Macbeth - Act 4, scene 1
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Act 4, scene 1.
Macbeth approaches the witches to learn how to make his kingship secure. In response they summon for him three apparitions: an armed head, a bloody child, and finally a child crowned, with a tree in his hand. These apparitions instruct Macbeth to beware Macduff but reassure him that no man born of woman can harm him and that he will not be overthrown until Birnam Wood moves to Dunsinane. Macbeth is greatly reassured, but his confidence in the future is shaken when the witches show him a line of kings all in the image of Banquo. After the witches disappear, Macbeth discovers that Macduff has fled to England and decides to kill Macduff’s family immediately.
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Summary and Analysis Act IV: Scene 1
Macbeth returns to the Weird Sisters and boldly demands to be shown a series of apparitions that tell his future. The first apparition is the disembodied head of a warrior who seems to warn Macbeth of a bloody revenge at the hands of Macduff . The second is a blood-covered child who comforts Macbeth with the news that he cannot be killed by any man "of woman born." The third is a child wearing a crown, who promises that Macbeth cannot lose in battle until Birnam wood physically moves toward his stronghold at Dunsinane.
Encouraged by the news of such impossibilities, Macbeth asks, "Shall Banquo's issue ever reign in this kingdom?" The Witches present an image of a ghostly procession of future kings, led by Banquo . All this serves only to enrage Macbeth, who, trusting in his own pride, reveals in an aside to the audience his determination to slaughter the family of Macduff.
This scene can be roughly divided into three: the Witches' casting of a spell; the supernatural answers to Macbeth's demands; and Macbeth's return to the cold world of political and social reality. The scene's structure deliberately recalls the opening scenes of the play. Once more, Macbeth's destiny is in question. Once more, he receives three prophecies. Once more, he is left on his own to decide how best to interpret those prophecies. And once more he fails to understand that Fate is inevitable, however he chooses to act.
The Witches' charm is fantastic: Its ingredients, thrown into a bubbling cauldron, are all poisonous. Moreover, these ingredients are all the entrails or body parts of loathed animals or human beings, which, taken together, can be interpreted as making a complete monster: tongue, leg, liver, lips, scales, teeth, and so on. The strong implication is that Macbeth himself is no longer a complete human being; he himself has become a half-man, half-monster, a kind of chimera.
Macbeth arrives at the Witches' lair with extraordinary boldness, knocking at the entrance in a way that ironically recalls the entry of Macduff into Macbeth's castle in Act II, Scene 3. When he "conjures" the Witches to answer him, his language is uncompromising: He matches their power with a powerful curse of his own, demanding to have an answer even if it requires the unleashing of all the elements of air, water, and earth; even if all the universe — natural or manmade — "tumble" into ruin. His most defiant act, by far, is to desire to hear the prophecy of his future not from the Witches, who are themselves only "mediums" of the supernatural, but from their "masters," that is, the controlling Fates.
Macbeth's demand is answered by a sequence of apparitions. Unlike the dagger and Banquo's ghost, these supernatural visions cannot be simply the workings of Macbeth's "heat-oppress'd brain." They are definitely summoned by the Witches. Once again, the audience is required to assess the extent to which Macbeth is responsible for his own actions. What is certain is Macbeth's response to each prophetic apparition: He appears to be super-confident, even flippant, in his replies. There is little fear or respect, for example, in his reply to the First Apparition: "Whate'er thou art, for thy good caution, thanks." And his punning reply to the Second Apparition's "Macbeth, Macbeth, Macbeth" — "Had I three ears, I'd hear thee" — displays a comic arrogance.
Apart from the first, all the apparitions, including the fourth and final one of a procession of future kings, contain children. The juxtaposition of children (pictures of innocence) and images of death, warfare, and blood, is dramatic and terrifying, but especially so for Macbeth: For a man who has no offspring, the image of children can only fill him with hatred and loathing.
Having rejected as impossible the second two prophecies, Macbeth asks for one last favor. The result appalls him, drawing all strength from him and reducing his earlier courage. The children who appear in this procession are the children of Fleance. The reflected light of their golden crowns "does sear (cut into) mine eye-balls" and causes his eyes to jump from their sockets. The climax to Macbeth's reaction occurs in the line "What! will the line (of inheritance) stretch out to the crack of doom?" in which he finally realizes the possibility of an entirely Macbethless future.
