In the castle of Dunsinane, Macbeth and the remainders of his court were finalising their preparations to counter Malcolm’s attack.
“Hang out our banners on the outer walls” said Macbeth. “Look at them. Our castle is so strong we can laugh at them until they get bored! Famine and the plague will get them before they get us. If our deserters hadn’t swelled their numbers we would have met them boldly, face-to-face and sent them homeward.”
Invigorated by his own sentiments Macbeth was suddenly shaken by the piercing screams of a woman.
“What’s that noise?”
“It’s the cry of a woman, my good lord”, said Seton.
“I have almost forgotten the taste of fear. In the past a shriek may have cooled my senses and prompted the hair on my scalp to rise as if the scream were alive. I’ve had such a belly full of blood and horror that dire things are now so familiar to me that that which once frightened me no longer makes me start. Seton, what was that cry?”
“The Queen, my lord, is dead.”
“She should have died later. There would have been a time for death. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in at this petty pace from day to day until the last syllable of recorded time. All our yesterdays just show us fools the way to our dusty graves. Out, out, brief candle. Life is but a walking shadow, a lousy actor who struts and frets through his time on the stage and then is heard of no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Macbeth was disturbed in his melancholy by the arrival of another messenger.
“You’re here to use your tongue. Your news, quickly.”
“My gracious lord, I should be reporting what I saw but I don’t know how to tell it.”
“Well, say it, sir!”
“As I stood my watch on the hill, I looked toward Birnam, and I thought the wood began to move.”
“Liar and slave!”
“Let me endure your wrath, if I’m lying. Even from here, three miles, you might be able to see it coming. I saw it, a moving grove.”
“If you speak falsely, you’ll hang alive on the next tree until you die of hunger! If what you say is true, I don’t care if you do the same to me! My resolution is being questioned. I’m beginning to doubt the word of the devil, whose lies become truths. Fear not until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane. And now a wood comes toward Dunsinane! Arm, arm, to battle! If what he says is true then there’s no point in running or hesitating. I’m beginning to grow weary of the sun. The great order of the world can come undone! Ring the alarm bell! Blow, wind! Come, ruin! At least I’ll die with armour on my back.”