Macbeth Key Quotes and Analysis (Scenes 1 & 2)

Key quotes from Macbeth with contextual analysis.

Macbeth Lady Macbeth Psychological 

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  • Created by: Imogen
  • Created on: 25-04-14 10:45

Act 1.1

'When shall we three meet again?

In thunder, lightning, or in rain?' 

The First Witch - Act One, Scene One


Despite the fact that the gothic genre was not yet established, Shakespeare has created a very 'gothic' setting. This is also seen in the speech of the witches, as the thunder, lightning and rain imply that something sinister is about to happen. Shakespeare includes pathetic fallacy which the audience know about due to the stage directions, and depending on the director's interpretation and how it is displayed, the suggest the witches often bring bad weather, therefore foreshadowing their characters to be negative.

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Act 1.1

'Fair is foul, and foul is fair'

All three witches - Act 1.1


The gothic use of oppisition can be seen here, which just really highlights the supernatural and gothic elements of the witches. It is also foreshadowing Macbeth's later line that connects he and the witches from the outset of the play.

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Act 1.2

'O valiant cousin! worthy gentleman!'

Duncan about Macbeth - Act 1.2


This establishes the family link between Macbeth and Duncan, and also shows how much Duncan admires Macbeth, which makes the audience pity him further when Macbeth decides to murder him. It also shows how Macbeth's character transgresses, as he is firstly described as 'valiant,' 'worthy' and a 'gentleman' whereas the last descriptions of him consist of 'bloody butcher' and 'tyrant.' It creates Macbeth's regicide to be even worse, as there is a family connection and relationship that he sacrifes selfishly for power.

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Act 1.3

'I'll give thee a wind.'

Second Witch Act 1.3


This illustrates the witches power, it let's the audience know that they can manipulate the weather and therefore shows their supernatural powers. It also shows how the witches work as a three, each one helping the other to cause trouble, which supports the gothic rule of three, which is often referred to as an anti-Christ symbol to defy the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. To a Jacobean audience, the fact that the witches work in a three aligns them with the devil.

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Act 1.3

'So foul and fair a day I have seen.'

Macbeth to Banquo - Act 1.3


This allows the audience knowledge that Macbeth and this witches are to be affiliated with eachother throughout the play. It also uses the gothic method of doubles and mirroring, as Macbeth repeats what has already been said.

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Act 1.3

'What, can the devil speak true?'

Banquo, after hearing of Macbeth's title Thane of Cawdor - Act 1.3


Banquo is shown to be the antithesis to Macbeth, Godly and honest, so his excalmation that the witches' and their prophecy are in fact 'the devil' shows that they are negative. By also describing Macbeth's gain of the title as something aligned with hell, it foreshadows the numerous murders and tyranny that Macbeth pursues.

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Act 1.3

'This supernatural soliciting/Cannot be ill, cannot be good.'

Macbeth - Act 1.3


This also uses opposition between ill and good to illustrate a feature of the gothic genre, further supporting the modern opinion of the play containing gothic elements. It also acknowledges that the witches are supernatural, which would have worried a Jacobean audience, as the fear of things from hell were rife. It portray's Macbeth's internal conflict, as he considers both the good and the bad that could come from the prophecy, although he knows they are an unreliable source, he is attracted by the power they promise. 

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Act 1.4

'that is a step/On which I must fall down, or else o'erleap.'

Macbeth, when hearing of the Prince of Cumberland's title - Act 1.5


Macbeth makes a conscious decision here on whether to pursue the prophecy of the witches.This is where it may be argued that Macbeth's character is evil, as he takes matters into his own hands and forces the witches' prophecy to come true, despite the fact that they did not tell him to kill anyone in order to eventually obtain the title of King. His power-hunger can be seen here.

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Act 1.4

'stars, hide your fires/Let not light see my black and deep desires.'

Macbeth - Act 1.5


Macbeth addresses the issue of religion here as he decides to commit a sin and remove the threat posed to him. To a Jacobean audience, his open rejection of God would be seen as a sin in itself, meaning that to this audience his transgression has already begun at this point. To a contemporary audience it may be seen that Macbeth acknowledges that he is wrong, but desires it so deeply he doesn't care. The gothic use of opposition can be seen here too, as Macbeth uses light and dark to illustrate the good and bad, and also heaven against hell.