In a scene rich with special effects — thunder, ghosts and (possibly flying) Witches — Shakespeare adds a final visual stroke: The eighth child-king carries a mirror that reflects the faces of many more such kings. The effect of infinite regression can be achieved by looking at a mirror while holding a smaller mirror in your hand in which the reflection is reflected.
The Witches confirm the inevitability of what Macbeth has seen: "Ay sir, all this is so." There can be no equivocation, no argument, with Fate.
Emerging into the cold light of day, Macbeth seems immediately to forget the final prophecy, as he returns to the practicalities of what is increasingly a battle for his own political survival. On being informed that Macduff has fled to England, he announces his intention to wreak a terrible revenge on Macduff's wife and children.
brinded (1) streaked
fenny (12) living in the marshes
howlet (17) young owl
yesty (53) frothing
lodg'd (55) beaten down
germens (59) seeds
farrow (65) litter of pigs
harp'd (74) guessed
impress (95) force
mortal custom (100) usual lifespan
crack of doom (117) Day of Judgment
antic round (130) mad dance
this great King (131) possibly a reference to James I (the king in Shakespeare's audience)
flighty . . . with it (145) Unless acted upon immediately intentions may be overtaken by time.
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Thunder. Enter the three Witches
Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.
Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.
Harpier cries 'Tis time, 'tis time.
Round about the cauldron go; In the poison'd entrails throw. Toad, that under cold stone Days and nights has thirty-one Swelter'd venom sleeping got, Boil thou first i' the charmed pot.
Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake, In the cauldron boil and bake; Eye of newt and toe of frog, Wool of bat and tongue of dog, Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting, Lizard's leg and owlet's wing, For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf, Witches' mummy, maw and gulf Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark, Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark, Liver of blaspheming Jew, Gall of goat, and slips of yew Silver'd in the moon's eclipse, Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips, Finger of birth-strangled babe Ditch-deliver'd by a drab, Make the gruel thick and slab: Add thereto a tiger's chaudron, For the ingredients of our cauldron.
Cool it with a baboon's blood, Then the charm is firm and good. Enter HECATE to the other three Witches
O well done! I commend your pains; And every one shall share i' the gains; And now about the cauldron sing, Live elves and fairies in a ring, Enchanting all that you put in. Music and a song: 'Black spirits,' & c HECATE retires
By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes. Open, locks, Whoever knocks! Enter MACBETH
How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags! What is't you do?
A deed without a name.
I conjure you, by that which you profess, Howe'er you come to know it, answer me: Though you untie the winds and let them fight Against the churches; though the yesty waves Confound and swallow navigation up; Though bladed corn be lodged and trees blown down; Though castles topple on their warders' heads; Though palaces and pyramids do slope Their heads to their foundations; though the treasure Of nature's germens tumble all together, Even till destruction sicken; answer me To what I ask you.
Say, if thou'dst rather hear it from our mouths, Or from our masters?
Call 'em; let me see 'em.
Pour in sow's blood, that hath eaten Her nine farrow; grease that's sweaten From the murderer's gibbet throw Into the flame.
Come, high or low; Thyself and office deftly show! Thunder. First Apparition: an armed Head
Tell me, thou unknown power,--
He knows thy thought: Hear his speech, but say thou nought.
Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! beware Macduff; Beware the thane of Fife. Dismiss me. Enough. Descends
Whate'er thou art, for thy good caution, thanks; Thou hast harp'd my fear aright: but one word more,--
He will not be commanded: here's another, More potent than the first. Thunder. Second Apparition: A bloody Child
Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth!
Had I three ears, I'ld hear thee.
Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn The power of man, for none of woman born Shall harm Macbeth. Descends
Then live, Macduff: what need I fear of thee? But yet I'll make assurance double sure, And take a bond of fate: thou shalt not live; That I may tell pale-hearted fear it lies, And sleep in spite of thunder. Thunder. Third Apparition: a Child crowned, with a tree in his hand What is this That rises like the issue of a king, And wears upon his baby-brow the round And top of sovereignty?
