Act I - Scene III

[A heath.]

Thunder and lightning. Enter three Witches.

Where hast thou been, sister?
Killing swine.
Sister, where thou?
A sailor's wife had chestnuts in her lap,
And mounch'd, and mounch'd, and mounch'd.(5)
“Give me,” quoth I.
“Aroint thee, witch!” the rump-fed ronyon cries.
Her husband's to Aleppo gone, master o’ the Tiger;
But in a sieve I'll thither sail,
And, like a rat without a tail,(10)
I'll do, I'll do, and I'll do.
I'll give thee a wind.
Thou'rt kind.
And I another.
I myself have all the other,(15)
And the very ports they blow,
All the quarters that they know
I’ the shipman's card.
I will drain him dry as hay:
Sleep shall neither night nor day(20)
Hang upon his penthouse lid;
He shall live a man forbid.
Weary se'nnights nine times nine
Shall he dwindle, peak, and pine;
Though his bark cannot be lost,(25)
Yet it shall be tempest-tost.
Look what I have.
Show me, show me.
Here I have a pilot's thumb,
Wreck'd as homeward he did come. Drum within. (30)
A drum, a drum!
Macbeth doth come.
The weird sisters, hand in hand,
Posters of the sea and land,
Thus do go about, about:(35)
Thrice to thine, and thrice to mine,
And thrice again, to make up nine.
Peace! The charm's wound up.

Enter Macbeth and Banquo.

So foul and fair a day I have not seen.
How far is't call'd to Forres? What are these(40)
So wither'd, and so wild in their attire,
That look not like the inhabitants o’ the earth,
And yet are on't? Live you? or are you aught
That man may question? You seem to understand me,
By each at once her choppy finger laying(45)
Upon her skinny lips. You should be women,
And yet your beards forbid me to interpret
That you are so.
Speak, if you can. What are you?
All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, Thane of Glamis!(50)
All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, Thane of
All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be King hereafter!
Good sir, why do you start, and seem to fear
Things that do sound so fair? I’ the name of truth,(55)
Are ye fantastical or that indeed
Which outwardly ye show? My noble partner
You greet with present grace and great prediction
Of noble having and of royal hope,
That he seems rapt withal. To me you speak not.(60)
If you can look into the seeds of time,
And say which grain will grow and which will not,
Speak then to me, who neither beg nor fear
Your favors nor your hate.
Lesser than Macbeth, and greater.
Not so happy, yet much happier.
Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none.(70)
So all hail, Macbeth and Banquo!
Banquo and Macbeth, all hail!
Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more.
By Sinel's death I know I am Thane of Glamis;
But how of Cawdor? The Thane of Cawdor lives,(75)
A prosperous gentleman; and to be King
Stands not within the prospect of belief,
No more than to be Cawdor. Say from whence
You owe this strange intelligence, or why
Upon this blasted heath you stop our way(80)
With such prophetic greeting? Speak, I charge you.

[Witches vanish.]

The earth hath bubbles as the water has,
And these are of them. Whither are they vanish'd?
Into the air, and what seem'd corporal melted
As breath into the wind. Would they had stay'd!(85)
Were such things here as we do speak about?
Or have we eaten on the insane root
That takes the reason prisoner?
Your children shall be kings.
You shall be King.(90)
And Thane of Cawdor too. Went it not so?
To the selfsame tune and words. Who's here?

[Enter Ross and Angus.]

