Sunday, 11 September 2011

SSC guide on Macbeth


Q. 1. What is meant by ‘fair is foul and foul is fair’?
All that is good is foul to the Witches, all that is evil is welcome to them. It has a symbolical meaning; the Witches cannot admit what is good : evil is the very core of their existence—they will even turn good into evil. They use their power and influence for disorder and confusion in the moral world.


Q. 2. Who is Macdonwald ?
The name is a combination of Macdonwald and Donwald. Holinshed mentions them as separate persons.

Q. 3. What is the meaning of kerns ?
They are light-armed foot soldiers, drawn from the poor classes. ‘Kerns’ were the retainers of the Irish nobles, the two upper degrees being daltins and the grooms. They were ordinarily armed with a sword and a light shield, and were regarded as very good marksmen
Q. 4. What is the meaning of Gallowglasses  ?
They are heavy armed Irish soldiers, especially those who fought on horseback and were armed with sharp axes. According to some, gallowglasses were another class of retainers under the Irish nobles, and used a pole-axe as their weapon—they were described as firm of counte­nance, tall of stature, big of limbs, burly of body, strongly tim­bered, heaply feeding on beef, pork and butter
Q. 5. Who is addressed as ‘valour’s minion’ and why?
the darling of valour or courage
Q. 6. Why did  Duncan call as ‘cousin’ ?
Duncan and Macbeth were first cousins. Duncan was the son of Crinan, Thane of the Isles and Western ports of Scotland by Beatrice, daughter of King Malcolm the late king ; and Macbeth was the son of Synell, Thane of Glamis, by Doada, another daughter of Malcolm
Q. 7. Has there any sense of anarchronism in Macbeth  ? (cannon + Dollars)
It is said that cannon was first used at the seige of Adrianople by Mohammad n in 1453. The first cannon cast in England was in 1443. Therefore it is an anachronism here.
Q. 8. What is ‘Golgotha’ ?
The place where Christ was crucified. It was outside the walls of Jerusalem. But according to some authorities, it was said to be the place where criminals were executed : in Arabic the word means a skull; hence the figurative sense of Golgotha is a burial place. Memorize another Golgotha—make that battle-field as memorable a field of slaughter as Golgotha.

Q. 9. Who is addressed as ‘Bellona’s bridegroom and why ?
It means a person so brave as to be elected by the goddess of war as her bridegroom. Here this epithet is used for Macbeth. Bellona is the Roman goddess of war, sister of Mars, the god of war.
Q. 10. Who is Sweno ?
The historical basis is that Sweno, King of England and Denmark, ravaged the north of England in 1013. Near Forres a monument called Sweno’s Stone’ is still known as the place where Sweno was defeated
Q. 11. What is saint colme’s Inch?
St. Columba's Island now called Inchcolm, a small island in the Firth of Forth, on which stand the ruins of an abbey, dedicated to St. Columba, an Irish Prince of the sixth century who founded many monaster­ies in Ireland, and did much to spread Christianity in Scotland and in the north of England.

Q. 12. Why did name the ship ‘Tiger’ ?
a very common name for ship at the time. In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare gives the same name to a vessel. Hakluyt in his Voyages mentions a vessel of the same name ; Newbury and Fitch and others went in it to Tripoli and from there to Aleppo by Caravan in 1583
Q. 13. ‘So foul and fair a day I have not seen’ — Who is the speaker ? What does the line signify ?
Macbeth is the speaker.
Macbeth’s words echo the last words of the Witches in scene I. From this it has been assumed that there is already a spiritual alliance between Macbeth and the Witches, which makes Macbeth an easy prey to their temptation. Here is an instance of dramatic irony, for Macbeth utters the words which have a wider significance to the audience, already aware of the Witches’ words. Let it also be noted that the contrast between, ‘foul’ and ‘fair’ in the physical world represents the inner conflict between good and evil in Macbeth’s soul.

