Questions tagged [macbeth]

For questions about Macbeth, a play by William Shakespeare. Note that this is a work tag and not a character tag for the man Macbeth. Use in conjunction with [william-shakespeare].

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Why could Banquo see the three witches?

If the three witches were a figment of Macbeth's own imagination, why was Banquo able to see them at the beginning of the play as well?
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16 votes
3 answers
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Why does the prophecy imply Macbeth has to murder the king?

I’m reading Macbeth for the first time. The witches prophecize that Macbeth will become king. He and Lady Macbeth immediately jump to the conclusion that this means he has to assassinate Duncan, the ...
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Who is 'he' in 'He has no children?'

In Act 4, scene 3, Macduff is talking with Malcolm. He has just heard the news that his wife and children have been murdered by Macbeth's forces. Then he says, He has no children. Who is "he&...
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5 votes
2 answers
847 views

What does "royalty in nature" in Macbeth mean?

In Macbeth (Act 3, Scene 1), Macbeth says about Banquo: in his royalty of nature Reigns that which would be feared. What does "royalty of nature" mean here? Surely, Banquo is no "king ...
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2 answers
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When did Macbeth kill Duncan's chamberlains?

In Macbeth, at the end of Act 2, Scene 3 Macbeth reveals that he killed Duncan's servants: O, Yet I do repent me of fury That I did kill them However, doesn't this appear as a plot hole when we take ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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What is the underlying reason for Macbeth to write the letter?

Macbeth wrote a letter to Lady Macbeth. Duncan suddenly wants to have a feast or celebration at Macbeth's castle, without prior notice as Lady Macbeth said. From this, we know that it's all within a ...
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10 votes
2 answers
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Do we have any solid evidence for how much material Middleton contributed to Macbeth?

In verbose's question How close to actual incantations are the witches' spells in Macbeth? he says It is worth mentioning that the latter [the witches' incantation from Act IV scene i] was possibly ...
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Do contemporary neo-pagan practices such as Wicca regard the portrayal of witchcraft in Shakespeare and Middleton as reliable sources?

A recent question asks whether the portrayal of witchcraft in Macbeth can be related to actual practices of those professing to be witches during Shakespeare's day. This companion question asks about ...
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3 votes
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How close to actual incantations are the witches' spells in Macbeth?

Answers to a recent question about the superstition surrounding Macbeth linked to a Royal Shakespeare Company web page that claimed: According to folklore, Macbeth was cursed from the beginning. A ...
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27 votes
2 answers
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Since when has Shakespeare's "Scottish play" been considered unlucky?

In theatrical superstition, Shakespeare's play Macbeth is considered to be unlucky, to the extent that even saying its name more than necessary may bring bad luck: hence the tradition of actors ...
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2 votes
3 answers
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Where is dramatic irony present in Macbeth?

In a school book it is written Dramatic Irony or Irony of situation: It involves a situation in a play or story in which the audience knows the reality which the speaker or character is ignorant of. ...
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7 votes
3 answers
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In Macbeth, why is Fleance 'scaped?

I've always been curious about the precise phrasing of this line from Macbeth, spoken by the First Murderer: Most royal sir, Fleance is 'scaped. The meaning of this, and as far as I can tell the ...
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How many children had Lady Macbeth?

In Macbeth, when the eponymous hero is hesitating to kill Duncan, Lady Macbeth urges him forward to the murder. She memorably says:      I have given suck, and know How tender 'tis to love the babe ...
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5 votes
2 answers
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Why is Macbeth's "vaulting ambition" so important and famous?

What does 'vaulting' mean here? Macbeth uses the term in Act I, scene 7: I have no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself And falls on the other. ...
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1 answer
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What is the message of Macbeth in terms of masculinity?

In class we talked about the inverse of gender roles in Macbeth. The only way for Lady Macbeth to gain power is through Macbeth using her rhetoric. But what about Macbeth? Do you think that the ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Macbeth is a play about power, what quote demonstrates this?

One of the topics of Shakespeare's Macbeth is power. In the play, it is demonstrated that one can use power to achieve what they want. I am unable to find good, powerful quotes to prove this. What are ...
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1 answer
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In the end, was no one loyal to Macbeth and willing to fight for him, and why?

At the end of Shakespeare's play Macbeth, when England invaded Scotland, was no one left to fight for Macbeth? I was wondering why? I also can't find good quotes to prove this point.
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1 answer
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Where did Samuel Johnson say Macbeth is wholly reviled?

The Wikipedia article about Shakespeare's Macbeth contains a section on reading the play as a tragedy of character. This section contains the following unsourced statement: Johnson asserted that ...
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16 votes
2 answers
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Why does the murderer call Macduff's son "egg"?

When Macduff's son defends his father's honor when the murderers sent by Macbeth call Macduff a traitor in Macbeth, they wind up stabbing the son: Enter Murderers. FIRST MURDERER: Where is your ...
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22 votes
1 answer
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How did Shakespeare get away with staging witchcraft in his plays such as Othello, Macbeth, or The Tempest?

