Explanatory Notes for Act 5, Scene 4
From Macbeth. Ed. Thomas Marc Parrott. New York: American Book Co.
(Line numbers have been altered.)
This scene presents the union of the English forces with the Scottish lords near Birnam wood. Malcolm's order to the soldiers
to cut down boughs in order to conceal the numbers of the army, points to the fulfilment of the witches' prophecy.
1. Cousins, kinsmen.
2. chambers, private rooms. Malcolm is thinking of the murder
of Duncan in his bedchamber.
6. discovery, reconnaissance.
7. in report of us, in the report carried back concerning us.
8. but, but that.
9. keeps still, remains.
9, 10. endure ... before, stand a siege there.
11. advantage to be given, where an opportunity, i.e. to desert,
has to be given them. If Macbeth led his army into the field, he
would necessarily give the discontented spirits a better chance to
desert than if he remained in his castle.
12. more and less, great and small.
14, 15. Let ... event, let our true opinion await the actual
event. Macduff is not so sure that all Macbeth's soldiers are
ready to desert. His next words show that he thinks the battle
will demand all their efforts; "put on industrious soldiership" means "play the part of good soldiers." Siward carries on the
idea in the next speech; "whatever we may fancy our hopes to be,
blows alone will settle the matter."
19. relate, utter.
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_4.html >.