Macbeth (5.5.1-29)

Enter MACBETH, SEYTON, and SOLDIERS, with Drum and Colors.

1 MACBETH. Hang out our banners on the outward walls,
2 The cry is still, “They come!” Our castle’s strength
3 Will laugh a siege to scorn; here let them lie
4 Till famine and the ague eat them up.
5 Were they not forc’d with those that should be ours,
6 We might have met them dareful, beard to beard,
7   And beat them backward home.

A cry within of women.

What is that noise?

8 SEYTON. It is the cry of women, my good lord. [Exit.]
9 MACBETH. I have almost forgot the taste of fears.
10 The time has been, my senses would have cool’d
11 To hear a night-shriek, and my fell of hair
12 Would at a dismal treatise rouse and stir
13 As life were in’t. I have supp’d full with horrors;
14 Direness, familiar to my slaughterous thoughts,
15 Cannot once start me.

[Enter SEYTON.]

Wherefore was that cry?

16 SEYTON. The Queen, my lord, is dead.
17 MACBETH. She should have died hereafter;
18 There would have been a time for such a word.
19 Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
20 Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
21 To the last syllable of recorded time;
22 And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
23 The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
24 Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
25 That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
26 And then is heard no more. It is a tale
27 Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
28 Signifying nothing.


Thou com’st to use thy tongue;

29 Thy story quickly.

MACBETH, SEYTON, and SOLDIERS enter with a drummer and flag.

Hang our flags on the outer walls. Everyone keeps yelling, “Here they come!” Our castle is strong enough to laugh off their seige. They can sit out there until they die of hunger and disease. If it weren’t for the fact that so many of our soldiers revolted and joined them, we could have met them out in front of the castle, man to man, and beaten them back to England.

A sound of women crying offstage.

What’s that noise?

It’s women crying, my good lord.

SEYTON exits.

I’ve almost forgotten what fear feels like. There was a time when I would have been terrified by a shriek in the night, and the hair on my skin would have stood up when I heard a ghost story. But now I’ve had my fill of real horrors. Horrible things are so familiar that they can’t startle me.

SEYTON comes back in.

What was that cry for?

The queen is dead, my lord.

She would have died later anyway. That news was bound to come someday. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. The days creep slowly along until the end of time. And every day that’s already happened has taken fools that much closer to their deaths. Out, out, brief candle. Life is nothing more than an illusion. It’s like a poor actor who struts and worries for his hour on the stage and then is never heard from again. Life is a story told by an idiot, full of noise and emotional disturbance but devoid of meaning.


You’ve come to tell me something. Tell me quickly.


Page Last Updated: 13 January 2013