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Macbeth Speech Analysis

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Sean G

on 10 December 2014

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Transcript of Macbeth Speech Analysis

We have scorched the snake, not killed it;
She’ll close, and be herself, whilst our poor malice
Remains in danger of her former tooth.
But let the frame of things disjoint, both the worlds suffer,
Ere we will eat our meal in fear, and sleep
In the affliction of these terrible dreams
That shake us nightly. Better be with the dead,
Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace,
Than on the torture of the mind to lie
In restless ecstasy. Duncan is in his grave.
After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well.
Treason has done his worst; nor steel nor poison,
Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing
Can touch him further.
The Speech - Early Modern English
Why?
This conversation takes place after Macbeth gets word from the murderers about what happened to Banquo and Fleance. Macbeth was persuaded by Lady Macbeth and eventually convinced to orchestrate this murder. He is speaking regarding the report he received from the murderers sent to kill Banquo and his son. He sent the murderers to kill Banquo and his son because the witches' prophecies said one day Banquo's kin will have the throne.
"We have scorched the snake not killed it"
This is the first line said by Macbeth after the murder is complete. He is nervous that they have only dealt with some of their problems, and the real problem will come back to haunt and torture them. The snake in this speech stands for the obstacles in Macbeth's way to the throne. The murderers have not taken care of the problem, so Macbeth doesn't have the clear and is not safe on the throne. The snake is not only the threat posed by Banquo, but also the snake seems to be everything that is against Macbeth's rule.

The word choice of snake was used by Shakespeare as the danger of being caught for the murder, and scorched means only a minor injury implying they have only gotten away temporarily and the threat is still very much present.
We have injured the snake, but we have not killed it;
The injury will heal and be just like before, and we will be threatened by the snake's sharp teeth once again. But life can fall apart, and both heaven and earth can fall, Before he starts eating his meals in fear and spend his nights awake because of terrible nightmares, I would rather be dead than endure the sleep deprivation and torture of the mind. We are better off with the dead, whom we killed and sent to peace, to gain peace ourselves. Duncan lies peacefully in his grave. The worst thing that we could have done to him is commit treason, which we have done. Nothing, even weapons, poison, invasion can hurt him further.
Sean Guitard
Macbeth Speech Analysis
The Speech - Modern English
"She'll close and be herself, whilst our poor malice Remains in danger of her former tooth"
Macbeth says this as he knows that the cut that they have inflicted will heal, and they shall still be in danger of the snakes fangs. The snakes fangs will find them and do the same as they have done to it. Macbeth knows there are still obstacles in the way, as the snake heal and return to bite him with his fangs.

Shakespeare says "She'll close and be herself" as if the scar inflicted was nothing, and she will heal and be the same deadly snake once again. The word choice of "danger of her former tooth" suggests Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are still in danger of the sharp fangs of the "snake".
"But let the frame of things disjoint, both the worlds suffer"
Life will continue to fall apart and both heaven and earth will suffer, and the universe will crumble to nothing. Macbeth's life is changing rapidly and declining into despair, and says this in a mellow tone as if he doesn't desire to love or live anymore.

Shakespeare uses the term "frame of things" to explain how a frame (the universe), which holds everything together, is beginning to break and crumble away.
"Ere we will eat our meal in fear, and sleep
In the affliction of these terrible dreams
That shake us nightly"
"Before we start eating out meals in fear, and spend his nights awake because of terrible nightmares"
Macbeth is speaking with anger and disgust from what he had done. He doesn't feel its fair that they stay awake at night and eat their meals in fear. Shakespeare uses the verbs eating and sleeping to suggest these are the times we aren't conscious about the world. These are the times that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are most worried, and in their every second of living they must be aware of their surroundings.
Better be with the dead,
Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace,
Than on the torture of the mind to lie
In restless ecstasy.
Duncan is in his grave.
After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well.
Treason has done his worst;
nor steel nor poison,
Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing can touch him further.
Macbeth in this passage says it is better off to be with the dead at this point as there is only chaos in the living world at this time. Macbeth and his wife gained their peace by taking Banquo's peace, and now their minds are filled with the torture that they have forced on themselves. Shakespeare's choice of the words "restless ecstasy suggest Macbeth and Lady Macbeth lie awake at night, glad that they have accumulated they power and satisfaction, but feel dangerously uncomfortable.
Duncan lies in his grave in a peaceful sleep, away from the chaos and disarray that Macbeth has caused. Macbeth says "life's fitful fever" suggesting what he has felt and that life brings you sickness and confusion when you are awake and alive, but not when you are in dead and asleep. Macbeth is partially glad that his old friends sleeps well in his grave.
"Treason has done his worst" explains how treason is one of the worst crimes a man or woman can do to defy his/her king. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have committed treason against King Duncan, an act of which nobody can ever forgive. Gladly now for Macbeth and even Duncan, the King is deceased and is laying in his peaceful sleep where no weapons, poison, or invasion can hurt him anymore.
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