Act III - Scene VI

[Forres. The palace.]

Enter Lennox, and another Lord.

LENNOX:
My former speeches have but hit your thoughts,
Which can interpret farther: only I say
Things have been strangely borne. The gracious Duncan
Was pitied of Macbeth: marry, he was dead.
And the right valiant Banquo walk'd too late,(5)
Whom, you may say, if't please you, Fleance kill'd,
For Fleance fled. Men must not walk too late.
Who cannot want the thought, how monstrous
It was for Malcolm and for Donalbain
To kill their gracious father? Damned fact!(10)
How it did grieve Macbeth! Did he not straight,
In pious rage, the two delinquents tear,
That were the slaves of drink and thralls of sleep?
Was not that nobly done? Ay, and wisely too,
For ’twould have anger'd any heart alive(15)
To hear the men deny't. So that, I say,
He has borne all things well; and I do think
That, had he Duncan's sons under his key—
As, an't please heaven, he shall not—they should find
What ’twere to kill a father; so should Fleance.(20)
But, peace! For from broad words, and ’cause he fail'd
His presence at the tyrant's feast, I hear,
Macduff lives in disgrace. Sir, can you tell
Where he bestows himself?
LORD:
The son of Duncan,(25)
From whom this tyrant holds the due of birth,
Lives in the English court and is received
Of the most pious Edward with such grace
That the malevolence of fortune nothing
Takes from his high respect. Thither Macduff(30)
Is gone to pray the holy King, upon his aid
To wake Northumberland and warlike Siward;
That by the help of these, with Him above
To ratify the work, we may again
Give to our tables meat, sleep to our nights,(35)
Free from our feasts and banquets bloody knives,
Do faithful homage, and receive free honors—
All which we pine for now. And this report
Hath so exasperate the King that he
Prepares for some attempt of war.(40)
LENNOX:
Sent he to Macduff?
LORD:
He did: and with an absolute “Sir, not I,”
The cloudy messenger turns me his back,
And hums, as who should say, “You'll rue the time
That clogs me with this answer.”(45)
LENNOX:
And that well might
Advise him to a caution, to hold what distance
His wisdom can provide. Some holy angel
Fly to the court of England and unfold
His message ere he come, that a swift blessing(50)
May soon return to this our suffering country
Under a hand accursed!
LORD:
I'll send my prayers with him.

Exeunt.

Footnotes

  1. These are some of the things that the Lord says will happen should they succeed in overthrowing Macbeth. He says "faithful homage" to contrast with the "forced homage," or forced loyalty, that the nobility gives Macbeth, and by "free honors," he means the honors that are fit for freemen to receive.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. Both Lennox and the Lord have now directly referred to Macbeth as a tyrant. Shakespeare had them use this specific word to help establish context for their words and to help the audience understand what the play does not directly show: Macbeth is a cruel, unfair, and oppressive ruler.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. Notice how in this speech Lennox asks several questions about the main events in the play. These are means to be rhetorical and ironic, as having witnessed Macbeth's strange behavior earlier and the poor condition the country is in, Lennox now believes Macbeth is guilty of murder and that he needs to be overthrown.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Recall that the public often believed kings to have a divine right or connection to their position. By "pious" rage, Lennox means that Macbeth committed this act our of his loyalty to Duncan rather than for any divine reason.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. Lennox was there the night Macbeth killed the two grooms, and now he reveals what he believes is the real reason why Macbeth did that: It was not done out of passion for Duncan, rather Macbeth did not want to give the grooms the opportunity to say that they were innocent.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. Lennox suggests that if Macbeth had Duncan's sons "under his key" (that is, in his power) that he would have been able to charge them with the murder of their father and put them to death.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. Known as Edward the Confessor, he was King of England from 1042 to 1066, the last of the Anglo-Saxon kings of England, and well known for being pious and saintly without becoming a martyr.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. This county in northeastern England once was a part of the Roman Empire and then an independent kingdom for a time. It's location between England and Scotland meant that it was a location of many battles, as evidenced by the great number of castles in the area. At the time of the play, it was ruled by Earl Siward, who was a powerful leader, and the Lord states that Macduff has gone to seek aid from Siward in the coming battle against Macbeth.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. Lennox states that because Duncan had been killed, Macbeth's pity was not able to help Duncan. However, what Lennox is implying is that Macbeth did not feel sad or have sympathy for the king until after he had killed him.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. This word, operating as an interjection here, is a now archaic way of expressing surprise, outrage, shock, etc., or of emphasizing someone's words. Etymologically, it is related to the the name Mary, for the Virgin Mary who was the mother of Jesus.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  11. This scene serves as a counterpart to Act II Scene iv by having relatively minor characters converse about the current state of affairs in Scotland and public attitude towards Macbeth. Whereas in the earlier scene, public opinion mourned the loss of Duncan and did not suspect Macbeth, here we see how the nobility has recognized Macbeth as a tyrant and efforts are being made to raise an army to overthrow him.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  12. Notice the change in Lennox. Earlier in the play, he came across as young and naive. However, in this scene, we see a striking change his behavior that is likely attributed to what he has experienced since Duncan's death and Macbeth's rule: he appears more capable, opinionated, and careful with his speech. The change in Lennox likely represents Shakespeare's attempt to show how much has changed in Scotland since Macbeth's rule.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor