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The Tragedy of Macbeth

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Act IV, Scene 3

England. Before the King’s palace.



  • Malcolm. Let us seek out some desolate shade, and there
    Weep our sad bosoms empty.
  • Macduff. Let us rather
    Hold fast the mortal sword, and like good men 1845
    Bestride our down-fall'n birthdom: each new morn
    New widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows
    Strike heaven on the face, that it resounds
    As if it felt with Scotland and yell'd out
    Like syllable of dolour. 1850
  • Malcolm. What I believe I'll wail,
    What know believe, and what I can redress,
    As I shall find the time to friend, I will.
    What you have spoke, it may be so perchance.
    This tyrant, whose sole name blisters our tongues, 1855
    Was once thought honest: you have loved him well.
    He hath not touch'd you yet. I am young;
    but something
    You may deserve of him through me, and wisdom
    To offer up a weak poor innocent lamb 1860
    To appease an angry god.
  • Malcolm. But Macbeth is.
    A good and virtuous nature may recoil
    In an imperial charge. But I shall crave 1865
    your pardon;
    That which you are my thoughts cannot transpose:
    Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell;
    Though all things foul would wear the brows of grace,
    Yet grace must still look so. 1870
  • Malcolm. Perchance even there where I did find my doubts.
    Why in that rawness left you wife and child,
    Those precious motives, those strong knots of love,
    Without leave-taking? I pray you, 1875
    Let not my jealousies be your dishonours,
    But mine own safeties. You may be rightly just,
    Whatever I shall think.
  • Macduff. Bleed, bleed, poor country!
    Great tyranny! lay thou thy basis sure, 1880
    For goodness dare not cheque thee: wear thou
    thy wrongs;
    The title is affeer'd! Fare thee well, lord:
    I would not be the villain that thou think'st
    For the whole space that's in the tyrant's grasp, 1885
    And the rich East to boot.
  • Malcolm. Be not offended:
    I speak not as in absolute fear of you.
    I think our country sinks beneath the yoke;
    It weeps, it bleeds; and each new day a gash 1890
    Is added to her wounds: I think withal
    There would be hands uplifted in my right;
    And here from gracious England have I offer
    Of goodly thousands: but, for all this,
    When I shall tread upon the tyrant's head, 1895
    Or wear it on my sword, yet my poor country
    Shall have more vices than it had before,
    More suffer and more sundry ways than ever,
    By him that shall succeed.
  • Malcolm. It is myself I mean: in whom I know
    All the particulars of vice so grafted
    That, when they shall be open'd, black Macbeth
    Will seem as pure as snow, and the poor state
    Esteem him as a lamb, being compared 1905
    With my confineless harms.
  • Macduff. Not in the legions
    Of horrid hell can come a devil more damn'd
    In evils to top Macbeth.
  • Malcolm. I grant him bloody, 1910
    Luxurious, avaricious, false, deceitful,
    Sudden, malicious, smacking of every sin
    That has a name: but there's no bottom, none,
    In my voluptuousness: your wives, your daughters,
    Your matrons and your maids, could not fill up 1915
    The cistern of my lust, and my desire
    All continent impediments would o'erbear
    That did oppose my will: better Macbeth
    Than such an one to reign.
  • Macduff. Boundless intemperance 1920
    In nature is a tyranny; it hath been
    The untimely emptying of the happy throne
    And fall of many kings. But fear not yet
    To take upon you what is yours: you may
    Convey your pleasures in a spacious plenty, 1925
    And yet seem cold, the time you may so hoodwink.
    We have willing dames enough: there cannot be
    That vulture in you, to devour so many
    As will to greatness dedicate themselves,
    Finding it so inclined. 1930
  • Malcolm. With this there grows
    In my most ill-composed affection such
    A stanchless avarice that, were I king,
    I should cut off the nobles for their lands,
    Desire his jewels and this other's house: 1935
    And my more-having would be as a sauce
    To make me hunger more; that I should forge
    Quarrels unjust against the good and loyal,
    Destroying them for wealth.
  • Macduff. This avarice 1940
    Sticks deeper, grows with more pernicious root
    Than summer-seeming lust, and it hath been
    The sword of our slain kings: yet do not fear;
    Scotland hath foisons to fill up your will.
    Of your mere own: all these are portable, 1945
    With other graces weigh'd.
  • Malcolm. But I have none: the king-becoming graces,
    As justice, verity, temperance, stableness,
    Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness,
    Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude, 1950
    I have no relish of them, but abound
    In the division of each several crime,
    Acting it many ways. Nay, had I power, I should
    Pour the sweet milk of concord into hell,
    Uproar the universal peace, confound 1955
    All unity on earth.
  • Malcolm. If such a one be fit to govern, speak:
    I am as I have spoken.
  • Macduff. Fit to govern! 1960
    No, not to live. O nation miserable,
    With an untitled tyrant bloody-scepter'd,
    When shalt thou see thy wholesome days again,
    Since that the truest issue of thy throne
    By his own interdiction stands accursed, 1965
    And does blaspheme his breed? Thy royal father
    Was a most sainted king: the queen that bore thee,
    Oftener upon her knees than on her feet,
    Died every day she lived. Fare thee well!
    These evils thou repeat'st upon thyself 1970
    Have banish'd me from Scotland. O my breast,
    Thy hope ends here!
  • Malcolm. Macduff, this noble passion,
    Child of integrity, hath from my soul
    Wiped the black scruples, reconciled my thoughts 1975
    To thy good truth and honour. Devilish Macbeth
    By many of these trains hath sought to win me
    Into his power, and modest wisdom plucks me
    From over-credulous haste: but God above
    Deal between thee and me! for even now 1980
    I put myself to thy direction, and
    Unspeak mine own detraction, here abjure
    The taints and blames I laid upon myself,
    For strangers to my nature. I am yet
    Unknown to woman, never was forsworn, 1985
    Scarcely have coveted what was mine own,
    At no time broke my faith, would not betray
    The devil to his fellow and delight
    No less in truth than life: my first false speaking
    Was this upon myself: what I am truly, 1990
    Is thine and my poor country's to command:
    Whither indeed, before thy here-approach,
    Old Siward, with ten thousand warlike men,
    Already at a point, was setting forth.
    Now we'll together; and the chance of goodness 1995
    Be like our warranted quarrel! Why are you silent?
  • Macduff. Such welcome and unwelcome things at once
    'Tis hard to reconcile.

