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Scene 3

England. Before the King’s palace.

(Malcolm; Macduff; English Doctor; Rosse)

Maclcolm and Macduff discuss the sufferings of Scotland under Macbeth’s rule. Malcolm insists, however, that he would make a far worse king than Macbeth himself, detailing all of his various sins. Macduff brushes them all aside as irrelevant, until Malcolm convinces him that he is an appalling human being and Macduff weeps at the thought of Scotland suffering yet further. This is all Malcolm was waiting for, as he wanted to test Macduff’s good faith, since Macbeth has sent many spies to him. All he has said was lies. They are interrupted by an English doctor who informs them that the King, who has offered ten thousand men to help Malcolm overthrow Macbeth, is coming out of his palace to cure an evil plague by his touch. Ross arrives, and after temporizing, has to tell Macduff that his entire family has been killed. Macduff is broken by the news, laying all the blame on himself. Malcolm tries to console him by recommending that he use his grief as fodder for his anger as they attack Macbeth. Macduff reminds the others that Macbeth has no children himself, and cannot know what it is to lose them. He swears not to rest until he has killed Macbeth, and Malcolm urges that they go to the King of England and receive their forces. (278 lines)

Enter Malcolm and Macduff.


Let us seek out some desolate shade, and there

Weep our sad bosoms empty.


Let us rather

Hold fast the mortal sword, and like good men

Bestride our downfall 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 dolor.


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,

Was once thought honest; you have lov’d him well;

He hath not touch’d you yet. I am young, but something

You may discern of him through me, and wisdom

To offer up a weak, poor, innocent lamb

T’ appease an angry god.


I am not treacherous.


But Macbeth is.

A good and virtuous nature may recoil

In an imperial charge. But I shall crave 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.


I have lost my hopes.


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,

Let not my jealousies be your dishonors,

But mine own safeties. You may be rightly just,

What ever I shall think.


Bleed, bleed, poor country!

Great tyranny, lay thou thy basis sure,

For goodness dare not check 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,

And the rich East to boot.


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

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,

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.


What should he be?


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 compar’d

With my confineless harms.


Not in the legions

Of horrid hell can come a devil more damn’d

In evils to top Macbeth.


I grant him bloody,

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

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.


Boundless intemperance

In nature is a tyranny; it hath been

Th’ 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,

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 inclin’d.


With this, there grows

In my most ill-compos’d 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,

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.


This avarice

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,

With other graces weigh’d.


But I have none. The king-becoming graces,

As justice, verity, temp’rance, stableness,

Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness,

Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude,

I have no relish of them, but abound

In the division of each several crime,

Acting it many ways. Nay, had I pow’r, I should

Pour the sweet milk of concord into hell,

Uproar the universal peace, confound

All unity on earth.


O Scotland, Scotland!


If such a one be fit to govern, speak.

I am as I have spoken.


Fit to govern?

No, not to live. O nation miserable!

With an untitled tyrant bloody-sceptred,

When shalt thou see thy wholesome days again,

Since that the truest issue of thy throne

By his own interdiction stands accus’d,

And does blaspheme his breed? Thy royal father

Was a most sainted king; the queen that bore thee,

Oft’ner upon her knees than on her feet,

Died every day she liv’d. Fare thee well,

These evils thou repeat’st upon thyself

Hath banish’d me from Scotland. O my breast,

Thy hope ends here!


Macduff, this noble passion,

Child of integrity, hath from my soul

Wip’d the black scruples, reconcil’d my thoughts

To thy good truth and honor. 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

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,

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

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

Be like our warranted quarrel! Why are you silent?


Such welcome and unwelcome things at once

’Tis hard to reconcile.

Enter English Doctor.


Well, more anon.—Comes the King forth, I pray you?


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.


I thank you, doctor.

Exit English Doctor.


What’s the disease he means?


’Tis call’d the evil:

A most miraculous work in this good king,

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 swoll’n and ulcerous, pitiful to the eye,

The mere despair of surgery, he cures,

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,

And sundry blessings hang about his throne

That speak him full of grace.

Enter Rosse.


See who comes here.


My countryman; but yet I know him not.


My ever gentle cousin, welcome hither.


I know him now. Good God betimes remove

The means that makes us strangers!


Sir, amen.


Stands Scotland where it did?


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 rent the air

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.


O relation!

Too nice, and yet too true.


What’s the newest grief?


That of an hour’s age doth hiss the speaker;

Each minute teems a new one.


How does my wife?


Why, well.


And all my children?


Well too.


The tyrant has not batter’d at their peace?


No, they were well at peace when I did leave ’em.


Be not a niggard of your speech; how goes’t?


When I came hither to transport the tidings,

Which I have heavily borne, there ran a rumor

Of many worthy fellows that were out,

Which was to my belief witness’d the rather,

For that I saw the tyrant’s power afoot.

Now is the time of help; your eye in Scotland

Would create soldiers, make our women fight,

To doff their dire distresses.


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.


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.


What concern they?

The general cause? Or is it a fee-grief

Due to some single breast?


No mind that’s honest

But in it shares some woe, though the main part

Pertains to you alone.


If it be mine,

Keep it not from me, quickly let me have it.


Let not your ears despise my tongue forever,

Which shall possess them with the heaviest sound

That ever yet they heard.


Humh! I guess at it.


Your castle is surpris’d; 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.


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.


My children too?


Wife, children, servants, all

That could be found.


And I must be from thence!

My wife kill’d too?


I have said.


Be comforted.

Let’s make us med’cines of our great revenge

To cure this deadly grief.


He has no children. All my pretty ones?

Did you say all? O hell-kite! All?

What, all my pretty chickens, and their dam,

At one fell swoop?


Dispute it like a man.


I shall do so;

But I must also feel it as a man:

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,

Fell slaughter on their souls. Heaven rest them now!


Be this the whetstone of your sword, let grief

Convert to anger; blunt not the heart, enrage it.


O, I could play the woman with mine eyes,

And braggart with my tongue! But, gentle heavens,

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!


This tune goes manly.

Come go we to the King, our power is ready,

Our lack is nothing but our leave. Macbeth

Is ripe for shaking, and the pow’rs above

Put on their instruments. Receive what cheer you may,

The night is long that never finds the day.



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