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Can you please explain the significance and the situation of this quotation from...

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supersmartpants | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted March 19, 2013 at 12:33 AM via web

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Can you please explain the significance and the situation of this quotation from Macbeth

Act II, Scene IV

     Ha, good father,
Thou seest the heavens, as troubled with man’s act,
Threatens his bloody stage. By th' clock ’tis day,
And yet dark night strangles the travelling lamp.
Is ’t night’s predominance or the day’s shame
That darkness does the face of Earth entomb
When living light should kiss it? (II.iv.5-11)

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 19, 2013 at 5:12 AM (Answer #1)

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Act II, Scene IV of Macbeth begins a few days after the events of Scene III. So, it is a few days after Macbeth has killed Duncan. Ross is speaking to an old man about the events that have transpired from the time of the murder to the present moment. Ross addresses him as "good father," a general way of addressing an older man. The old man begins the scene by saying that in all the 70 years of his life, he has never seen things so strange, dark and threatening: 

Threescore and ten I can remember well,

Within the volume of which time I have seen

Hours dreadful and things strange, but this sore night

Hath trifled former knowings. (II.iv.1-4) 

Ross agrees, saying that it is daytime but "dark night strangles the travelling lamp." Night obscures the sun ("traveling lamp") indicating that even the heavens are behaving strangely; the state of things is literally and figuratively dark. The old man notes that this is an unnatural state. Macbeth's crime has unleashed a supernatural chaos. The sky is dark when it should be light, and Duncan's horses went wild and ate each other. Scotland is in chaos. 

The scene ends with Macduff and Ross discussing the upcoming coronation of Macbeth and Malcolm's and Donalbain's suspicious absence. 

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