[Enter a Doctor]

  • Malcolm. Well; more anon.—Comes the king forth, I pray you? 2000
  • Doctor. Ay, sir; there are a crew of wretched souls
    That stay his cure: their malady convinces
    The great assay of art; but at his touch—
    Such sanctity hath heaven given his hand—
    They presently amend. 2005

[Exit Doctor]

  • Macduff. What's the disease he means?
  • Malcolm. 'Tis call'd the evil:
    A most miraculous work in this good king; 2010
    Which often, since my here-remain in England,
    I have seen him do. How he solicits heaven,
    Himself best knows: but strangely-visited people,
    All swoln and ulcerous, pitiful to the eye,
    The mere despair of surgery, he cures, 2015
    Hanging a golden stamp about their necks,
    Put on with holy prayers: and 'tis spoken,
    To the succeeding royalty he leaves
    The healing benediction. With this strange virtue,
    He hath a heavenly gift of prophecy, 2020
    And sundry blessings hang about his throne,
    That speak him full of grace.

[Enter ROSS]

  • Malcolm. My countryman; but yet I know him not. 2025
  • Macduff. My ever-gentle cousin, welcome hither.
  • Malcolm. I know him now. Good God, betimes remove
    The means that makes us strangers!
  • Macduff. Stands Scotland where it did? 2030
  • Ross. Alas, poor country!
    Almost afraid to know itself. It cannot
    Be call'd our mother, but our grave; where nothing,
    But who knows nothing, is once seen to smile;
    Where sighs and groans and shrieks that rend the air 2035
    Are made, not mark'd; where violent sorrow seems
    A modern ecstasy; the dead man's knell
    Is there scarce ask'd for who; and good men's lives
    Expire before the flowers in their caps,
    Dying or ere they sicken. 2040
  • Macduff. O, relation
    Too nice, and yet too true!
  • Ross. That of an hour's age doth hiss the speaker:
    Each minute teems a new one. 2045
  • Macduff. The tyrant has not batter'd at their peace? 2050
  • Ross. No; they were well at peace when I did leave 'em.
  • Macduff. But not a niggard of your speech: how goes't?
  • Ross. When I came hither to transport the tidings,
    Which I have heavily borne, there ran a rumour
    Of many worthy fellows that were out; 2055
    Which was to my belief witness'd the rather,
    For that I saw the tyrant's power a-foot:
    Now is the time of help; your eye in Scotland
    Would create soldiers, make our women fight,
    To doff their dire distresses. 2060
  • Malcolm. Be't their comfort
    We are coming thither: gracious England hath
    Lent us good Siward and ten thousand men;
    An older and a better soldier none
    That Christendom gives out. 2065
  • Ross. Would I could answer
    This comfort with the like! But I have words
    That would be howl'd out in the desert air,
    Where hearing should not latch them.
  • Macduff. What concern they? 2070
    The general cause? or is it a fee-grief
    Due to some single breast?
  • Ross. No mind that's honest
    But in it shares some woe; though the main part
    Pertains to you alone. 2075
  • Macduff. If it be mine,
    Keep it not from me, quickly let me have it.
  • Ross. Let not your ears despise my tongue for ever,
    Which shall possess them with the heaviest sound
    That ever yet they heard. 2080
  • Ross. Your castle is surprised; your wife and babes
    Savagely slaughter'd: to relate the manner,
    Were, on the quarry of these murder'd deer,
    To add the death of you. 2085
  • Malcolm. Merciful heaven!
    What, man! ne'er pull your hat upon your brows;
    Give sorrow words: the grief that does not speak
    Whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break.
  • Ross. Wife, children, servants, all
    That could be found.
  • Macduff. And I must be from thence!
    My wife kill'd too?
  • Ross. I have said. 2095
  • Malcolm. Be comforted:
    Let's make us medicines of our great revenge,
    To cure this deadly grief.
  • Macduff. He has no children. All my pretty ones?
    Did you say all? O hell-kite! All? 2100
    What, all my pretty chickens and their dam
    At one fell swoop?
  • Macduff. I shall do so;
    But I must also feel it as a man: 2105
    I cannot but remember such things were,
    That were most precious to me. Did heaven look on,
    And would not take their part? Sinful Macduff,
    They were all struck for thee! naught that I am,
    Not for their own demerits, but for mine, 2110
    Fell slaughter on their souls. Heaven rest them now!
  • Malcolm. Be this the whetstone of your sword: let grief
    Convert to anger; blunt not the heart, enrage it.
  • Macduff. O, I could play the woman with mine eyes
    And braggart with my tongue! But, gentle heavens, 2115
    Cut short all intermission; front to front
    Bring thou this fiend of Scotland and myself;
    Within my sword's length set him; if he 'scape,
    Heaven forgive him too!
  • Malcolm. This tune goes manly. 2120
    Come, go we to the king; our power is ready;
    Our lack is nothing but our leave; Macbeth
    Is ripe for shaking, and the powers above
    Put on their instruments. Receive what cheer you may:
    The night is long that never finds the day. 2125