Explanatory Notes for Act 5, Scene 3
From Macbeth. Ed. Thomas Marc Parrott. New York: American Book Co.
(Line numbers have been altered.)
Macbeth, who has been absent from the stage for some time, reappears in this scene. The student will note at once that he is in a
different mood from that which characterized him in the earlier acts. He is no longer disturbed by "terrible dreams" and seeking
to lull them by the perpetration of acts of violence. On the contrary, he relies so fully on the witches' prediction that not even the
revolt of his thanes and the approach of the English army alarm
him. Nevertheless he is restless, imperious, and gloomy. He has
obtained all that he sought to win and is confident of the future,
and yet he knows all happiness has gone out of his life.
1. reports, of the revolt of his subjects.
3. taint, be infected.
5. all mortal consequences, the future of all men.
5. me, the indirect object of "pronounced." The line contains
a feminine ending before the caesura and a trisyllabic fourth foot.
8. English epicures. The hardy Scotch despised the luxurious
manners of their English neighbours.
11. loon, fool, a characteristically Scottish term of abuse.
12. goose look, look of foolish fear.
15. lily-liver'd, cowardly.
15. patch, fool.
20. behold, Macbeth interrupts his speech here to call Seyton
again. Perhaps he would have added some such phrase as "these
cowards around me."
20, 21. This push ... now, this struggle, i.e. the approaching
battle, will give me peace forever, or will at once push me from my
21. disseat, dethrone.
22. way of life, course of life, or simply, life.
27. breath, flattery.
30. The unaccented syllable is wanting in the first foot of this
43. oblivious, causing forgetfulness.
47. Throw physic, etc. Macbeth turns impatiently from the
doctor. If "physic" can do nothing, if the cure for such a sickness
as Lady Macbeth's lies in the power of the patient only, Macbeth
scorns the medical art. He, too, has been troubled by "thick-coming fancies," but he means to seek relief from them in action,
not in a doctor's prescription.
48. staff, baton.
50. Come, sir. Probably addressed to the servant who is buckling on Macbeth's armour.
50. dispatch, be quick.
50, 51. cast The water, inspect the urine. This was an Elizabethan method of diagnosis.
52. purge ... health, cure it so that the land would be as
healthy as before.
54. Pull't off. Another phrase addressed to the attendant.
Macbeth's restlessness is shown in the way he orders his armour to be put on in haste, although there is no need of it, and then has it,
or part of it, perhaps the helmet, taken off again. The phrase, "Bring it after me," in line 58, refers to the same piece of armour.
55. rhubard, senna. Plants from which purgative medicines are
61, 62. Were I ... here. The doctor is thoroughly frightened.
Between his discovery of Lady Macbeth's terrible secrets and the
rough contempt with which Macbeth has treated him, his one
desire is to get out of this dangerous neighbourhood as quickly
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_5_3.html >.
Fall'n into the sear ... Macbeth's metaphor bears a striking resemblance to Shakespeare's Sonnet 73:
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang...
Sonnets 71-74 are typically analyzed as a group, linked by the poet's thoughts of his own mortality. However, Sonnet 73 contains many of the themes common throughout the entire body of sonnets, including the ravages of time on one's physical well-being and the mental anguish associated with moving further from youth and closer to death. Time's destruction of great monuments juxtaposed with the effects of age on human beings is a convention seen before, most notably in Sonnet 55. Read on...