Macbeth Quotes in Context
by William Shakespeare

Macbeth book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download Macbeth Study Guide

Subscribe Now

"A Deed Without A Name"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Macbeth and Banquo are told by three witches that Macbeth will be king and that the descendants of Banquo will be crowned. Driven by his own wicked ambition and that of his wife, Macbeth murders King Duncan and usurps the throne. Worried because the sons of Duncan remain safe in exile and Fleance, son of the recently murdered Banquo, has escaped his assassins, Macbeth visits the den of the weird sisters.

SECOND WITCHBy the pricking of my thumbs,Something wicked this way comes.Open locks,Whoever knocks.[Enter MACBETH.]MACBETHHow now, you secret, black, and midnight hags?What is't you do?ALLA deed without a name.MACBETHI conjure you, by that which you profess,Howe'er you come to know it, answer me.Though you untie the winds, and let them fightAgainst the churches; though the yesty wavesConfound and swallow navigation up;Though bladed corn be lodged, and trees blown down;Though castles topple on their warders' heads;. . .Even till destruction sicken–answer meTo what I ask you.

"A Little Water Clears Us Of This Deed"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Macbeth has just murdered Duncan, the King of Scotland. He is in a state of shock, and he has not carried out the plan he and Lady Macbeth had made to put the knife in the hands of the drugged and drunken grooms who guarded the king. Lady Macbeth, who could not kill Duncan herself because he reminded her of her father, goes to complete the plan. She is now the strong one, for her husband can no longer even think of what he has done, much less look at it again. She bolsters herself with brave talk and leaves to set the scene. Meanwhile Macbeth stares at his bloody hands in horror, believing that they can never be cleansed. Lady Macbeth, however, whose hands are now as bloody, berates him as a coward and assures him that merely washing their hands will clear them of murder. A knocking at the gates halts their hurried conversation and sends them to their rooms to pretend sleep.

MACBETH. . .Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this bloodClean from my hand? No. This my hand will ratherThe multitudinous seas incarnadine,Making the green one red.LADY MACBETHMy hands are of your colour; but I shameTo wear a heart so white. [Knock.] I hear a knockingAt the south entry. Retire we to our chamber.A little water clears us of this deed.. . .

"A Tale Told By An Idiot, Full Of Sound And Fury Signifying Nothing"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Macbeth, King of Scotland, is a usurper who murders the lawful King Duncan and, when the latter's sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, flee for their lives, fastens the blame on them. Macbeth's reign is fitful and bloody. As the years pass, he gains more enemies, and many nobles desert Scotland to join Malcolm in England. Lady Macbeth, her husband's partner in assassination, suffers from a guilt-ridden conscience that will not let her sleep. There is no remedy for her illness, and she dies just as Malcolm's forces, come from England to restore the throne to its rightful claimant, attack Macbeth's stronghold. Word is brought to Macbeth of his wife's death. He bitterly philosophizes on the event, in a passage which, perhaps, contains more famous lines than any other in Shakespeare.

MACBETH. . .To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,To the last syllable of recorded time;And all our yesterdays have lighted foolsThe way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,And then is heard no more. It is a taleTold by an idiot, full of sound and furySignifying nothing.. . .

"After Life's Fitful Fever He Sleeps Well"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Advised by three witches that he will be king, Macbeth gives way to his ambition, murders King Duncan, and usurps the throne. In his hasty grab for power, Macbeth has lost something more precious, peace, which, ironically, he has given to the slain king. The new king addresses Lady Macbeth.

MACBETH. . .. . . Better be with the dead,Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace,Than on the torture of the mind to lieIn restless ecstasy. Duncan is in his grave.After life's fitful fever he sleeps well,Treason has done his worst; nor steel, nor...

(The entire section is 9,519 words.)