Explanatory notes below for Act 1, Scene 6
From Macbeth. Ed. Thomas Marc Parrott. New York: American Book Co.
(Line numbers have been altered.)
This scene brings Duncan, in the early evening, to Macbeth's castle. We may note first, the 'irony of situation' in Duncan's
praising the "pleasant seat" of the castle where he is to meet a
sudden and bloody end; and secondly, the effective character contrast between the gentle, unsuspicious courtesy of the king, and the
feigned humility and hypocritical welcome of Lady Macbeth. Nowhere in the play does she appear so repulsive as here where she is
leading Duncan on to his death, with speeches of mock loyalty.
1. Note the natural and easy way in which the king is introduced.
He is at peace with himself and all mankind. Banquo seems to
have caught the king's mood, and answers him in the same tone.
Compare the impression that is given here of the castle, its beautiful
situation, its nesting martlets, and its "delicate air," with the totally
different impression given in Lennox's speech (ii. 3. 59-66) of the
terrible night that followed, with its fierce storms, strange screams
of death, and its gloomy and long-delayed dawn (ii. 4. 6-9). In
both scenes the natural surroundings reflect the temper of men's
3. our gentle senses, our senses which are soothed by the sweet
air; cf. iii. 4. 76.
5. By his loved mansionry, by making it his favourite nestingplace.
6. A foot is lacking in this line. It is possible that some word
or phrase has dropped out of the text; but if the line be read with
a marked pause after "here," the rhythmical effect is not unpleasant.
7. coign of vantage, convenient corner.
11-14. The love ... trouble. The love that attends us is sometimes troublesome, but still we thank it because it is love. In
saying this I teach you how to receive our troublesome visit; you should pray God to reward us, and you should thank us yourself,
because the visit, which entails this trouble, is a proof of our affection. The compliment is somewhat formal but undoubtedly sincere.
16. poor and single business to contend, a small matter to compare.
20. hermits, holy men bound to pray for their benefactors.
22. purveyor, originally a messenger sent before to provide food
for the king and his train.
26. theirs ... theirs. The first "theirs" means "their family";
the second "their property."
28. Still to return your own, always bound to return to you what
was originally yours.
30. our, here pronounced as a dissyllable.
31. By your leave, Duncan takes Lady Macbeth's hand and
leads her into the castle.
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Ed. Thomas Marc Parrott. New York: American Book Co., 1904. Shakespeare Online. 10 Aug. 2010. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/macbeth_1_6.html >.
Did You Know? ... A martlet is a tiny swallow, also known as a house martin, who prefers to build its nest on a house or, as Duncan states, a church (temple). Note the great irony in Duncan's speech. More on birds in Shakespeare.