Q. 14. ‘The earth hath bubbles’ — Who are compared with and why ?
The witches are but phantoms, they are as unsubstantial as bubbles of water. Banquo takes a sane and also impersonal view of the Witches. The difference is that Macbeth has a personal interest, while Banquo has none.

Q. 15. ‘Your children shall be kings’ — Who are the speaker and about whom they say this?
Macbeth is the speaker who broods over the future, and cannot dismiss from his mind the unhappy thought that the crown will pass away to the children of Banquo.

Q. 16. ‘Can devil speak true’ — Who is the speaker and what he means to say ?
Banquo is the speaker here.
The witches were but the agents of the Devil. Part of their prophecies is fulfilled in the case of Macbeth. It makes Banquo wonder whether the Witch can real­ly predict true event.

Q. 17. ‘Two truths are told’ —  What are the ‘two truths’ and who told them to whom ?
When Banquo addresses Ross and Angus to have a private talk with them, Macbeth again loses himself in speculation. In two matters the prophecy of the Witches has come true till now. He looks upon this partial fulfilment of the prophecy of the Witches as an index to his latter success. If these two prophecies have been ful­filled,—he may well expect that the third prophecy regarding the kingship of Scotland will also come true. The first two prophe­cies, which have been fulfilled, are regarded as a preliminary to the coming honour which is the central plot of the play.

Q. 18. What is meant by ‘Supernatural soliciting ?
This supernatural soliciting is only made such to the mind of Macbeth by the fact that .he is already occupied with die pur­pose of assassination. This is the true answer to the question which he puts to himself.” —Fletcher.

Q. 19. ‘Present fears are less than horrible imaginings’ — What is the ‘Present fear’ and why is it horrible ?
Here is the first hint that Macbeth is dominated by imagination. If he had less of imagination and sensibilities, he would have made a confirmed criminal, and stepped on from one murder to another without a troubled conscience. It is through his imagination that retribution falls upon him. In the present instance, the bare idea of killing Duncan does not unnerve him as the visualization of the actual murder.

Q. 20. ‘Theirs is no art to find the mind’s construction in face’ — comment.
As Duncan is too innocent and unsuspecting, he is going to repeat his mistake. There is a dramatic irony in Duncan’s remark. While he makes this pregnant remark, he is unconscious that what was true of Cawdor, might as well be true of another man, for example, Macbeth.
Q. 21. ‘O worthiest cousin’ —signify the underlying meaning of the phrase.
— Duncan seems to be bursting with his feeling of gratitude. His first cry — Oh worthiest cousin ! — seems to sum up a heart full of gratitude
Q. 22. What is Inverness ?
It is the seat of Macbeth’s castle. It is the country-town of Invernesshire and was made the seat of royal castle by Macbeth.
Q. 23. What is the meaning of ‘harbinger’ ?
The word is used in its technical sense. A ‘harbinger’ was an officer to royal household whose duty was to mark and allot, in advance lodgings for the king and his retinue whenever they are expected to arrive at any place. Here of course it means a forerunner
Q. 24. ‘Yet do I fear thy nature’ — Who fears for whose nature and why ?
— Lady Macbeth gives her own estimate of her husband’s character. She has little faith in him. He is too human-hearted. He is not without moral scruples and he will be most unwilling to take the easiest way to the realisation of his ambition. It will be a hard job to per­suade him to do what is necessary to win the crown.
Q. 25. ‘Milk of human kindness’ — Who is the speaker ? comment on the line.
Lady Macbeth is the speaker here.
Lady Macbeth gives her own estimate of her husband’s character. She has little faith in him. He is too human-hearted. He is not without moral scruples and he will be most unwilling to take the easiest way to the realisation of his ambition. It will be a hard job to per­suade him to do what is necessary to win the crown.
Q. 26. ‘He brings great news’ — Who is the speaker and what is the ‘great news’ to the speaker ?
Lady Macbeth is the speaker here.
News most welcome because it is a great honour to have the king as one’s guest. That is the sense in which the messenger understands the words. On the otherhand it is  the most fortu­nate news because it affords an opportunity for murdering the king. It is the sense in which the speakers and the audience under­stand the words
Q. 27. ‘Your face, my Thane is as a book’ — Who is the speaker and what does she mean?
Lady Macbeth is the speaker here.
 Lady Macbeth with the instinct of a loving wife, at once notices the wild and distracted look of her husband, and she is afraid that it may give away the whole show. To her it is like an open book, where men may read strange things. Macbeth has a tell-tale face. Lady Macbeth warns him so that his face may not betray the crime, harboured in his thought