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Act 1.5

'I fear thy nature/It is too full o'th'milk of human kindness.'

Lady Macbeth on Macbeth - Act 1.5 


Lady Macbeth comes across very authorative in the initial representation of her character. This is the first of many times that she ridicules and emasculates Macbeth, and here, the notion of 'human kindess' means that she considers herself something inhuman, linking to the gothic genre. Her lack of faith in Macbeth is juxtaposed later when she cannot deal with the guilt but Macbeth continues on ruthlessly. Also, this doubt shows their relationship to be weak from the outset, which explains why he reacts so emotionlessly to her eventual death.

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Act 1.5

'Come you spirits/That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here.'

Lady Macbeth - Act 1.5


Lady Macbeth quick aligns herself with the evil and supernatural, which shows to the audience that she is malicious. To a Jacobean audience, her rejection of her femininity would have been seen as quite shocking, but it also illustrates the constraints that she faces as a female living in 11th century Scotland. She is entrapped, another feature of the gothic genre, in her female body and therefore unable to gain the power that Macbeth is able to. 

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Act 1.7

'vaulting ambition which o'erleaps itself/And falls on th'other.'

Macbeth's soliloquy - Act 1.7 


Here, Macbeth admits that although he knows it is morally wrong to kill Duncan, due to the fact he is his cousin, kingsman and host, it is his own selfish desires that make him want to gain the title of King. He is an over-reacher, which is often used in gothic literature to describe a character obsessed with becoming more than human and in the process defying god, their ambition consumes them wholly.

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Act 1.7

'have pluck'd my ****** from his boneless gums/And dash'd the brains out.'

Lady Macbeth - Act 1.7 


To a modern and Jacobean audience the explicit threat of violence towards a child is shocking and proves Lady Macbeth to be a 'fiend-like queen.' It shows her to be a non-maternal character and supports the idea that she wishes she was a male so that she could be more powerful. 

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Act 2.1

'Hear it not, Duncan, for it is a knell/That summons thee to heaven or to hell.'

Macbeth - Act 2.1 


The rhyme here shows Macbeth's final decision and adds melodrama to the scene. The religious notion would have furthered a Jacobean audience's angst towards Macbeth, as regicide was seen as a crime against God, as God was believed to have divinely chosen the King. The knell suggests death and funerals, which is a very gothic image.

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Act 2.2

'But wherefore could I not pronouce 'Amen?''

Macbeth to Lady Macbeth after killing Duncan - Act 2.2


Shakespeare shows Macbeth's mental deterioration to begin from right after the first muder, as he becomes obsessed with his lack of ability to confer with God. This shows his character's transgression and the shift away from God towards evil and the devil-like witches. To a Jacobean audience this may seem as a direct punishment from God, causing them to dislike Macbeth's character, whereas a contemporary audience may see this as his loss of faith, as he over-reaches and becomes a selfish tyrant.

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Act 2.2

'Glamis hath murder'd sleep'; and therefore Cawdor/Shall sleep no more: Macbeth shall sleep no more.'

Macbeth to Lady Macbeth - Act 2.2


Macbeth addresses all of his titles and plauges them equally with guilt. This shows the gothic importance of titles and perhaps how inheriting the title of an evil traitor (Cawdor) foreshadowed his demise, as he becomes fixated with gaining power. Sleep is symbolic of innocence and a clear conscience, so Macbeth's failure to sleep shows how his mind is guilty and he has 'murder'd' both Duncan and his peace of mind. Again, this illustrates his mental deterioration.

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Act 2.2

'My hands are of your colour, but I shame/To wear a heart so white.'

Lady Macbeth to Macbeth - Act 2.2


Here, Lady Macbeth emasculates Macbeth by showing him to be weak and faint hearted. She refers to him as 'white' meaning bloodless, giving the director of the play that at this point in the play Macbeth is looking a little worse for ware. She portrays the image of being dominant and evil, as she admits that they share the same guilty, bloody hands but Macbeth's failure to cope with their actions disgusts and disappoints her. A Jacobean audience may have sided with her slightly, as Macbeth is meant to be a valiant soldier and yet he is being ridiculed by his wife, wich makes him seem like a weak character.

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why hasn't the rest of act 2 been analysed?

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