Macbeth Quotes To Use In Essays


Considered among William Shakespeare’s greatest work, Macbeth is laden with some of the most powerful lines ever written. Some of the lines used in the play have become idioms while others are often quoted by people in general conversation. Here are 10 of the most famous quotation from this dark and powerful play.


#10  â€œYet do I fear thy nature, It is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way.”

– Lady Macbeth (Act I, Scene V)

Sarah Siddons who is famous for her portrayal of Lady Macbeth

This line is said by Lady Macbeth after she reads a letter from her husband informing her of the prophecy of the witches which say that Macbeth would be King. She is excited by the letter but fears that Macbeth is too ‘full of the milk of human kindness’ or of too good a nature, to take the shortest route to the crown which would be to eliminate the king and seize the throne.


#9    “Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under ‘t.”

– Lady Macbeth (Act I, Scene V)

This line is said by Lady Macbeth during a speech in which she is convincing her husband to pretend like a perfect host when King Duncan visits them to hide their true purpose of murdering Duncan. Hence she tells Macbeth to look like an innocent flower but be like the serpent which hides underneath it.


#8    “Be bloody, bold, and resolute. Laugh to scorn the power of man, for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth.”

– Second Apparition (Act IV, Scene I)

A painting by William Rimmer depicting the witches’ conjuring of an apparition

The ‘bloody child’ is the second of the three apparitions that the witches conjure for Macbeth and it is perhaps the most famous. It tells Macbeth to be confident and without fear, for no person who is born of a woman can harm him. This convinces Macbeth that he is invincible as he would never be killed by another man. He chooses to neglect the first apparition which warned him of Macduff and doesn’t realize that the ‘bloody child’ is in fact the infant Macduff covered with the blood of the untimely ripped womb of his mother.


#7   “There’s daggers in men’s smiles. The near in blood, The nearer bloody.”

– Donalbain (Act II, Scene III)

This line is said by the younger son of King Duncan in a conversation with his elder brother after their father’s murder. Donalbain suspects that the people who surround them and are acting kindly contain among them the person who murdered their father. He says that daggers are present in men’s smile probably referring to the canines which show when one smiles and implying that not everyone who acts friendly is a friend. ‘The near in blood, the nearer bloody’ implies that beware of the ones who are in the closest-relation with you as they are most likely to betray and murder you.


#6    “Let fall thy blade on vulnerable crests; I bear a charmed life, which must not yield to one of woman born.”

– Macbeth (Act V, Scene VIII)

Macbeth and Banquo with the Witches by Henry Fuseli

This line is spoken by Macbeth when Macduff challenges him. He says that let your blade fall on chests that are vulnerable or fight with someone who can be defeated. He adds that he leads a charmed life which can’t be ended by anyone born of a woman. Macbeth gets this illusion of being invincible due to the second apparition which states that “none of woman born shall harm Macbeth.” Macduff then states that he was not born but cut out of his mother’s womb before she could bear him naturally. This quote gave rise to the famous phrase ‘charmed life’. Though charmed meant magical in Shakespeare’s times, the phrase was extended to mean anyone who was lucky and escaped danger narrowly.


#5   “Fair is foul, and foul is fair”

– The Witches (Act I, Scene I)

Among the last lines in Scene I of Act I, this famous quote is said by the witches and sets the tone of the play. It could be simply deciphered as what is fair or pretty will become foul or ugly and vice versa, i.e. things would be opposite to what they appear. It could be also interpreted as suggesting that Macbeth’s world will become upside down and he will do things he considers foul or unfair disregarding what appears fair to him. This line is among the most important in Macbeth and can be considered closest to describing the theme of the play.



Macbeth – King of Scotland in 11th century on whom the play is based

#4   “To know my deed, ’twere best not know myself.”

– Macbeth (Act II, Scene II)

This famous quote is spoken by Macbeth in the scene where he returns after killing Duncan in his sleep. Macbeth is stating that it would be better if he was completely unaware of himself than to be conscious and think of the crime he had committed. He doubts whether he knows the man who committed the crime. The quote reflects that although Macbeth chooses to realize his ambition by unethical means, he is also aware of his wrongdoing.


#3   “Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”

– Macbeth (Act V, Scene V)

Film adaptation of Macbeth (1948) directed by Orson Welles

This quote is from one of the most famous soliloquies in Macbeth. It is spoken by Macbeth after he hears that his wife has committed suicide and he also knows that armies are marching against him. He says that days on this world are short, a ‘brief candle’ and ultimately one is enveloped in darkness. He compares life to an unimportant actor, a ‘walking shadow’ for the character he plays. This insignificant actor “struts and frets his hour upon the stage” or is proud and anxious for the small part he has to perform on stage and then he is heard no more. He then compares life to the tale told by a director which is full of noise and passion but ultimately it signifies nothing. Comparing life to theatre, Shakespeare not only questions the purpose of life but also gives a reminder of the illusionary nature of theatre.


#2   “Here’s the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. “

– Lady Macbeth (Act V, Scene I)

The Sleepwalking Lady Macbeth by Johann Heinrich Fussli

This line is from the famous sleepwalking scene after which Lady Macbeth commits suicide off-stage. It is part of what is considered one of the greatest passages capturing guilt in English literature. Lady Macbeth is traumatized and guilt-ridden and she says that she cannot get rid of the smell of blood from her hands, not even if all the perfumes of Arabia are applied to it. This is in sharp contrast to her statement to Macbeth when he murdered Duncan where she said “a little water clears us of this deed”. Knowing that she was the prime force that led Macbeth to this murderous path, her guilt dominates her thoughts and she is unable to turn away from what she now considers sins.