Q. 28. ‘Look like the innocent flower’ — Who is the speaker and what does she mean?
Lady Macbeth is the speaker here
Lady Macbeth is warning her husband not to betray his thought in his face. As she looks at his face, it is wild and dis­tracted; it is like an open book in which a man may read whatever is there. Let Macbeth be on his guard and do not betray his inner feelings through his face. Let not the observers suspect what is in his mind. He should wear a perpetual smile of welcome to his guests. Let his eyes, his hands and his tongue radiate welcome. Let him act like the serpent, hidden among beautiful flowers. In any case the agitation of his mind must not betray itself either in his face, or in his behaviour. He should be very cautious, and play the genial host, never letting the king or his guests suspect what is passing within his mind

Q. 29. What is meant by ‘double trust’?
Macbeth while harbouring regarding the killing of Duncan says this.
Macbeth has to deter himself from the killing of Duncan as a king to whom his allegiance is due, and as a guest whom he as host must protect at the cost of his own life.
His first duty to him is the duty of his cousin and his subject.—both these ties—the ties of kinsman and subject—deter me from the murder. —secondly he has the duty of a host towards him.—the duty of a host would be to protect him from the murderer, not to be the murderer himself
Q. 30. ‘Is this a dagger which I see before my’ — Who is the speaker and what is the dagger?
Macbeth is the speaker here.
Some think that the dagger that Macbeth sees has a material appearance ; others think that it is a hallucination, caused by Macbeth’s distraught mental condi­tion. Others again think that the dagger is only “a representation in the spiritual world,” i. e., it is real in so far as it is actually staged in the spiritual world, Macbeth being no longer on the ordinary human plane but subject to influence from outside. On the stage the dagger is not usually shown, Macbeth thinks he sees it on a table. He tries to grasp it, but on failing to do so gets con­fused. Finally, he decides that it is only a vision
Q. 31. ‘Tarquin’s ravishing strides’ — give the reference of Tarquin. ?
Tarquin was the son of the Roman King Tarquinius Supcrbus ; he outraged the mod­esty of Lucretia, wife of Collatinus. Lucretia stabbed herself after telling the story of her shame in the presence of her father, hus­band and the friends, calling upon them to avenge the insult. The result was that the king was driven from Rome, and Rome was proclaimed a republic.
Q. 32. ‘The fatal bellman’ — What is addressed as fatal bellman and why ?
A bellman was a town crier, an officer whose duty it was to keep watch in the streets and to call the hours at night. It was also his duty to announce the death, and, to exhort church people to pray for a dead or condemned man. The owl as a bird of evil omen, is compared to the bellman sent to a condemned person the night before his execution. The owl seems to announce the coming death if the king
Q. 33. ‘Had he not resembled my father’ — who is the speaker? Comment on the line.
Lady Macbeth would not have hesitated to murder Duncan, if he had not resem­bled her father. So Lady Macbeth is not wholly unsexed. “In her case conscience works as effectually through the feelings as through imagination ,in that of her husband.”—Hudson
Q. 34. ‘The multitudinous seas incarnadine’ — Comment on the line.
Macbeth is the speaker here.
All the accumulated waters of the sea cannot wash off the stains of blood from his hands; they will rather be dyed, if his hands were dipped in the sea. Multitudinous seas is—one of the immortal phrases of Shakespeare’s-- Not a plurality of seas is suggested, but rather the boundless expanse of water, the endless succession of waves..

Q. 35. ‘A little water clears us of this deed’ — who is the speaker? What does it mean ?
Lady Macbeth is the speaker here.
This conviction of Lady Macbeth can mean but little to Macbeth, whose imagination and soul are possessed by the shuddering terror of the crime. A little water may wash away the stains of blood, but what the abiding sense of guilt, the revolted conscience, and the stricken imagination?

Q. 36. Who is Beelzebub?
Beelzebub is a Philistine god, worshiped in Palestine, In the New Testament he is described as ‘Prince of the Devils’. Hence the name is applied to Satan.
Q. 37. ‘The night has been unruly’ — What night is referred here? Why was it unruly ?
Lennox relates the incidents and prodigies of last night. A violent storm blew, and the chimneys of the house in which Lennox lodged were torn away. People said that mysterious cries were heard—wailing sounds and shrieks, such as are uttered by persons dying a violent death. Voices were here predicting dreadful calamities and disorder and confusion which were soon to follow. The owl hooted all night some said that the earth seemed to have shivered.
N. B. These prodigies mentioned by Lennox are a proper accompaniment to the outrageous murder of Duncan.

Q. 38. ‘The lord’s anointed temple’ — comment.
It means the sacred body of the king. In Samuel, xiv. 10, the king is spoken of as “the Lord's anointed,” because at the coronation ceremony Christian kings are anointed with holy oil, and in Corianthins vi, 16, St. Paul describes a Christian king as ‘the temple of the living God’
Q. 39. ‘There is nothing serious in morality’ — Who is the speaker? What does it mean ?
Macbeth is the speaker here.
These words are prophetic. Henceforth Macbeth could find little genuine interest in life. Not only did perils gather thick round him day by day as he sat on the throne of the murdered Duncan, but his life itself  became a nightmare to him.
Q. 40. ‘His silver skin laced with his golden blood’ — comment.
It is meant to be an antithesis between ‘silver skin’ and ‘golden blood’. Shakespeare put these forced and unnatural metaphors into the mouth of Macbeth, as a mark of artifice and dissimulation, to show the difference between the studied language of hypocrisy and the natural outcries of sudden passion.” —Johnson.

Q. 41. ‘The near the blood the bloody’ — who is the speaker and what he means to say?
Malcolm is the speaker here.
Those who are most closely related to us by ties of blood are most likely to murder us. The idea is that their danger is the greatest from those who are closely related to them by ties of blood. It is another veiled reference to Macbeth, who becomes the legitimate heir to the throne if both the sons of Duncan were dead. Butler explains; “We who are near in blood to the murdered king are in the greater danger of being murdered.”
Q. 42. What is Colme-kill ?
It is the modern lona, an island of the inner Hebrides. It was the burial place for the kings of Scotland. Colme-kill or Incolme-kill or Columb-kill means the cell of St. Columba
Q. 43. ‘May they not be my Oracles as will’ — comment. ?
Oracles were seats of worship of special divinities, where prophecies were uttered by divine sanction. The word was also applied to the response obtained by people who sought the aid of those deities. The most famous oracles in ancient Greece were those of Appollo at Delphi and of Zeus at Dodone.

Q. 44. ‘Mark Antony’s was by Caesar’ — Justify the allusion.
Marcus Antonius (83-V30 B.C.) was the Roman Triumvir and consul. After the assassination of Julius, he became the most powerful man in Rome. But he could not pull on well with Octavius Caesar. He went to Egypt where he led a life of indolence and vice, having been captivated by the beauty of Cleopatra, the dethroned queen of Egypt Antony was defeated by Octavius at the naval battle of Actium. Antony's genius was eclipsed by Caesar’s. Caesar was Octavius Caesar, the first Roman emperor (63 B. C, 14 A. D.)

