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Free Barron's Booknotes-Macbeth by William Shakespeare-Free Book Notes
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The witches meet Hecate, their mistress. Many scholars believe that this scene was not actually written by Shakespeare. They see the scene as an opportunity for a song and dance from the witches.


Whether Shakespeare wrote the scene or not, it points out an important theme: security. Hecate says, " / Is mortals' chiefest enemy" (lines 32-33). She means what we would call "false security." In the morality plays of Shakespeare's time, all security was seen as false security. The devil has laid many traps for mankind, they said, and if you feel secure, it is because you refuse to see the dangers. Macbeth will be given a false sense of security by the witches the next time he meets them.


We get a clear view of how the thanes of Scotland feel under Macbeth's rule in this scene. Before, we have been able to sense the atmosphere of paranoia. Here, it is demonstrated.

Lennox and another lord enter. They are having a private conversation about recent events. Notice that Lennox, who clearly means to say that something fishy is going on, has to get his message across indirectly. His speech is loaded with irony:

The gracious Duncan Was pitied of Macbeth: marry, he was dead. And the right-valiant Banquo walked too late; Whom, you may say, if't please you, Fleance killed, For Fleance fled. Men must not walk too late. Act III, Scene vi, lines 3-7

Translated, he is saying, "Maybe somebody believes this, but I sure don't."

An important bit of news is revealed in this scene: Macduff, who is now commonly acknowledged as Macbeth's enemy, has gone to the English court. There, he intends to ask the English king for troops to help overthrow Macbeth.

Duncan's son Malcolm is already in England, where he has been treated with great respect. That gives the Scottish lords hope that the English king will be sympathetic to their plight.

After sharing the news about Macduff, Lennox and the other lord speak more directly. They yearn for relief from Macbeth's tyranny. Notice the religious imagery used by Lennox: "Some holy angel / Fly to the court of England... that a swift blessing / May soon return to this our suffering country / under a hand accursed!" (lines 45-48). That language suggests that they see Macbeth as more than just a tyrant; they consider him a devil.

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