeth right before he murders Duncan. The significance is that he is hallucinating. Throughout this speech, Macbeth is very nervous and his conscience is killing him because he knows what he’s about to do.

2. “Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives,” is stated in lines 61 and 62 by Macbeth before the murder of Duncan. The significance is he is making final judgement about committing mortal sin and Lady Macbeth isn’t there pushing him, he’s doing it by himself. He knows talking about something could never compare to actually doing it. He realizes he must stop all the talking about killing Duncan, and just do it.

3. “Macbeth does murder sleep–the innocent sleep, / Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care,” is stated in lines 36 and 37 by Macbeth after the murder of Duncan. The significance is to show Macbeth’s guilty conscience. In this quote Macbeth says sleep is supposed to repair your body, just as knitting would repair a tattered sweater. He is afraid after committing such an evil deed that he will never be able to sleep again.

4. “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood / Clean from my hand?” is stated in lines 60 and 61 by Macbeth after the murder of Duncan. The significance is again, to show Macbeth’s heavy conscience, full of guilt and fright. He uses illusion to Neptune, the god of sea. Not all of Neptune’s water in the world could clear his guilt, if he puts his hands in it’s waters, they will turn red, because of his blood-stricken hands.

5. “The expedition of my violent / Outrun the pauser, reason,” is stated in lines 98 and 99 by Macbeth after murder of guards. The significance is the ironic lies Macbeth must tell everyone to hide truth. The reason he killed the guards is because he was so overcome with anger about Duncan’s murder, that he resorted to violence and didn’t have time to reason.

6. “Where we are, / There’s daggers in men’s smiles. The near in blood, / The nearer bloody,” is stated in lines 127 through 129 by Donalbain, telling Malcolm the reason he will leave Scotland. He knows that because he is a blood relative of Duncan’s, he is in danger of people trying to kill him.

7. “Lest our old robes sit easier than our new,” is stated in line 38 by Macduff as him and Macbeth discuss his future reign. The significance is to show that Macduff is suspicious about the future with Macbeth as King. Macduff feels that Macbeth was better at being a soldier; old king was better than new king. This is a direct insult to Macbeth. For example, Macduff refuses to go to Macbeth’s coronation.

Act 3

1.”Naught’s had, all’s spent, / Where our desire is got without consent,” is stated in lines 4 and 5 by Lady Macbeth after the murder of Duncan. This quote signifies the beginning of Lady Macbeth’s breakdown. She is not happy with Macbeth. She feels it’s better not to obtain one’s desires if one is unhappy after.

2.”We have scotched the snake, not killed it,” is stated in line 13 by Macbeth after the murder of Duncan. The significance is that Lady Macbeth and him are not safe, their misconduct has just begun.

3.”Duncan Is in his grave; / After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well,” is stated in lines 22 and 23 by Macbeth after the murder of Duncan. The significance is to show how Macbeth is very discontent. Macbeth feels that Duncan being dead is better off than him being alive.

4.”But now I am cabined, cribbed, confined, bound in / To saucy doubts and fears,” is stated in lines 24 and 25 by Macbeth just after he was told of the murder of Banquo and how Fleance escaped. The significance is to show how things are going wrong. Macbeth is feeling overpowered by fears and is disappointed in the result of things.

5. “It will have blood. They say blood will have blood,” is stated in line 122 by Macbeth after the ghost disappears. The significance to show Macbeth’s strong fear. He is afraid that now his life will be taken, his blood will be taken.

6. “And you all know, security / Is mortals’ chiefest enemy,” is stated n lines 32 and 33 by Hectate, queen of the witches. Hectate is angry because the witches have been playing with Macbeth and have excluded her. She sets up a plan to give Macbeth false security. She says security is man’s worst enemy.

Act 4

1. “Double, double, toil and trouble; / Fire burn and caldron bubble,” is stated in lines 10 and 11 by all the witches before Macbeth’s second appearance before them. The significance is to show the witches’ confirmation of their plans for Macbeth. The witches state that the trouble they’re going to bring upon him will be double the terror.

2. “But yet I’ll make assurance double sure, / And take a bond of fate,” is stated

in lines 83 and 84 by Macbeth when he visits the witches for the second time.

The significance is to show Macbeth’s growing mental degeneration. The witches tell Macbeth that no woman or man shall ever kill him. This makes him feel almighty and powerful, like nothing can stand in his way. But this is a petty lie of the witches, made to steer him the wrong way. Macbeth states here that regardless of what they said about no one ever being able to demolish him, just in case, he’s going to have Macduff killed, because he is still quite unsure about what they say.

3. “The flighty purpose never is o’ertook / Unless the dead go with it,” is stated in lines 145 and 146 by Macbeth after he has spoken to the witches for the second time. The significance is to show how Macbeth understands now the concept of all his crimes. He says here that a purpose is never fulfilled unless an action accompanies it.

4. “No boasting like a fool; / This deed I’ll do before this purpose cool,” is stated in lines 153 and 154 by Macbeth after being told Macduff has gone to England. The significance is to show that Macbeth is making a vow to himself that he will kill Macduff’s family because he has gone to England. In this quote, he states that instead of boasting about the deed, he’ll do it before he loses his determination in the future.