Q. 45. ‘Naughts had, all’s spent’ — Who is the speaker ? Justify the line.


Q. 46. ‘Then comes my fit’ — Who is the speaker? What is the cause of his fit ?
Macbeth meets the murderer at the door of the banquet-hall. He is glad to hear that Banquo has been murdered. But when he is told that Fleance has escaped, he feels dejected. So there can be no peace of mind for him; there can be no end to this suspense and fear—they would rather be doubly renewed. If Fleance had been murdered with his father, his happiness would have been complete, and his throne secure. He could have breathed again freely. But now that Fleance is alive and free to plot against him, he lives a close prisoner to doubts and fears, which will haunt and oppress him day and night. There is no getting away from such doubts and fears.
N. B. Macbeth’s position becomes desperate with every crime committed. And such is his illusion that he believes he can secure his throne and fortify his mortal nature against fears by repeated crimes. He believes he will be able to wade through blood to a safe throne and a peaceful mind.

Q. 47. ‘Blood will have blood’ — Who is the speaker ? What does it mean ?
Macbeth is the speaker here.
 “And no expiation can be made for the blood that is shed but by the blood of him that shed it.” —Numbers, XXXV. 33. Blood will have blood—the blood of the murdered man cries for the blood of the murderer (the popular belief being that the ghost of the murdered cannot rest in the grave until his murder has been avenged and so the ghost of Hamlet’s father in Shakespeare’s play ‘Hamlet walks upon earth until he meets Hamlet and lays upon him the task of avenging his murder).
N. B. The conviction that his crime of murder would recoil upon him is growing upon Macbeth. His consciousness of evil is not totally dulled and deadened by his crime. He is now growing desperate, but there is “a soul of good” in his desperation, for he is conscious of evil, as evil, nay, he even shrinks from, and dreads, it. But later comes a stage of indifference when he does not think of the future, is reckless about the present; and hardly seems to be human. He is led on from crime to crime under the delusion that by this means only he can secure his throne, and eat and sleep in peace
Q. 48. What are the first, second and third apparition and what do they symbolize ?
The First ‘Apparition symbolises Macbeth’s head cut off by Macduff and taken by him to Malcolm.
The Second Apparition symbolises Macduff who was “untimely ripped” from his mother’s womb (
The Third Apparition Symbolises Malcolm, who is crowned king after Macbeth—and who, when invading Scotland, ordered his soldiers to carry each a bough of Birnam wood in his hand
Q. 49. What are ‘Birnam wood’ and ‘Dunsinane hill’ ?
Birnam is a hill near Dunkeld, and twelve miles north-west of Perth. It was once wooded and formed part of a royal forest.
 Dunsinane-hill—one of the Sidlaw Hills, seven miles north-east of Perth. On its top are remnants of a fortress, popularly known as Macbeth’s castle. The plain of Strathmore lies between Birnam, and Dunsinane Kills.
.   Moving forests are mentioned in several Teutonic myths. Professor Schwartz mentions, in his Notobolia a story in which king Gruenewald is thus addressed by his daughter:
“Father, you must yield, or die,
I see the green-wood drawing nigh.”
The following passage occurs in an old English translation of a life of Alexander the Great:—“Then Alexander commanded all his men that each of them should cut down a branch of a tree, and bear them forth with them and drive before them, all manner of beasts that they might find in the way: and, when the Persians saw them from the high hills, they wondered at them greatly.”

Q. 50. Who are ‘eight kings’ ?
Eight Kings—Robert H (1371-1390) ; Robert m (1390-1406) ; James I (1424-1437) ; James H (1437-1460) ; James HI (1460-1488) ; James IV (1488-1513) ; James V (1513-1542) ; James VI (1567-1625) who becomes James I of England. Mary Queen of Scots, the mother, of the last, reigned from 1542 to 1567. Glass—the mirror which reflected the faces of the kings who came after the Union of Scotland and England under one sovereign
Q. 51. Comment on ‘Two fold balls and treble sceptres’ ?
It is a handsome compliment to James I, who was the first King of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The ball is golden orb which a king holds in his hand during the coronation ceremony. James had ‘twofold balls’ because he was first crowned King of Scotland at Stirling on July 24, 1567, and again crowned King of England at Westminster on March 24, 1602. Some see in it a reference to the two islands of Great Britain and Ireland. The scepter or rod is another part of royal insignia. ‘Treble sceptres’might also refer to the title—King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, which James I assumed on October 24, 1604—a title borne by Edward VI and Elizabeth before him, and retained by British sovereigns till 1802.