The King hath happily received, Macbeth,
The news of thy success; and when he reads
Thy personal venture in the rebels’ fight,(95)
His wonders and his praises do contend
Which should be thine or his. Silenced with that,
In viewing o'er the rest o’ the selfsame day,
He finds thee in the stout Norweyan ranks,
Nothing afeard of what thyself didst make,(100)
Strange images of death. As thick as hail
Came post with post, and every one did bear
Thy praises in his kingdom's great defense,
And pour'd them down before him.
We are sent(105)
To give thee, from our royal master, thanks;
Only to herald thee into his sight,
Not pay thee.
And for an earnest of a greater honor,
He bade me, from him, call thee Thane of Cawdor.(110)
In which addition, hail, most worthy Thane,
For it is thine.
What, can the devil speak true?
The Thane of Cawdor lives. Why do you dress me
In borrow'd robes?(115)
Who was the Thane lives yet,
But under heavy judgement bears that life
Which he deserves to lose. Whether he was combined
With those of Norway, or did line the rebel
With hidden help and vantage, or that with both(120)
He labor'd in his country's wreck, I know not;
But treasons capital, confess'd and proved,
Have overthrown him.
[Aside.] Glamis, and Thane of Cawdor!
The greatest is behind. [To Ross and Angus.](125)
Thanks for your pains. [Aside to Banquo.]
Do you not hope your children shall be kings,
When those that gave the Thane of Cawdor to me
Promised no less to them?
[Aside to Macbeth.] That, trusted home,(130)
Might yet enkindle you unto the crown,
Besides the Thane of Cawdor. But ’tis strange;
And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
Win us with honest trifles, to betray's(135)
In deepest consequence—
Cousins, a word, I pray you.
[Aside.] Two truths are told,
As happy prologues to the swelling act
Of the imperial theme!—I thank you, gentlemen.(140)
[Aside.] This supernatural soliciting
Cannot be ill, cannot be good. If ill,
Why hath it given me earnest of success,
Commencing in a truth? I am Thane of Cawdor.
If good, why do I yield to that suggestion(145)
Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair
And make my seated heart knock at my ribs,
Against the use of nature? Present fears
Are less than horrible imaginings:
My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical,(150)
Shakes so my single state of man that function
Is smother'd in surmise, and nothing is
But what is not.
Look, how our partner's rapt.
[Aside.] If chance will have me king, why, chance(155)
may crown me
Without my stir.
New honors come upon him,
Like our strange garments, cleave not to their mould
But with the aid of use.(160)
[Aside.] Come what come may,
Time and the hour runs through the roughest day.
Worthy Macbeth, we stay upon your leisure.
Give me your favor; my dull brain was wrought
With things forgotten. Kind gentlemen, your pains(165)
Are register'd where every day I turn
The leaf to read them. Let us toward the king.
Think upon what hath chanced, and at more time,
The interim having weigh'd it, let us speak
Our free hearts each to other.(170)
Very gladly.
Till then, enough. Come, friends.



  1. When Macbeth and Banquo first meet the Three Witches, what do they learn about their futures?

    — Alexa Baird
  2. It also shows how eager he is to be crowned, but he doesn't realise that when he does get the crown, his ambition gets more and more powerful. However, he still thinks that by committing regicide and going against the Divine Rights of Kings. The biggest part is going against God doesn't affect him in any way and the only place he will be entering after he dies is hell and hell only.