5. “A good and virtuous nature may recoil / In an imperial charge,” is stated in lines 19 and 20 by Malclom when Macduff goes to see him in England. The significance is to show how Malcolm has doubts about Macduff, wondering if he has become loyal to Macbeth, who he is ultimately against. Here Malcolm says even a good person can turn bad under a king rule of tyranny.

6. “Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell,” is stated in line 22 by Malcolm when Macduff goes to see him in England. The significance is to show how Malcolm has doubts about Macduff, wondering if he has become loyal to Macbeth, who he is ultimately against. Malcolm says here that Lucifer was the brightest of angels, and he fell to evil, so therefore if he can, anyone can, including Macduff. He implies Macduff has a very good chance to fall vulnerable to Macbeth.

7. “At one fell swoop?” is stated in line 218 by Macduff after he finds out that his family has been killed. The significance is that Macduff is heartbroken and this triggers a craving to go after Macbeth and kill him immediately. Here he asks Ross who brings him the sad news about his wife, children, and servants: “Were they all killed at once?”

Act 5

1. “Out damned spot! Out I say!!” is stated in line 25 by Lady Macbeth during the sleepwalking scene. The significance is to show Lady Macbeth’s mental deterioration. She says this in reference to the death of Duncan. She’s trying to remove the guilt from her hands.

2. “All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand,” is stated in lines 35 + 36 by Lady Macbeth during the sleepwalking scene. The significance is to show her mental degeneration. She’s trying to get the guilt off her hands.

3. “What’s done cannot be undone,” is stated in line 48 by Lady Macbeth after the doctor tells her about her sickness. The significance is to determine that whatever crimes Macbeth and her might have committed, cannot be undone. Lady Macbeth simply paraphrases what Macbeth said earlier in the play.

4. “Unatural deeds / Do breed unnatural troubles,” is stated in line 51 and 52 by the Doctor after he analyzes Lady Macbeth. The significance is to conclude that whatever wrong Lady Macbeth has done was bound to catch up with her, infected minds cause mentally ill persons.

5. “He cannot buckle his distempered cause / Within the belt of rule,” is stated in lines 15 and 16 by Caithness while he tells his soldiers about what Macbeth’s situation is. The significance in this clothes imagery is to show that the forces of Macduff are coming, they’re on their way. Caithness compares Macbeth to a man who has become swollen with distemper and can’t buckle his belt. He claims Macbeth has become so swollen with his desire to become king, that he can no longer say that he’s committing all these crimes to become king, its selfish, he just wants almighty power. Macbeth cannot pull this all in under his belt of reign.

6. “Now does he feel his title / Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe / Upon a dwarfish thief,” is stated in lines 20 through 22 by Angus. The significance in this imagery of sickness is to tell how Macbeth’s reign is doing to Scotland. Angus compares Macbeth to a dwark in a giant’s robe, saying that he is a small man because he is evil. Macbeth is a sickly wheel, and the only medicine to cure him is Malcolm.

7. “I have lived long enough. My way of life / Is fall’n into sear, the yellow leaf,” is stated in lines 22 and 23 by Macbeth when he hears troops are coming. The significance is to show Macbeth’s deep discontent with life. He’s ready for life to be over, he thinks this is the end.

8. “Canst thou minister to a mind diseased,” is stated in line 40 by Macbeth while he’s in battle. The significance is to show the love Macbeth has for his Lady. Even in the midst of battle he still asks the doctor, “Can’t you help mentally ill people.”

9. “I have supped full with horrors. / Direness, familiar to my slaughterous thoughts, / Cannot once start me,” is stated in lines 13 through 15 by Macbeth right after hearing women scream. The significance shows how unknowing evil Macbeth has become. He says there would have been a time when a women’s scream would have bothered him, but now he’s so used to loving horror, his own wife’s cry as she commits suicide doesn’t irk the least bit.

10. “Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow,” is stated in line 19 by Macbeth after he finds out Lady Macbeth is dead. The significance is to show Macbeth’s discontent with life. Life no longer has meaning, now that the love of his life is dead and everyday from now on will be the same.

11. ” I ‘gin to be aweary of the sun, / And wish the estate o’ the world were now undone,” is stated in lines 49 and 50 by Macbeth when the troops arrive at Dunsinane. The significance is to show how important winning is to Macbeth. He decides to keep fighting even though he is in a state of despair.

12. “Lay on, Macduff, / And damned be hime that first cries ‘Hold, enough!’ ” is stated in lines 33 and 34 by Macbeth when he agrees to fight Macduff. He decides it is better to be killed than to continue living his life committing crime after crime, as he has been.

13. “So thanks to all at once and to each one, / Whom we invited to see us crowned at Scone,” is stated in lines 74 and 75 by Malcolm. The significance is how grateful Malcolm is that the rightful ruler is where he should be, and who he should be. Malcolm will be crowned king at Scone, and everyone will come to see him.

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