Listen, but speak not to't.
Be lion-mettled, proud; and take no care Who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are: Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill Shall come against him. Descends
That will never be Who can impress the forest, bid the tree Unfix his earth-bound root? Sweet bodements! good! Rebellion's head, rise never till the wood Of Birnam rise, and our high-placed Macbeth Shall live the lease of nature, pay his breath To time and mortal custom. Yet my heart Throbs to know one thing: tell me, if your art Can tell so much: shall Banquo's issue ever Reign in this kingdom?
Seek to know no more.
I will be satisfied: deny me this, And an eternal curse fall on you! Let me know. Why sinks that cauldron? and what noise is this? Hautboys
Show his eyes, and grieve his heart; Come like shadows, so depart! A show of Eight Kings, the last with a glass in his hand; GHOST OF BANQUO following
Thou art too like the spirit of Banquo: down! Thy crown does sear mine eye-balls. And thy hair, Thou other gold-bound brow, is like the first. A third is like the former. Filthy hags! Why do you show me this? A fourth! Start, eyes! What, will the line stretch out to the crack of doom? Another yet! A seventh! I'll see no more: And yet the eighth appears, who bears a glass Which shows me many more; and some I see That two-fold balls and treble scepters carry: Horrible sight! Now, I see, 'tis true; For the blood-bolter'd Banquo smiles upon me, And points at them for his. Apparitions vanish What, is this so?
Ay, sir, all this is so: but why Stands Macbeth thus amazedly? Come, sisters, cheer we up his sprites, And show the best of our delights: I'll charm the air to give a sound, While you perform your antic round: That this great king may kindly say, Our duties did his welcome pay. Music. The witches dance and then vanish, with HECATE
Where are they? Gone? Let this pernicious hour Stand aye accursed in the calendar! Come in, without there! Enter LENNOX
What's your grace's will?
Saw you the weird sisters?
No, my lord.
Came they not by you?
No, indeed, my lord.
Infected be the air whereon they ride; And damn'd all those that trust them! I did hear The galloping of horse: who was't came by?
'Tis two or three, my lord, that bring you word Macduff is fled to England.
Fled to England!
Ay, my good lord.
Time, thou anticipatest my dread exploits: The flighty purpose never is o'ertook Unless the deed go with it; from this moment The very firstlings of my heart shall be The firstlings of my hand. And even now, To crown my thoughts with acts, be it thought and done: The castle of Macduff I will surprise; Seize upon Fife; give to the edge o' the sword His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls That trace him in his line. No boasting like a fool; This deed I'll do before this purpose cool. But no more sights!--Where are these gentlemen? Come, bring me where they are. Exeunt
Notes on Prophecies & Apparitions in Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Back to: Macbeth by William Shakespeare
The play Macbeth seriously deals with the idea of fate and whether it is decided by our actions or due to external forces. The three witches are a supernatural force in the play. In their characteristic ambiguity, they utter prophecies in their very first confrontation with Macbeth and Banquo .
Table of Contents
Their first prophecy is for Macbeth when they hail him as the Thane of Glamis, the Thane of Cawdor and the one who shall be king hereafter. As we come to know further in the play, this prophecy is in closest relation to Macbeth’s inner desire for absolute power which is kingship .
This prophecy plays an important role in the progress of the play because it sets the forthcoming actions which are by Macbeth when he tries to earn the power in a shortcut way under the influence of Lady Macbeth.
The moment Duncan awards him with the title of the Thane of Cawdor, he firmly starts believing in the prophecies. The fact that Duncan declares Malcolm as the heir to the throne alarms him and he wants nothing to cloud the prophecy and as an imminent possibility, he observes what Lady Macbeth says and kills Duncan.
The second prophecy of the three witches from the first meeting was for Banquo . Confusing both of them further, they address Banquo as “ lesser than Macbeth, and greater ,” “ not so happy, yet much happier. ” And they predict that Banquo shall have kings in his coming generations but he will never be king by himself.
How Banquo reacts after listening to this tells us of his clear conscience. He disqualifies them as dark evil forces which deceive even in its truth. At the same time, hearing this, Macbeth perceives of Banquo as a threat and the second murder after Duncan is that of Banquo.
