Hie thee hither,
And when they meet, say I am cald for: and here
Stands one that will backe thee presently. Hie thou
5 Thither: ee not th’attendant-feebles my demand:
If thou attend me, I will pay thy grones:
Hie thee. (5.2)
What is this?
Lennox and another lord meet Macbeth on the way to speak with Duncan. The witches had told Macbeth that he would be Thane of Cawdor, and when they arrive at Inverness, a messenger from King Duncan arrives to tell them that their prediction was true – the king has made Macbeth Thane of Cawdor. Lennox says that he has been sent to find out more about the weird sisters who have predicted this, and tells him to go back when his errand is done. He also remarks on how awful it is for a man’s servants to bear the burden of his guilt in grief. Macbeth is clearly unnerved by the encounter.
Who are Hie thee hither, and when they meet, say I am cald for: and here?
The man sent by King Duncan to find out more about the weird sisters (the witches) who made Macbeth Thane of Cawdor. Hie thee hither means ‘hurry’. Lennox tells Macbeth not to worry so much about it – his servants should be bearing the burden instead. Hie thou hither says ‘hurry up’. Hie thou thither says ‘go there’, but thither sounds like ‘thalt-er’ because thy makes a single pronunciation with t. Hie means ‘hurry’ or ‘rush’ and is from Old English. Hither means ‘to this place’. Hie thee hither and Hie thou thither both mean ‘hurry up’ or ‘rush to go’. Heralds, messengers, or even common folk would have been employed as a messenger for someone else.
Herald – the person who announces important people.
Messenger – a person sent on an errand by another.
Common folk – ordinary everyday people, not noblemen.
What is this?
This is Macbeth being told that he is going to become Thane of Cawdor, which was one of the predictions from the weird sisters (a group of witches). The fact that they give good news and bad news scares Macbeth.
Scene 1 opens with Macbeth telling the Witches he has just fought off one of their former compatriots, who sought to kill him. The witches welcome Macbeth back and tell him that they have foreseen his ascent to power. He tells them that he desires this prophecy to come true more than anything else in the world. They show Macbeth three apparitions: a crowned child holding a tree branch, a bloody child holding a tree branch, and an old man with a tree branch.
One witch says she sees this as some kind of omen concerning “heaven, crown and earth.” (I.iii) She urges Macbeth to go forward towards kingship; but another witch warns him not to be too pleased by their omen. (I.iii) Macbeth is overjoyed and returns home to Scotland, where his wife tells him that she also has seen apparitions that predict he will become king.
Scene 2 takes place at the royal court in Scotland, where two men discuss the recent arrival of King Duncan (the uncle of Macbeth). They mention how Duncan is visiting with Macbeth until midnight; they say “with his statecraft / He plans to ruin noble Macbeth.” (II.ii) A messenger arrives and shows Duncan the letter sent by Macbeth’s wife regarding the witches’ prophecy (which Macbeth himself has no knowledge of yet).
They begin discussing whether or not it would be wise to include Macbeth in the King’s inner-circle. The messenger tells them that he overheard Macbeth praying for God to help him become great, which the men at court interpret as a sign of great ambition. They tell Duncan he must take care because “we have seen / Bloody instruction before our eyes.” (II.ii)
Scene 3 takes place in the same location, but it is nighttime now and Duncan has retired to bed while Macbeth awaits his arrival for a meeting. Macbeth enters carrying a bloody dagger, which he thrusts into an attendant’s stomach when asked what is wrong with him. He breaks down and admits killing Duncan; however, when Lennox points out that they cannot escape their guilt, Macbeth announces that he will be brave and carry through with the deed. Lennox retrieves Duncan’s body and tells everyone he was killed by “A serpent stung him, so the whore / Says.” (II.iii)
Scene 4 begins at night with a Porter loudly complaining about having to work during such an ungodly hour. He is visited by a gentleman who says he has been robbed and asks to spend the night there; however, because of his profession as a porter, he refuses any man entry unless they give him money first. After thinking it over for a moment, the gentleman tries to bribe his way inside but fails because the Porter demands too much money for one night’s lodging.
The Gentleman resorts to begging, but the Porter is still unwilling to let him in. Suddenly, Macduff shows up and asks if they have seen his wife; the Gentleman says no, and Macduff rushes off after her instead of entering himself. (III.iv) A moment later, Lennox arrives looking for Macbeth; he too cannot enter without paying with cash or kind either. Finally, Captain Seyton shows up and invites all of them inside to talk about what has happened.
They discuss how it is possible that “none [can] say [Macbeth] did it.” (III.iv) Lennox then mentions that Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking fits upon hearing of Duncan’s murder can be construed as a sign that she is guilty. Seyton agrees and tells them that he saw her sleepwalking the night before; she appeared to be trying to wash her hands and then suddenly screamed as if someone were chasing her: “Why, this would make a man fetch / His nightly due of cursings from the king’s face.” (III.iv)
Scene 5 takes place at Forres where Malcolm and Macduff track down Duncan’s sons to take possession of their royal documents. They find out about their mother’s involvement in the murder and begin debating what to do next: “Shall we make a virtue of necessity?” (IV.i) Meanwhile, another messenger arrives with news that Lady Macbeth has died after suffering mental anguish over murdering Duncan. Meanwhile, Macduff announces that he will go to England and tell Edward the previous king’s youngest son about their father’s murder. (IV.i) Malcolm is crowned King of Scotland soon afterwards.
Scene 6 takes place in Dunsinane where Lennox visits with his two sons; Lennox tells them how “the thane of Fife had a wife” (V.i) who tried to wash the blood off her hands after Duncan was murdered. He also mentioned how she later died from mental instability or anguish over what they did together by murdering Duncan: “[she] took a tainting ail / And fell into a traivelling death.” (V.i).