What does this verse in Macbeth mean to you?   O, I could play the woman with mine eyes And braggart with my tongue! But, gentle heavens, Cut short all intermission; front to front...

What does this verse in Macbeth mean to you?

 

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 my self;

Within my swords length set him; if he scape,

Heaven forgive him too!

 

 

Asked on by mr-t

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mstultz72's profile pic

mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

This is Macduff's monologue in Act IV, scene iii of Macbeth.  Here's what Enotes "Text and Translation" says:

O, I could cry like a woman with my eyes,
And brag with my tongue! But, gentle heavens,
Cut short all pauses in the action. Bring this fiend of Scotland
And myself face to face;
Put him within my sword's length; if he escapes,
Heaven might forgive him too!

In this scene Macduff has learned of his wife and child's slaughter at the hands of Macbeth.  He no doubt blames himself for leaving them in the castle alone and undefended while he is off to England with Malcolm.

Malcolm wants Macduff to act like a man: to get angry at Macbeth and vow passionate revenge ("let grief convert to anger.").  Malcolm baits Macduff: he wants to use Macduff to avenge his father and get back the throne.

But, Macduff--the hero of the play--has an androgynous side.  He says prior to this, "I must feel it as a man."  He must grieve his dead family before focusing on Macbeth.  He cannot feel two emotions equally at once: grief weighs more than anger.

Macduff is saying that he wishes he could grieve like women and cry, but he can't.  He wishes he could brag about revenge like a man, but he can't.  He's caught somewhere in the middle.  In short, he's a complex human being, not a gender stereotype.

After he grieves, he will convert to action.  In time, he will play the role of hero and avenger, and with God's help, he will let his steel do his talking for him.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

This line is spoken by Macduff to Malcolm in Act IV, Scene 3.  In these lines, he is basically swearing to kill Macbeth if he possibly can.  He says this because he has just been told that Macbeth has killed Macduff's wife and kids.

He starts by saying that he could just cry and talk about killing Macbeth.  But instead, he is going just going to stop talking and start acting -- he is going to kill him.  He begs God to put Macbeth near him so they can fight.  He seems to be asking forgiveness for this attitude in the last line.

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