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ACT V SCENE VIIIAnother part of the field.
MACBETHWhy should I play the Roman fool, and die
On mine own sword? whiles I see lives, the gashes
Do better upon them.
MACDUFFTurn, hell-hound, turn!
MACBETHOf all men else I have avoided thee:
But get thee back; my soul is too much charged
With blood of thine already.
MACDUFFI have no words:
My voice is in my sword: thou bloodier villain
Than terms can give thee out!
[They fight]
MACBETHThou losest labour:
As easy mayst thou the intrenchant air
With thy keen sword impress as make me bleed:10
Let fall thy blade on vulnerable crests;
I bear a charmed life, which must not yield,
To one of woman born.
MACDUFFDespair thy charm;
And let the angel whom thou still hast served
Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother’s womb
Untimely ripp’d.
MACBETHAccursed be that tongue that tells me so,
For it hath cow’d my better part of man!
And be these juggling fiends no more believed,
That palter with us in a double sense;20
That keep the word of promise to our ear,
And break it to our hope. I’ll not fight with thee.
MACDUFFThen yield thee, coward,
And live to be the show and gaze o’ the time:
We’ll have thee, as our rarer monsters are,
Painted on a pole, and underwrit,
‘Here may you see the tyrant.’
MACBETHI will not yield,
To kiss the ground before young Malcolm’s feet,
And to be baited with the rabble’s curse.
Though Birnam wood be come to Dunsinane,30
And thou opposed, being of no woman born,
Yet I will try the last. Before my body
I throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Macduff,
And damn’d be him that first cries, ‘Hold, enough!’
[Exeunt, fighting. Alarums]
[ Retreat. Flourish. Enter, with drum and colours, MALCOLM, SIWARD, ROSS, the other Thanes, and Soldiers ]
MALCOLMI would the friends we miss were safe arrived.
SIWARDSome must go off: and yet, by these I see,
So great a day as this is cheaply bought.
MALCOLMMacduff is missing, and your noble son.
ROSSYour son, my lord, has paid a soldier’s debt:
He only lived but till he was a man;40
The which no sooner had his prowess confirm’d
In the unshrinking station where he fought,
But like a man he died.
SIWARDThen he is dead?
ROSSAy, and brought off the field: your cause of sorrow
Must not be measured by his worth, for then
It hath no end.
SIWARDHad he his hurts before?
ROSSAy, on the front.
SIWARDWhy then, God’s soldier be he!
Had I as many sons as I have hairs,
I would not wish them to a fairer death:
And so, his knell is knoll’d.
MALCOLMHe’s worth more sorrow,50
And that I’ll spend for him.
SIWARDHe’s worth no more
They say he parted well, and paid his score:
And so, God be with him! Here comes newer comfort.
[Re-enter MACDUFF, with MACBETH’s head]
MACDUFFHail, king! for so thou art: behold, where stands
The usurper’s cursed head: the time is free:
I see thee compass’d with thy kingdom’s pearl,
That speak my salutation in their minds;
Whose voices I desire aloud with mine:
Hail, King of Scotland!
ALLHail, King of Scotland!
MALCOLMWe shall not spend a large expense of time60
Before we reckon with your several loves,
And make us even with you. My thanes and kinsmen,
Henceforth be earls, the first that ever Scotland
In such an honour named. What’s more to do,
Which would be planted newly with the time,
As calling home our exiled friends abroad
That fled the snares of watchful tyranny;
Producing forth the cruel ministers
Of this dead butcher and his fiend-like queen,
Who, as ’tis thought, by self and violent hands70
Took off her life; this, and what needful else
That calls upon us, by the grace of Grace,
We will perform in measure, time and place:
So, thanks to all at once and to each one,
Whom we invite to see us crown’d at Scone.
[Flourish. Exeunt]

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Explanatory Notes for Act 5, Scene 8
From Macbeth. Ed. Thomas Marc Parrott. New York: American Book Co.
(Line numbers have been altered.)

There is no scene division here in the old text and there is really no need for one. As Malcolm and Siward enter the castle, Macbeth reappears on the field before the walls.

1. the Roman fool. Macbeth is thinking, no doubt, of some old Roman, such as Brutus or Cassius, who killed himself when he saw that his cause was lost.

2. the gashes, the wounds my sword can make.

4. Of all men else, more than any other man. Macbeth has avoided Macduff in the fight, not because he fears him, for he still believes himself invulnerable, but because he is conscious of his own great guilt toward him, and does not wish to add the death of Macduff to that of his wife and children. This is another of the many little touches by which Shakespeare regains our sympathy for Macbeth,v so great a criminal, and yet so human.

8. Than terms can give thee out, than words can express.

8. Thou losest labour. We must imagine that Macduff rushes furiously upon Macbeth, Confident in his supposed charm the latter repels him. There is a moment’s pause in the attack, and Macbeth, perhaps in the hope of still saving Macduff’s life, speaks these words.

9. intrenchant, invulnerable.

10. impress, make a mark on.

12. must not yield:, is fated not to yield.

14. angel, demon.

14. still, continually.

18. my better part of man, the stronger part of my manhood.

24. gaze, gazing-stock.

26. Painted upon a pole, painted on a flag hung from a pole, like an advertisement before a circus tent.

26. underwrit, written underneath.

31. thou opposed, thou my adversary.

32. the last, the last resource.

There should certainly be another scene indicated between lines 34 and 35. Malcolm has entered the castle, see v. 7. 29. He is not likely to come out again and wander over the field. Probably in Shakespeare’s theatre this scene was played on the raised platform at the back of the stage which would here represent the courtyard of Dunsinane. Malcolm is standing in the usurper’s stronghold receiving reports of the victory.

35. Retreat, A technical phrase for a bugle call sounded to stop the pursuit.

36. by these I see, to judge by the number I see present.

36. go off, die.

41. prowess, a monosyllable.

42. In the unshrinking … fought, in the position where he fought unshrinking.

44. cause of sorrow, reason for grief.

46. before, in front.

49. wish them … death, commend them to a fairer death.

52. parted, died.

52. score, debt.

55. time, world.

56. pearl, the word is used collectively, as in our expression, “the flower of the kingdom.”

61. reckon … loves, settle with, i.e. pay back, the love that each one of you has shown.

63. earls. See Note on i. 2. 45.

65. Which should be … time, which demands to be established anew in accordance with the time.

68. ministers, servants.

70. self and violent, her own violent.

71. what needful else, whatever else is necessary.

72. the grace of Grace, the favour of God.

74, 75. “One” and “Scone” rhymed in Shakespeare’s day. This speech of Malcolm is usually omitted upon the stage, but it is a characteristically Shakespearean conclusion. No man ever saw deeper into the power and mystery of sin than Shakespeare, but no man was ever more confident of the final victory of righteousness, and he gives evidence of his faith by closing even his darkest tragedies with an outlook upon a better time. So here after the downfall of the bloody tyranny of Macbeth, he points us forward to the peaceful reign of the gentle, prudent, and devout heir of good king Duncan.


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