Here, Malcolm is talking to Macduff as they are now determined to overthrow Macbeth. Generally speaking, I know what is going on but I'm not sure what Malcolm means by "cheer" and "night" that never finds the day. Isn't it that all nights, no matter how long, are finally followed by days?

Come, go we to the king; our power is ready;

Our lack is nothing but our leave; Macbeth

Is ripe for shaking, and the powers above

Put on their instruments. Receive what cheer you may,

The night is long that never finds the day. (IV.III.236-240)

2 Answers 2


I understand 'cheer' here in the sense given in the OED at 5.b

That which brings joy, gladness, or comfort; solace; encouragement

Specifically relevant would be the idea of 'comfort' and 'solace'.

Macduff has just learned that his wife and children have been slaughtered and Malcolm has had to brace him up from his despair and tell him to use it to fuel his action against Macbeth

Be this the whetstone of your sword: let grief Convert to anger; blunt not the heart, enrage it.

Malcolm is telling Macduff that he should take comfort and solace in the avenging of those deaths.

You are right, every night sees a dawn, and that is what Malcolm is telling Macduff, that the night of his grief and sorrow may be long, but not so long that there is no end to it, and that that dawn begins with bringing Macbeth down.

I would interpret the line about the night in much the same way as the proverb ‘it’s a long road that knows no turning’. Such an interpretation is in keeping with Aphorisms from Shakespeare Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1812 entry 2913 ‘Patience and Hope’: which quotes the lines about cheer and night, adding as a footnote

Equivalent in sense to this sublime Allegorical Aphorism, but how different in Expression is the common Proverb - “‘Tis a long Lane which has no turning.”

The proverb also seems to puzzle people and you will find many discussions and variations for its interpretation. However, the explanation which best satisfies the ‘long night that never finds the day’ situation in Macbeth is that offered in the Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs

Commonly used as an assertion that an unfavourable situation will eventually change for the better.

I’m afraid I can go no further with citations on exactly why it means that, but would speculate that if the road is a metaphor for life, it will seem long and dreary if nothing ever changes. For Shakespeare’s version, night seems endless if there is no glimmer of dawn, and Macduff and Malcom are the ones who must clear the darkness away.

  • 1
    So why is he saying the night NEVER finds the day?
    – BeatsMe
    Oct 24, 2019 at 15:31
  • Okay, I was interpreting the phrase in a proverbial sense, much like the phrase ‘it’s a long road that knows no turning’. I’ll see if I can expand the answer.
    – Spagirl
    Oct 24, 2019 at 19:50

Understanding the words "Receive what cheer you may" hinges mainly on the meaning of "cheer". Onions's Shakespeare Glossary lists five meanings of the noun "cheer". The first two meanings ("face, complexion", "countenance, aspect") don't work at all in this context. The third meaning—"disposition, frame of mind, mood"—is typically preceded by an adjective ("good cheer", "dull cheer", "merry cheer"), which is not the case in these lines from Macbeth.

The fourth meaning is

cheerfulness, mirth

This does not seem to make sense in this context, unless we assume that Malcolm is very callous after hearing about Macduff's loss. The accusation would not be so far-fetched, however, based on some of Malcolm's previous statements. More than providign comfort, his responses seem calculated to turn Macduff's loss into a motivation for revenge:

Let's make us medicines of our great revenge
Be this the whetstone of your sword: let grief
Convert to anger; blunt not the heart, enrage it.
This tune goes manly.

The fifth meaning in Onions's glossary is

kindly welcome, hospitable entertainment

This meaning makes sense when considering that Malcolm is inviting Macduff to encompany him to the king of England but is harder to reconcile with the words that follow.

The words "The night is long that never finds the day" means that dark times (i.e. the dark times brought on by Macbeth's tyranny) seem long when there is no hope of relief. The words continue the theme of nigh (or darkness) versus day. Many of the scenes in Macbeth take place during darkness:

Malcolm's words also contrast with a dialogue between the Macbeth's in Act 3, scene 4:

Macbeth: (…): What is the night?
Lady Macbeth: Almost at odds with morning, which is which.

In Macbeth's Scotland night and day are in conflict with each other (a conflict that is part of many other unnatural phenomena that are observed after Duncan's death), while Malcolm's words suggest that a normal succession of night and day should be expected.


  • Onions, Charles Talbut: A Shakespeare Glossary. 1911.

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