Back to: Macbeth by William Shakespeare
“Fair is foul, and foul is fair”
The three witches say this in Act 1, Scene I. It is ambiguous just like their entire character. This line in a symbolic way gives us a hint of what’s about to come. It means what looks like fair is actually foul and what may look like foul is actually fair. It reminds us of the contradiction between appearance and reality.
“Yet I do fear thy nature; it is too full o’the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way.”
Lady Macbeth says this in Act 1 Scene V after reading the letter sent to her by Macbeth. It shows how well she knows her husband and his nature.
She is rejoicing over the prophecy but she fears Macbeth’s kind nature because he is required to be violent in order to achieve kingship. For Lady Macbeth, “the nearest way” is to murder so that both of them can acquire power faster.
“Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty!”
This dialogue by Lady Macbeth in Act 1 Scene V reveals to us the social position of women of in that age when this play was written. It is a culture which predetermines women as kinder and non-violent.
Lady Macbeth wishes otherwise and wants the evil spirit to take away her womanliness. She wishes to be filled with qualities like extreme cruelty which is needed to achieve what she intends to and the lack of which binds her to the femininity which comes from her sex.
“Methought I heard a voice cry “sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep,” the innocent sleep, sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care, the death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath, balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, chief nourisher in life’s feast.”
Macbeth says this after murdering Duncan in Act 2 Scene II. It is one of his hallucinations which comes to him under the pressure of his haunted conscience. He believes to sleep well one needs a peaceful and innocent conscience, not one stricken with guilt.
He describes the peaceful sleep as something which cares of one’s soul at the end of the day and puts balm over one’s tired mind. Apart from death, sleep is Nature’s second route to do so. It nourishes one with the strength to go on in life.
“Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red.”
In Act 2 Scene II, Macbeth expresses the severity of his guilt in these sentences. He ponders imaginatively that his guilt for such an evil misdeed i.e. killing Duncan is so vast that even Neptune’s ocean which is so immense can’t clean the mark of blood from his hand.
Rather his blood crime is so grievous that it’ll render many seas red. It means, his own guilt can haunt so many pure consciences.
“I am in blood, stepp’d in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er.”
Macbeth here realises that the crimes he has done can’t be undone anymore. That he is so deep in this course of action that to try to go back from here will require the same energy to go over it to the other side.
“She should’ve died hereafter; There would have been a time for such a word. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this pretty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time, and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life is 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 tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
In Act 5 Scene V, after hearing the news of Lady Macbeth, his wife’s death, Macbeth is trying to pretend strongly by saying that she should have died some other time because right now he has no time to spare few words for her.
But we understand that he is already in deep despair as he loved his wife dearly and they were great partners. Trying to act like a stoic, he is saying that tomorrow is actually the last of our all yesterdays because time creeps in so fast and life is like a brief candle.
In life nothing matters, it is a part that we all have to play. Like a shadow, we vanish quickly and unreally. Life means nothing just like an idiot’s story which makes lots of noises and acts furiously while signifying no meaning.