This is when we understand how Macbeth is trying to correct whatever sounds dangerous to him in the prophecies which means he is trying to control his own fate.
Once Macbeth has progressed as per the first confrontation with the three witches, they reveal themselves to him again. This time, under the influence of Hecate, they equivocate in a better way. They show him three apparitions.
The first apparition is ahead with a helmet as armour on it. By this time, Macbeth has already doubted Macduff. This apparition warns him of the danger from Macduff and it confirms Macbeth’s next action which is to kill him and before doing so, he kills his family.
The second apparition is a bloody child. Shakespeare has used child imagery in the play several times. Ironically, the child utters to be bloody bold and resolute. It confirms Macbeth’s further rampage as a killing machine.
As a prime equivocator, this apparition lures him into the first false sense of security which is that he won’t die because nobody born from a woman will ever harm him.
The third apparition is a crowned child holding a tree who says that Macbeth is safe until Great Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane hill. It sounds absolutely impossible hence it makes Macbeth sure of his invincibility. These apparitions are equivocations.
We see that Macbeth’s inability to trace the evil in them lures him further into misdeeds. His wrong actions and wrongly created confidence finally put him in a battle where he is defeated.
These apparitions and prophecies can be closely equated to the evil which already lies in Macbeth. The fact that Banquo sees the witches and yet act differently makes us think of Macbeth’s vulnerability to evil and his final tragic disintegration more.
What do the 3 apparitions in Macbeth symbolize?
Here, Macbeth encounters three apparitions: a severed head, a bloody child, and a royal child holding a tree. Each of them respectively represents Macbeth himself, his childish naivete, and Malcolm’s offensive from the Birnam Wood.
What are the 4 apparitions in Macbeth?
The First Apparition: Beware Macduff; Beware the Thane of Fife. The Second Apparition: none of women born Shall harm Macbeth. The Third Apparition: be lion-mettled, proud, and take no care who chafes, who frets… until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane Hill /Shall come against him [Macbeth].
What are the 3 prophecies in Macbeth?
After a battle in Scotland, Macbeth and his friend Banquo meet three witches, who make three prophecies – Macbeth will be a thane, Macbeth will be king and Banquo’s sons will be kings.
Who said apparitions in Macbeth?
The Role Of Ambition In Macbeth By William Shakespeare The only reason he became a cold-blooded-killer is that the witches forced him to be by telling him his fate. The three witches told Macbeth his apparitions which are, “Beware Macduff. Beware the Thane of Fife.
How do the apparitions affect Macbeth?
The apparition shows a bloody child. Macbeth believes that this prediction means no man can harm him—because all men are born of a woman. However, even believing he needs not fear Macduff, he decides he will take steps just to make sure. This, of course, foreshadows Macbeth’s death at the hands of Macduff.
What does the second apparition symbolize in Macbeth?
The bloody child tells Macbeth to be violent, bold, and resolute. It then tells Macbeth to laugh and scorn the power of man because nobody born from a woman will ever harm him. This second apparition is significant because it gives Macbeth a false sense of security and encourages his tyrannical behavior.
What do the 8 kings symbolize in Macbeth?
The eight Kings in Macbeth represent King James and his long rule. These kings show that Banquo’s heirs will eventually become kings, and have a line that stretches long thereafter.
What are the second set of prophecies in Macbeth?
In Macbeth, the second set of prophesies comes in Act 4 when Macbeth goes to the witches’ lair. They give him the following prophesies: 1.Beware Macduff, the Thane of Fife; 2.None of woman-born shall harm Macbeth; and 3.
How does Macbeth feel as a result of the words of the second and third apparitions?
The witches make Macbeth feel secure by conjuring the apparitions who said what he wanted to hear. … Macbeth feels confident after the witches’ initial predictions but is then shaken by the vision of Banquo and his descendants with crowns on their heads.
What do Macbeth and Lady Macbeth plan to do to make sure that Macbeth becomes king?
Their plan is to kill the current king. … They plan for Lady Macbeth to get the guards drunk, and then Macbeth will kill Duncan, and they will then just blame the guards.
Why is Hecate angry at the other witches?
Who is Hecate and why is she angry? She’s the goddess of witcraft. She is mad at the witches because they were medding in the business of Macbeth without consulting her.
