ACT I SCENE VI

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Macbeth

ACT I SCENE VI Before Macbeth’s castle.
[ Hautboys and torches. Enter DUNCAN, MALCOLM, DONALBAIN, BANQUO, LENNOX, MACDUFF, ROSS, ANGUS, and Attendants ]
DUNCAN This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air
Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
Unto our gentle senses.
BANQUO This guest of summer,
The temple-haunting martlet does approve,
By his loved mansionry, that the heaven’s breath
Smells wooingly here: no jutty, frieze,
Buttress, nor coign of vantage, but this bird
Hath made his pendent bed and procreant cradle:
Where they most breed and haunt, I have observed,
The air is delicate.
[Enter LADY MACBETH]
DUNCAN See, see our honoured hostess! 10
The love that follows us sometime is our trouble,
Which still we thank as love. Herein I teach you
How you shall bid God ‘ild us for your pains,
And thank us for your trouble.
LADY MACBETH All our service
In every point twice done and then done double
Were poor and single business to contend
Against those honours deep and broad wherewith
Your majesty loads our house: for those of old,
And the late dignities heap’d up to them,
We rest your hermits. 20
DUNCAN Where’s the thane of Cawdor?
We coursed him at the heels, and had a purpose
To be his purveyor: but he rides well;
And his great love, sharp as his spur, hath holp him
To his home before us. Fair and noble hostess,
We are your guest to-night.
LADY MACBETH Your servants ever
Have theirs, themselves and what is theirs, in compt,
To make their audit at your highness’ pleasure,
Still to return your own.
DUNCAN Give me your hand;
Conduct me to mine host: we love him highly,
And shall continue our graces towards him. 30
By your leave, hostess.
[Exeunt]

Next: Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 7
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Explanatory notes below for Act 1, Scene 6
From Macbeth. Ed. Thomas Marc Parrott. New York: American Book Co.
(Line numbers have been altered.)
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This scene brings Duncan, in the early evening, to Macbeth’s castle. We may note first, the ‘irony of situation’ in Duncan’s praising the “pleasant seat” of the castle where he is to meet a sudden and bloody end; and secondly, the effective character contrast between the gentle, unsuspicious courtesy of the king, and the feigned humility and hypocritical welcome of Lady Macbeth. Nowhere in the play does she appear so repulsive as here where she is leading Duncan on to his death, with speeches of mock loyalty.

1. Note the natural and easy way in which the king is introduced. He is at peace with himself and all mankind. Banquo seems to have caught the king’s mood, and answers him in the same tone. Compare the impression that is given here of the castle, its beautiful situation, its nesting martlets, and its “delicate air,” with the totally different impression given in Lennox’s speech (ii. 3. 59-66) of the terrible night that followed, with its fierce storms, strange screams of death, and its gloomy and long-delayed dawn (ii. 4. 6-9). In both scenes the natural surroundings reflect the temper of men’s minds.

3. our gentle senses, our senses which are soothed by the sweet air; cf. iii. 4. 76.

5. By his loved mansionry, by making it his favourite nestingplace.

6. A foot is lacking in this line. It is possible that some word or phrase has dropped out of the text; but if the line be read with a marked pause after “here,” the rhythmical effect is not unpleasant.

7. coign of vantage, convenient corner.

11-14. The love … trouble. The love that attends us is sometimes troublesome, but still we thank it because it is love. In saying this I teach you how to receive our troublesome visit; you should pray God to reward us, and you should thank us yourself, because the visit, which entails this trouble, is a proof of our affection. The compliment is somewhat formal but undoubtedly sincere.

16. poor and single business to contend, a small matter to compare.

20. hermits, holy men bound to pray for their benefactors.

22. purveyor, originally a messenger sent before to provide food for the king and his train.

26. theirs … theirs. The first “theirs” means “their family”; the second “their property.”

28. Still to return your own, always bound to return to you what was originally yours.

30. our, here pronounced as a dissyllable.

31. By your leave, Duncan takes Lady Macbeth’s hand and leads her into the castle.

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How to cite the explanatory notes:Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Ed. Thomas Marc Parrott. New York: American Book Co., 1904.