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Harvard Classics

June 29 – Shakespeare: Macbeth

“Is That a Dagger I See Before Me?”
Macbeth, spurred on by the ambitious and crafty Lady Macbeth, committed murder to secure the crown of Scotland. But he paid dearly for his gain. Ghostly guests appeared at his banquet and threatened him with dire threats. (Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre burned June 29, 1613.)
Read from Shakespeare‘s MACBETH Vol. 46, pp. 357365

Character “Fleance” – Fleance is Banquo’s son. The Witches predict that Banquo’s children will be kings, but this doesn’t happen during the play. Macbeth wants Fleance killed because he knows it is he who will inherit the crown not his own children.

Character “Lennox” – is a young Thane attending on Duncan. He accompanies Macduff the morning of Duncan’s murder, and notes that he cannot remember as stormy a night as the preceding one. He joins Macbeth’s court, but is soon convinced of the usurper’s guilt, which he cautiously exposes to similarly-minded lords in ironical phrases.

Character “Macduff” – is a young Thane attending on Duncan. He accompanies Macduff the morning of Duncan’s murder, and notes that he cannot remember as stormy a night as the preceding one. He joins Macbeth’s court, but is soon convinced of the usurper’s guilt, which he cautiously exposes to similarly-minded lords in ironical phrases.

Character “Hecate” – Hecate is the Witches’ mistress. She appears briefly to scold them for dealing with Macbeth without her say so. She thinks Macbeth is ungrateful and doesn’t deserve their help. She warns the Witches that she will set up illusions to confuse Macbeth and give him a false sense of security.

Character “Duncan” – King Duncan is a fictional character in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. He is the father of two youthful sons, and the victim of a well-plotted regicide in a power grab by his trusted captain Macbeth.

Macbeth: Thou are the best o’ the cut-throats; yet he’s good That did the like for Fleance. If thou didst it, Thou are the nonpareil. (the one without equal)

  • 1 Witch. Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.
  • 2 Witch. Thrice, and once the hedge-pig whin’d.
  • 3 Witch. Harpier cries; ’tis time, ’tis time.
  • 1 Witch. Round about the cauldron go;
    In the poison’d entrails throw.
    Toad, that under cold stone
    Days and nights has thirty-one
    Swelt’red venom sleeping got,
    Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.
    All. Double, double, toil and trouble;
    Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
  • 2 Witch. 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 howlet’s wing,
    For a charm of powerful trouble,
    Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
    All. Double, double, toil and trouble;
    Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
  • 3 Witch. 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
    Sliver’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.
    All. Double, double, toil and trouble;
    Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
  • 2 Witch. Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
    Then the charm is firm and good.
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