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Macbeth - Act 1 Scene 7

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Introduction

Macbeth The scene opens with the same "hoboys and torches" that announced the King's arrival in the previous scene, then we see a "Sewer" and some assistants carrying dishes for the feast that Macbeth is giving for the King. But Macbeth himself has ducked out to think things over. Apparently it's difficult for him to play host to a man he's about to kill. Macbeth says to himself, "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well / It were done quickly (1.7.1-2). That is, if everything could be over with as soon as Duncan is killed, then it would be best for Macbeth to kill him quickly. If only, Macbeth thinks, the assassination could be "the be-all and the end-all--here / But here, upon this bank and shoal of time, / We'ld jump the life to come" (1.7.5-7). Where Macbeth says "but here," we would say "just here" or "only here." In other words, Macbeth knows that he can get away with murder only here on earth. In the afterlife he will certainly be punished. ...read more.

Middle

After that, he hasn't a clue. Just as Macbeth is thinking about the senselessness of the murder he's planning, his wife comes looking for him. She very forcibly points out that the King has almost finished his supper, and Macbeth should be there, pretending to be the happy host. Macbeth then attempts to put an end to his problem by saying that "We will proceed no further in this business" (1.7.29). He explains that he wants to enjoy the honors that the King has just bestowed upon him. In saying this, he may sound firm and reasonable, but it turns out that he doesn't have a chance against his wife's passionate scorn. She accuses him of being the kind of person who can dream of wearing kingly robes only when he's drunk. She asks sarcastically, "Was the hope drunk / Wherein you dress'd yourself? Hath it slept since?" (1.7.35-36). This is harsh enough, but it gets worse. She tells him that if he's going to go back on his word, he doesn't really love her, and he's a coward, no better than the "poor cat i' the adage" (1.7.45), who wants a fish, but doesn't want to get its feet wet. ...read more.

Conclusion

Macbeth replies with admiration, "Bring forth men-children only; / For thy undaunted mettle should compose / Nothing but males" (1.7.72-74). [A note on their children: They have no children, but Macbeth clearly hopes his wife will give him some boys, and she has said that she has "given suck." What this means is that we should probably think of them--or at least her--as young, rather than in late middle age, as they are often portrayed. In Shakespeare's time the child mortality rate was very high, so that it was quite common for a young woman to have given birth, and nursed an infant, without having any living children.] Macbeth improves a bit on his wife's plan by saying that they'll use the daggers of Duncan's attendants, and then smear his blood on the attendants. Lady Macbeth assures him that nobody will dare raise any questions because he and she will "make our griefs and clamour roar / Upon his death" (1.7.78- 79). With that, Macbeth's courage is up again. As they leave he is promising to be a good hypocrite, saying "False face must hide what the false heart doth know" (1.7.82). ...read more.

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