Act V - Scene II

[The country near Dunsinane.]

Drum and colors. Enter Menteith, Caithness, Angus, Lennox, [and] Soldiers.

The English power is near, led on by Malcolm,
His uncle Siward, and the good Macduff.
Revenges burn in them, for their dear causes
Would to the bleeding and the grim alarm
Excite the mortified man.(5)
Near Birnam Wood
Shall we well meet them; that way are they coming.
Who knows if Donalbain be with his brother?
For certain, sir, he is not; I have a file
Of all the gentry. There is Siward's son(10)
And many unrough youths, that even now
Protest their first of manhood.
What does the tyrant?
Great Dunsinane he strongly fortifies.
Some say he's mad; others, that lesser hate him,(15)
Do call it valiant fury: but, for certain,
He cannot buckle his distemper'd cause
Within the belt of rule.
Now does he feel
His secret murders sticking on his hands,(20)
Now minutely revolts upbraid his faith-breach;
Those he commands move only in command,
Nothing in love. Now does he feel his title
Hang loose about him, like a giant's robe
Upon a dwarfish thief.(25)
Who then shall blame
His pester'd senses to recoil and start,
When all that is within him does condemn
Itself for being there?
Well, march we on,(30)
To give obedience where ’tis truly owed.
Meet we the medicine of the sickly weal,
And with him pour we, in our country's purge,
Each drop of us.
Or so much as it needs
To dew the sovereign flower and drown the weeds.
Make we our march towards Birnam

Exeunt marching.


  1. Caithness uses the word "medicine" to mean a "doctor" who will cure the "weal," or commonwealth. This refers directly to Malcolm who is also referred to as a "sovereign flower" by Lennox.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. Since clothes often symbolize titles in this play, this simile illustrates how Macbeth is unfit to rule. The clothes and title of king hang about him because he is too small and unfit to wear them.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. When nobles and others swear allegiance to a king, their loyalty is equated to good faith—that they will protect and honor their sovereign and not cross or challenge his interests. Since Macbeth murdered the one he swore allegiance to, he breached, or broke, his oath of loyalty.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Angus states that mutiny and the tyrannical rule of Macbeth have revealed him for what he is. This descriptive line reveals that the nobles all know that Macbeth committed the crimes against Duncan and Banquo because they stick to his hands—he cannot pin their murders on others anymore.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. Caithness uses this metaphor to describe Macbeth losing control of his forces. "Buckle" here refers to the rule or control he has over his party, and since he cannot buckle his metaphorical belt, he cannot possible rule over his discontented army.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. While a modern audience understands "protest" as negatively denouncing another action, in this context Lennox says the youths are "claiming" or "demanding" to call themselves men by joining the campaign against Macbeth.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. In Holinshed's Chronicles, which Shakespeare used for many characters in this and other plays, Siward is described as Duncan's father-in-law, which would make Siward Malcolm's grandfather. The choice of "uncle" here could represent a more familial term of endearment.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. While we haven't met these characters yet, their presence with Lennox and the discussion they have reveal them to be Scottish nobles joining the revolt against Macbeth's rule.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. In this context, "dear" has a connotation of closeness; that is, the reasons for their revenge are personal. Mentieth quite descriptively says that these causes for their revenge are so strong that they would even raise a dead man to fight for their cause.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. Shakespeare uses an abstract, plural noun to show how multiple people are affected by the quality or feeling that the noun denotes. In this instance, even though they have a common target for their revenge, they are all affected differently and have different motivations for pursuing their revenge.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor