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ACT V SCENE II The country near Dunsinane.
[ Drum and colours. Enter MENTEITH, CAITHNESS, ANGUS, LENNOX, and Soldiers ]
MENTEITH The English power is near, led on by Malcolm,
His uncle Siward and the good Macduff:
Revenges burn in them; for their dear causes
Would to the bleeding and the grim alarm
Excite the mortified man.
ANGUS Near Birnam wood
Shall we well meet them; that way are they coming.
CAITHNESS Who knows if Donalbain be with his brother?
LENNOX For certain, sir, he is not: I have a file
Of all the gentry: there is Siward’s son,
And many unrough youths that even now 10
Protest their first of manhood.
MENTEITH What does the tyrant?
CAITHNESS Great Dunsinane he strongly fortifies:
Some say he’s mad; others that lesser hate him
Do call it valiant fury: but, for certain,
He cannot buckle his distemper’d cause
Within the belt of rule.
ANGUS Now does he feel
His secret murders sticking on his hands;
Now minutely revolts upbraid his faith-breach;
Those he commands move only in command,
Nothing in love: now does he feel his title 20
Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe
Upon a dwarfish thief.
MENTEITH Who then shall blame
His pester’d senses to recoil and start,
When all that is within him does condemn
Itself for being there?
CAITHNESS Well, march we on,
To give obedience where ’tis truly owed:
Meet we the medicine of the sickly weal,
And with him pour we in our country’s purge
Each drop of us.
LENNOX Or so much as it needs,
To dew the sovereign flower and drown the weeds. 30
Make we our march towards Birnam.
[Exeunt, marching]

Next: Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 3

Explanatory Notes for Act 5, Scene 2
From Macbeth. Ed. Thomas Marc Parrott. New York: American Book Co.
(Line numbers have been altered.)

2. His uncle Siward. In Holinshed, Siward appears as the father-in-law of Duncan, and so as the grandfather of Malcolm.

3. Revenges. This use of an abstract noun in the plural is frequent in Shakespeare when more than one person is affected by the quality or feeling denoted by the noun.

3. their dear causes, causes that affect them nearly. The meaning of the whole passage is: “the cause they have for revenge would rouse even a dead man to the fierce and bloody call to arms.”

4. bleeding, bloody.

4. alarm, call to arms.

5. mortified, dead.

10. unrough, beardless.

11. Protest … manhood, first proclaim themselves men, i.e. by going on a campaign.

13. lesser, used here as an adverb.

15-16. buckle … rule, control his discontented party. As the next speaker shows Macbeth’s followers are constantly revolting from him.

17. sticking on his hands, clinging to him. He can no longer attribute his murders to others, as he did that of Duncan to the princes and that of Banquo to Fleance.

18. minutely, every minute.

18. faith-breach, disloyalty to Duncan.

19. in command, by reason of his command. So “in love” in the following lines.

23. pester’d, troubled.

23. to recoil and start, for breaking down (cf. iv. 3. 19) and bursting out in wild fits of passion.

27. medicine, doctor.

27. weal, commonwealth.

28. in our country’s purge, in the draught which is to purge our country.

30. the sovereign flower. Malcolm, who in line 28 has been spoken of as the doctor of the sick country, now becomes the “sovereign flower,” which the nobles are ready to bedew with their blood. Beneath the usual meaning of “sovereign” lies, perhaps, the meaning, common enough in Shakespeare’s day, medicinal, powerful to heal.


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