#1   “Things without all remedy should be without regard: what’s done, is done.”

– Lady Macbeth (Act III, Scene II)

Lady Macbeth says these lines to her husband in an effort to make him get over the guilt and fear he is experiencing due to the murder he has committed. She says that things which cannot be remedied should not be given regard to or you shouldn’t think about things which you can’t rectify. She adds “what’s done, is done” implying that “there’s no changing the past, so forget about it and move on.” Although Shakespeare didn’t coin the phrase “what’s done, is done” but Macbeth remains one of the first recorded use of it and it definitely made the phrase popular.

Tags:Writers & Literature


Act One

Scene 1 “Fair is foul and foul is fair”

Scene 2 Duncan calls Macbeth “O valiant cousin, worthy gentleman” it’s an honour at this point in the play to have been covered in blood

Thane of Cawdor a traitor

Scene 3

“So foul and fair a day I have not seen” Witches influence?

“You should be women, and yet your beards forbid me to interpret that you are so” not natural on Earth- no explanation

“Why do you start, and seem to fear things that do sound so fair?” Banquo asking Macbeth, Macbeth is in tune with the fair/foul idea

“Thou shalt get Kings, though thou be none” Banquo’s prophecy

“Why do you dress me in borrowed robes?” Macbeth uncomfortable as Thane of Cawdor

“The instruments of darkness tell us truths”

“Present fears are less than horrible imaginings”

Scene 4

“Stars hide your fires, let not light see my black and deep desires”

Scene 5

Lady Macbeth gets a letter from Macbeth and then straight away a messenger announces that Duncan is coming tonight- fast plot

“Come you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here” “Stop up the access and passage to remorse… pall thee in the dunnest smoke of Hell, That my keen knife see not the wound it makes, Nor Heaven peep through the blanket of the dark”

“O never shall sun that morrow see” Duncan won’t be alive tomorrow

“Your face, my Thane, is as a book” easy to read

“Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t” (Fair is foul)

Scene 7

Macbeth doesn’t think he can murder Duncan because 1) he’s his kinsman 2) he’s his host “who should against his murtherer shut the door not bear the knife myself” 3) Duncan is a good man

“We will proceed no more in this business” Lady Macbeth like Vittoria defending herself to Brach- persuades Macbeth to change his mind “I would, while it was smilling in my face, have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums, and dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this”

“False face must hide what the false heart doth know”

Act 2

Scene 1

Banquo “In heaven their candles are all out” no light- no goodness in the air

“Is this a dagger which I see before me, handle towards my hand?”

A bell rings “hear it not Duncan, for it is a knell, that summons thee to Heaven, or to Hell”

Scene 2

“Had he not resembled my father as he slept, I had done’t” some morals- not like Flamineo who would kill his brother to rise in society

“I could not say Amen”

Lady Macbeth says it will “make us mad” if they think about it

“Macbeth shall sleep no more” Heathcliff stops eating and drinking

“Will all great Neptune’s Ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?” Scene 3

“Where we lay, our chimneys were blown down, and heard in the air strange screams of death”

Shakespeare sucks up to James I by making Duncan so good

Scene 4

Horses eat each other like an outrage in nature at the King’s death

“Lest our old robes sit easier than our new”

Act 3

Scene 1

Banquo confides in audience “I think thou play’dst most foully for it”

“Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown”

Scene 2

“We have scorch’d the snake, not kill’d it”

“O full of scorpions is my mind”

“Things bad begun, make strong themselves by ill” thinks he can murder to get rid of the fear he’s feeling- actually it’s guilt

Scene 3

Banquo killed, Fleance flies

Scene 4

Macbeth sees Banquo in his seat

“This is the very painting of your fear”

“I am in blood stepp’d in so far, that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er”

Act 4

Scene 1

“Double, double, toil and trouble”

“Something wicked this way comes” Macbeth

“secret, black and midnight hags” the most gothic description

First apparition- an armed head “Beware Macduff” Second apparition- a bloody child “none of woman born shall harm Macbeth” Third apparition- a child crowned with a tree in his hand “Macbeth shall never vanquished be, until Great Birnam wood, to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him” Macbeth thinks he’s safe, but his actions defied nature and now nature defies him

Macduff fled to England, when Macbeth finds out he says “give to th’ edge o’ th’ sword his wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls that trace him in his line”- everything sorted out by murder now

Scene 2

At Lady Macduff’s house- a messenger warns her to run but she doesn’t. Warnings ignored in Wuthering Heights

Scene 3

Malcolm tests Macduff- he passes

Macduff learns of the murder of his family: Malcolm: Dispute it like a man. Macduff: I shall do so, but I must also feel it as a man

Act 5

Scene 1

Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking “Out damned spot: out I say” can’t get rid of the guilt

“what’s done, cannot be undone” Scene 3

“honour, love, obedience, troops of friends, I must not look to have”

“canst thou not minister to a mind diseas’d, pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow?” for him and Lady Macbeth

Scene 4

The soldiers are going to carry a branch each to hide their numbers

Scene 5

A woman’s cry is heard and Lady Macbeth confirmed to be dead

“Life’s but a walking shadow… signifying nothing” his murderous ways have left him cold and without a soul- like Heathcliff without Cathy

Scene 6

Malcolm, Macduff and the army are near enough for attack

“Make all our trumpets speak, give them all breath, those clamorous harbingers of blood, and death”

Scene 7

Young Siward “The devil himself could not pronounce a title more hateful to mine ear”

The rightful heir, Malcolm, is now King

Article by TSR User on Thursday 15 February 2018


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