The themes of witchcraft and magic loom large over Shakespeare’s later plays. While there is no overt use of magic and spells in Othello, per se, as compared to the witches in Macbeth conjuring on ...
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5 votes
4 answers
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What kind of language features appear in Lady Macbeth's line "too full o' the milk of human kindness"?

In Macbeth Act I Scene 5, Lady Macbeth says the following: Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be What thou art promised: yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o' the milk of human ...
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9 votes
4 answers
5k views

What does Lady Macbeth mean by "what thou art promised"?

In Macbeth Act I Scene 5, Lady Macbeth says the following: Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be What thou art promised: yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o' the milk of human ...
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11 votes
1 answer
2k views

Why does Shakespeare sometimes use "do" with the verbs in his plays?

Sometimes Shakespeare uses "do" with a verb even though it isn't necessary. For example, in Macbeth, Act One, Scene 2, line 10, the captain states, "As two spent swimmers that do cling together". Why ...
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2 votes
1 answer
287 views

Do the witches in Macbeth ever mention "eye of bat and tongue of frog"?

For a high school course in English literature, I'm reading Macbeth. On a basic multiple choice question about Act IV, scene I, I am given the following: The Witches threw into the cauldron ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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What's the technique in 'To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus.' from Macbeth?

What's the technique in these (half-)lines from Macbeth?                                   To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus. They are from Act 3 Scene 1. Macbeth is insecure because of ...
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4 votes
2 answers
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What's the meaning of the last two sentences in Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 3?

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 "...
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12 votes
2 answers
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What's the meaning of "give someone the lie" in Macbeth?

As I have noticed there are multiple interpretations of the following lines from William Shakespeare 's Macbeth. For example, "drink gave thee the lie" has been interpreted as diversely as "deceived ...
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6 votes
1 answer
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What effect did the knocking at the gate in "Macbeth" have on Thomas De Quincey?

In Thomas De Quincey's 1823 essay "On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth", he describes the effect of the knocking at the gate (Macbeth, Act II, Scene 3) on him when he was a boy: "it [...
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5 votes
1 answer
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Any textual evidence from Shakespeare's Macbeth regarding Macbeth's oath to kill the king?

In act 1, scene 7, Lady Macbeth encourages Macbeth to keep his promise and kill king Duncan, but is there any textual evidence from the play regarding his earlier oath to kill the king? Here, for ...
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2 votes
2 answers
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Why did the Witches give the prophecy in the first place?

The 3 Witches prophecied to Macbeth that he would be king, thus setting the play into motion. Why did they do that? Did they realize that they were basically giving a self-fulfilling prophecy, and ...
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5 votes
0 answers
205 views

(How) have the interpretations of Macbeth's ending evolved over time?

I just attended a performance of Macbeth that ended on a much more ambivalent note than Shakespeare's original text. Instead of Malcolm and his posse picking up the shambles and Malcolm motivating his ...
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8 votes
2 answers
3k views

Why does Macbeth say ‘throw physic to the dogs’?

In Act V, Scene III of Macbeth: Macbeth: Canst not thou not minister to a mind diseased Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow Raze out the written troubles of the brain And with some sweet oblivious ...
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13 votes
1 answer
6k views

Is Macbeth or Lady Macbeth the real villain in Shakespeare's play?

In Shakespeare's play Macbeth, it is Macbeth himself, the eponymous antihero, who meets the witches upon the heath and first conceives the idea to murder his king. It is he who kills Duncan, seizes ...
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12 votes
2 answers
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Why do the witches in Macbeth rarely speak in iambic pentameter?

Shakespeare is pretty well known for writing in iambic pentameter. One important exception to this are the witches in Macbeth, who speak in everything from trochaic meter: Double, double toil and ...
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9 votes
2 answers
4k views

Why does Macbeth move to and fortify Dunsinane?

The witches tell Macbeth that he will be defeated only if Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane. This should give Macbeth a very good reason to avoid Dunsinsane, so that his enemies never focus on it. If I ...
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9 votes
1 answer
589 views

Was Shakespeare inspired by Olaus Magnus when writing Macbeth?

One important plot point in Macbeth is that the King feels invincible due to the prophecy that Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill Shall come ...
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18 votes
1 answer
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Did Lady Macbeth communicate signs of her instability prior to the blood scene?

I'm looking back on Macbeth, and I'm wondering something that's piqued my interest again. There's a very well-known scene in Macbeth: the blood-spot scene, the hand-washing scene, and other such names....
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23 votes
4 answers
3k views

What reference is Shakespeare making in Act 2 Scene 2 of Macbeth?

In Act 2 Scene 2 of Macbeth there is this line. What hands are here? Ha! They pluck out mine eyes. Someone two days ago told me this is a reference to a different piece of literature. I didn't ...
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