Q. 52. Comment — ‘The brightest angel fell’.
The brightest of angels was Satan. He fell from heaven for his revolt against God. Now because the brightest of angels fell from heaven, one need not generalise that all angels are corrupt. The point is that Satan fell from heaven and lost his brightness as an angel; yet there are still angels who keep their brightness and goodness. The brightest—Satan called Lucifer, the light-bringer. Fell—was expelled from heaven on account of his revolt against God.

Q. 53. ‘I  have lost my hopes’ — Who is the speaker and why has he lost his hope ?
Macduff comes from Scotland leaving his wife and children in imminent peril of life, to persuade Malcolm to take up arms against Macbeth. Now that Malcolm obstinately refuses to trust him he has little hope of including him.

Q. 54. What is ‘a golden stamp’ ?
It is a gold coin. N. B. This is an anachronism. The practice of presenting each touched person with a gold or silver coin, called the touch-piece, was introduced by Edward in 1272. Ordinarily, the touch-piece, was an angel, and obsolete gold coin worth 6s. 8d to 10s: but Charles U ordered a special metal to be minted for the purpose.”
Q. 55. ‘He has no children’ — Comment on the line.
The exact force of this passage depends on who ‘he’ is: (1) If he is Malcolm, Macduff turns to Ross but replies to the words of comfort attempted by Malcolm. The sense is; not being a father he knows not the depth of a bereaved father’s grief; otherwise he would not talk to me of comfort or revenge, or curing or the grief at a time when I am so overwhelmed. (2) If he is Macbeth, the words may be explained into two different ways: (a) If the words refer to great revenge, the sense is: no revenge can be adequate because there can be no retaliation in kind; Macbeth, not having children whom I may murder, cannot be made to feel the pain he has given me (this thought would be unworthy of Macduff). (b) If the words are soliloquy, the sense is: not having children, Macbeth is a stranger to parental love, and that is why he could bring himself to order the slaughter of children.

Q. 56. Who are addressed as ‘Epicures’ and why ?
The English who are fond of good living are addressed as ‘Epicures’ . Holinshed speaks of the Scots as having nothing to do with fine fair, ‘riotous surfeit’, while Englishmen brought to the land the vice of ‘superfluous gormandizing’. An ‘epicure’ is one who is supposed to follow the teachings of the Greek philosopher Epicurus to whom has been attributed the doctrine—‘let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ This is certainly a perversion of the real doctrine of Epicurus.

Q. 57. Comment on ‘I have almost forget the taste of fears’.
There is a sudden cry of women. It is a cry of horror, but it leaves Macbeth cold. It shows—and Macbeth is also conscious—that a great change for the worse has taken place in Macbeth—a degradation involving the paralysis of his feelings and imagination. So long his imagination was active in him, he was susceptible to fears; now imagination being dead, he is a stranger to any fear. There was a time when he would have shuddered to hear a cry of the human voice of a supernatural being at night, or his hair would have stood on end if he had read a ghostly story. But now horrors hardly affect him. He seems to have fed full of horrors
Q. 58. Comment on ‘Tied me to a stake’.
 Macbeth implies his desperate position. He cannot give the enemy the slip. By comparing himself to a bear, tied to a stake (the metaphor from bear-baiting), he means to say that he is at bay—he must face the enemy, and do what he can to save himself or 10 beat the enemy.

Q. 59. Comment on ‘Play the Roman fool’.
It reminds the the foolish practice of Roman general. A roman general would rather kill himself than surrender to the enemy. Many of Shakespeare’s old characters from Roman history, such as, Cato, Cassius, Brutus and Antony, committed suicide. In Julius Caesar, Titinius, in committing suicide says, “This is a Roman’s pan”; and in Antony and Cleopetra, Cleopetra calls it the “high Roman fashion.”Macbeth has no faith in suicide, as practised by a Roman hero, when he had to choose between death and captivity


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