    — sara hussain
  3. Macbeth's imagination turns immediately to murderous plots after the witches reveal their prophecy. Macbeth is frightened by his imagination as his ambitious fantasies begin to take over his reality. "Nothing is but what is not" touches on the major theme in Macbeth of inversion: that which is real becomes unreal when the lines between fantasy and reality are blurred. As he considers usurping the King, Macbeth converts the real world into his fantasy space and loses the ability to act as he should, as the Thane of Cawdor and a loyal subject to Duncan.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Macbeth starts this dialogue by addressing Banquo, Ross, and Angus. However, after "Let us toward the king," he speaks only to Banquo. Macbeth has no desire or intention to discuss "what has chanced" with anyone else. These two are connected because of their supernatural experience and what the witches have promised them.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. Macbeth decides to dismiss the thought of Duncan's murder and do nothing to force the crown to fall to him, preferring to let events run their natural course and allow fate to fall as it will. However, notice how his mind changes later on when he compares his current situation and future to the witches' prophesy.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. Speaking to himself, Macbeth considers how the first two predictions of the witches are true and thinks of them as building up to the final reward of being King. With the use of the [Aside] stage action, Shakespeare allows Macbeth to have a kind of soliloquy even in the presence of others, which in turn gives the audience insight into the state of Macbeth's mind.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. Although Banquo initially has some doubts as to the validity of a prophecy from witches, the fulfillment is convincing. Banquo warns Macbeth that it may be an instance of the powers of evil telling the truth in order to recruit a susceptible person to the side of darkness. Banquo's belief in "the instruments of darkness" contains a profound truth: Unexpected good fortune can sometimes influence us to make decisions that will prove harmful.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. Macbeth credits the witches for receiving the title of Thane of Cawdor rather than Duncan, and he asks Banquo if he hopes that the witches are also right about Banquo's children becoming kings. Macbeth's initial belief in the power of the witches here has repercussions later on.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. While it's possible that Banquo is using the word "devil" here for emphatic purposes, it's also possible that it's referring to the witches rather than to Ross. Considering the supernatural nature of the witches, Banquo would be most likely to associate them with evil.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. Ross states that King Duncan is so pleased with Macbeth's success in battle that Duncan wonders whether he should give himself or Macbeth the most praise and credit for the victory.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  11. Despite their disbelief, both Macbeth and Banquo acknowledge what the witches told them to one another. This action serves to somewhat validate the witches' words and presence instead of disregarding them and their information.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  12. The herb Banquo refers to is possibly a hemlock or henbane, both of which are deadly. He brings this up to Macbeth as a way to justify the witches sudden disappearance, suggesting that perhaps they have accidentally lost their reason.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  13. Macbeth is interested and perplexed with the information the witches have presented him with. He attempts to rationalize their information with what he knows: the Thane is Cawdor is loyal to the King, and there is no prospect for him to be King of Scotland. However, he doesn't yet know about the Thane of Cawdor and demands that the witches tell him how they know such things.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  14. Banquo asks for the witches to speak to him, and their responses at first appear paradoxical. However, greatness and happiness are subjective measures, suggesting that Banquo might be lesser in a physical way but greater than Macbeth in terms of something moral or abstract.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  15. Banquo points out that Macbeth is enraptured by the words of the witches. They have greeted Macbeth with his current title, Thane of Glamis, and predicted his title of noble having, Thane of Cawdor, and even of royal hope, King of Scotland. Their predictions have a strong effect on Macbeth and how he reacts to soon learning that he has in fact become Thane of Cawdor.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  16. Macbeth's first words in the play echo the words of the witches at the end of scene one. While Macbeth doesn't know of this connection, the audience sees how he and the witches are connected together.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  17. Aleppo is a city in Syria and was under the control of the Ottoman Empire when Shakespeare wrote Macbeth. During the Middle Ages it was a center of trade and Christianity in the Middle East.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  18. This is a homely and characteristically Shakespearean simile. Banquo suggests that while these new honors for Macbeth are not so natural at first, Macbeth will get used to them with time, much like how new clothes can feel strange at first but become more comfortable with wear and use.

    — William Delaney
  19. What is funny about this exchange is that the First and Third Witches show no reaction when their sister says she has been killing pigs. This makes it seem so commonplace that the Second Witch might just as well have told them she had been out shopping or visiting a friend. Besides the humor, this helps to reaffirm the witches' lack of regard for living things and depicts them as morally ambiguous, which is important to remember when Macbeth starts dealing with them.

    — William Delaney
  20. Banquo has been trying to make sure the witches are a part of the natural world. When the witches vanish, they shatter Banquo's hopes of avoiding an encounter with the supernatural.

    — Jamie Wheeler
  21. Allowing chance the ability to crown Macbeth is an example of personification, or giving human characteristics to non-human or non-living things. Ascribing such qualities to things like fate and death are fairly common devices in literature.

    — Lorna Stowers
  22. This kind of reference to clothing appears throughout the play. Metaphorically, clothing references refer to the titles that people have, such as Thane or King. Here, Macbeth does not understand why Ross and Angus refer to him as the Thane of Cawdor, as he believes another holds that title.

    — Lorna Stowers
  23. This is an example of a paradox (something which seems impossible, yet is realistically plausible). Here, the witches state that Banquo is both lesser and greater than Macbeth. While this seems impossible, it is plausible. Banquo is lesser than Macbeth in title, yet he is a greater (better) man. 

    — Lorna Stowers
  24. This quote speaks to the theme of appearance versus reality. To Macbeth and Banquo, the witches should be women, yet they see beards. This makes them question if they are women or men, based upon how they look. 

    — Lorna Stowers