Macbeth's castle.
Hautboys and torches. Enter a Sewer, and divers Servants with dishes and service, and pass over the stage. Then enter MACBETH
If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly: if the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease success; that but this blow
Might be the be-all and the end-all here,
But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
We'ld jump the life to come. But in these cases
We still have judgment here; that we but teach
Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return
To plague the inventor: this even-handed justice
Commends the ingredients of our poison'd chalice
To our own lips. He's here in double trust;
First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,
Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,
Who should against his murderer shut the door,
Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off;
And pity, like a naked new-born babe,
Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubim, horsed
Upon the sightless couriers of the air,
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,
That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself
And falls on the other.
How now! what news?
He has almost supp'd: why have you left the chamber?
Hath he ask'd for me?
Know you not he has?
We will proceed no further in this business:
He hath honour'd me of late; and I have bought
Golden opinions from all sorts of people,
Which would be worn now in their newest gloss,
Not cast aside so soon.
Was the hope drunk
Wherein you dress'd yourself? hath it slept since?
And wakes it now, to look so green and pale
At what it did so freely? From this time
Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard
To be the same in thine own act and valour
As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that
Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life,
And live a coward in thine own esteem,
Letting 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would,'
Like the poor cat i' the adage?
Prithee, peace:
I dare do all that may become a man;
Who dares do more is none.
What beast was't, then,
That made you break this enterprise to me?
When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And, to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more the man. Nor time nor place
Did then adhere, and yet you would make both:
They have made themselves, and that their fitness now
Does unmake you. I have given suck, and know
How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling 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.
If we should fail?
We fail!
But screw your courage to the sticking-place,
And we'll not fail. When Duncan is asleep--
Whereto the rather shall his day's hard journey
Soundly invite him--his two chamberlains
Will I with wine and wassail so convince
That memory, the warder of the brain,
Shall be a fume, and the receipt of reason
A limbeck only: when in swinish sleep
Their drenched natures lie as in a death,
What cannot you and I perform upon
The unguarded Duncan? what not put upon
His spongy officers, who shall bear the guilt
Of our great quell?
Bring forth men-children only;
For thy undaunted mettle should compose
Nothing but males. Will it not be received,
When we have mark'd with blood those sleepy two
Of his own chamber and used their very daggers,
That they have done't?
Who dares receive it other,
As we shall make our griefs and clamour roar
Upon his death?
I am settled, and bend up
Each corporal agent to this terrible feat.
Away, and mock the time with fairest show:
False face must hide what the false heart doth know.

That evening saw a feast like none before. King Duncan enjoyed himself immensely. The Norwegians had been defeated. He had witnessed unprecedented bravery from his loyal troops and now he was being honoured and feted by the new favourite of his court. Macbeth's servants attended to the King's every whim. Musicians and jesters kept the company ably entertained throughout the evening. But all was not well with the host. Macbeth was so preoccupied the whole evening that when he was pretending to mix and mingle he was actually slumped in an antechamber. He was consumed by fear.


“Only after it's done will it be done,” Macbeth thought, “oh, the quicker it is done the better. If the consequences were negligible and success was guaranteed then I would strike the blow here and now, upon this bank and shoal of time even at the risk of the life to come. But we will still be judged here, on this earth, and don't the tutors of bloodshed get taught a thing or two from their own cravings? Comeuppance is inevitable. Even-handed justice makes sure the recipe in our poisoned chalice is tasted by our lips. Duncan is here on a double trust: first, I'm his kinsman and his subject, both good arguments against this! I'm his host, I should shut the door on his murderer not enter bearing the knife. Besides, hasn't Duncan ruled so meekly? In office he has been so great that his virtues will plead like trumpet-tongued angels against his damnation. A troop of heaven's cherubim will traverse the sky spreading news of my deed until the cries of his subjects drown the wind. I have nothing now to lead me but my vaulting ambition which may overstretch itself and destroy me.


Macbeth's reasoning was interrupted by the arrival of his wife: “What’s wrong? News?”


“He has almost finished supper. Why have you left the room?” Lady Macbeth asked in irritation.


“Has he asked for me?”


“Don't you know he has?”


“We will proceed no further in the business we spoke of. He has honoured me and I've won prestige from all quarters. This is to be savoured when it is new not squandered in ambition.”


“Where is the hope that you wore so proudly before? Was it just drink?” mocked Lady Macbeth. “Is it sleeping now? Is it looking green and pale when it was so brave with just a sip? From now on I know what your love is worth. You are afraid to be as brave in life as you are in your dreams! You want the crown but you're a coward! I want to, but I can't! You're like that cat in the adage – it wanted the fish, but didn't want to get its feet wet!”


“Enough, madam! I do all that becomes a man. Who dares me to do more is simply not human.”


“What monster then told me of this enterprise? When you dared to do it you were a man. To want to be more than what you are would make you so much more the man. Before neither the time nor the place mattered you would make your own luck. Well now that luck has delivered this ripe opportunity you've lost your nerve. I have nursed children at my breast and know how tender it is to love the smiling face at my breast but I would have plucked my nipple from its mouth and smashed its brains out if I had sworn to do so!”


“And if we should fail?”


“Fail? Us? Wind up your courage to the full and we will not fail. Duncan's had a hard journey he will sleep soundly. Allow me to fill his officers with enough wine to make their memories hazy. When they are drunk and sleeping like pigs what can't you and I do to the unguarded Duncan? What can't we blame on his booze-sodden officers?


“Conceive only male children, madam! Your dauntless mettle should be used to create only warriors! When we have smeared the officers with Duncan's blood will everyone assume they’ve done it?”


“Who would dare to question it otherwise? Shall we not make our grief roar loudest?”


“I'm settled on the plan. All my energies must be devoted to this terrible feat. Come, let us pass the time being wonderful hosts. False faces must hide the secrets of false hearts.”