Why is Macbeth confused by the witches prophecies?
Why is Macbeth confused by the witches’ prophecies? He doesn’t know that the Thane of Cawdor was a traitor and removed of his position. … He now has two out of three of the prophecies out of the way (Thane of Glamis, and now Cawdor). The next step is becoming King.
Why is Macbeth so angered at the sight of the last apparition?
Macbeth is wanting to know all their information and in act one he was frightened at the sight of them, but now he is king and try’s to command them because everything they told him actually came true. Before he was hesitant to actually believe them. 2. the witches conjure up three apparitions.
What is the significance of the witches having the apparitions?
The witches’ prophecies allow Macbeth, whose sense of doom is mounting, to tell himself that everything may yet be well. For the audience, which lacks Macbeth’s misguided confidence, the strange apparitions act as symbols that foreshadow the way the prophecies will be fulfilled.
What questions does Macbeth ask apparitions?
Macbeth asks what is going on, and the witches ask him why he is so surprised and leave. This means that the original prophecy about Banquo’s sons being king is going to come true.
Did Macbeth misinterpret the apparitions explain?
Macbeth assumes that a forest will never come to get him, so he laughs off the third apparition the witches show him. Macbeth misinterprets pretty much all of the apparitions that witches show him the second time, and it is his downfall.
What does the second apparition foreshadow?
Upon Macbeth’s second visit with the witches, he sees three apparitions. … Macbeth! beware Macduff; Beware the thane of Fife. This apparition foreshadows Macduff’s return.
What is the second apparition and what does it predict imply?
What is the second apparition and what does it predict/imply? The second apparition is a bloody child and it implies that Macbeth cannot be killed by any mortal man. … The third apparition is a child crowned with a tree in it’s hand. It is possibly symbolizing one of Banquo’s children.
Who were the 8 Kings?
The Eight Kings are eight beasts, each from a different ‘King’ species of animal, individually regarded as the most powerful beings in the world. They serve as the absolute rulers of the eight major continents of Gourmet World, and have since ancient times.
What Kings are in Macbeth?
In the play Macbeth how are the three kings (Duncan, Malcolm, and Edward) similar? – eNotes.com.
What is the king’s evil in Macbeth?
This evil that Malcolm refers to is also known as the king’s evil, which is actually a disease called scrofula. Scrofula is a form of tuberculosis infection that occurs outside the lungs, which causes the inflammation and irritation of lymph nodes in the neck, making them swell up.
How are the three prophecies from the apparitions fulfilled?
The first two apparitions’ prophecies from Act IV, Scene 1 are fulfilled when Macduff kills Macbeth. … The third prophecy comes true earlier, when soldiers camouflaged with tree branches advance from Birnam Wood to attack Dunsinane Castle.
What is the second prophecy?
The witches’ second prophecy is that Macbeth will be Thane of Cawdor. After the battle, Macbeth and Banquo hear prophecies from three mysterious witches.
Why is Macbeth both excited and fearful?
Why is Macbeth both excited and fearful after hearing the witches’ prediction about his future? The witches told Macbeth that he would be king, and he is worried about his role in making the prediction come true. … Macbeth has both good and bad qualities, but ambition and his wife’s arguments are influencing him.
How has Macbeth been duped by the three apparitions?
Macbeth has been tricked by the three apparitions who are conjured by the witches because they give him a false sense of security. While they do not actually lie to him, they leave out pertinent information, and Macbeth is fooled into believing he is invincible.
How does Macbeth react when Lady Macbeth dies?
Macbeth seems suddenly weary when Lady Macbeth dies. His reaction is strange – quiet, subdued and thoughtful. His power and motivation seem to vanish. It’s as if Macbeth no longer sees any point trying to hold onto the kingship.
How do the second Witches words in Scene 1 lines 44 47 reveal?
How do the Second Witch’s words in Scene 1, lines 44-47 reveal the depth of Macbeth’s crimes? By the pricking of my thumbs, / Something wicked this way comes. / Open, locks, /whoever knocks. The contents of the witches’ cauldron described in Scene 1 foreshadow that in this tragedy, Macbeth’s rule will…
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