Overview Act I
"Threes" in 1.1
"Threes" in 1.1 (II)
Weird Sisters I
Weird Sisters II
Act 1, Scene 2
I. 2 Images
Word Use in 1.2
Word Use in 1.2 II
Partial Lines (1.2)
Partial Lines II
Phrases and 1.3
The Future Now
The Chalice (1.7)
Sacking the Temple
Sack. the Sacred II
The "Chance" II
Not Your Father's Hendiadys II
Bill Long 8/3/05
Macbeth in 1.4; Lady Macbeth in 1.6
Duncan has overreached himself by his "unstudied" words of gratitude to Macbeth in 1.4.14-21. They are not tempered or modulated. As I argued earlier, Duncan's fault seems to be a too-ready trust of his subordinates, a trust which imperilled him with Cawdor and will lead to his death at the hands of Macbeth. After Duncan expresses his thanks to Macbeth, where he makes use of hendiadys properly ("thanks and payment"--1.4.19), Macbeth responds:
"The service and the loyalty I owe,
In doing it, pays itself. Your Highness' part
Is to receive our duties: and our duties
Are to your throne and state, children and servants;
Which do but what they should, by doing everything
Safe toward your love and honor" (1.4.22-27).
Macbeth's words are reminiscent of the servant in Jesus' parable, who, after plowing the fields all day, must come in and fix his master's dinner without expecting a reward because, as the text says, "We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done" (Luke 17:10). The Greek word translated "worthless," is achreios, which can mean "unprofitable, useless, miserable." Though Macbeth as thane is definitely not the "worthless" biblical servant, he expresses a similar sentiment here.
But let's look more closely at Macbeth's words for a moment. After the King has expressed his extreme gratitude, wouldn't you have expected Macbeth to reciprocate in similar language? Coleridge, in his Shakespearean Criticism, may have been one of the first to note a possible "problem" here: "Macbeth has nothing but the commonplaces of loyalty, in which he hides himself...[He uses] reasoning instead of joy..." But what hasn't been noted, to my mind, is that the means by which Macbeth gives his tepid response is four hendiadys. Let's enumerate them. (1) "The service and loyalty I owe," is the "loyal service" I owe. (2) "Your throne and state" is your "stately throne." (3) "Children and servants" is a hendiadys because it reflects the same subject from different angles. Subjects are "children" because they are dependent on the monarch; they are "servants" because of the duty owed. (4) "Love and honor" is "honorable love." In addition the "and" between the two appearances of "duty" stresses that the whole flow of the passage is to emphasize Macbeth's responsibility as a loyal servant.
If you take some time to ponder the hendiadys, however, you see that they don't amplify or add dignity to Macbeth's response; instead they seem to distance him from his king. Whereas Duncan wanted, as it were, to reach out and embrace Macbeth, to enclip him and kiss him, Macbeth wants to withdraw, to use the excuse of duty to remote himself from his sovereign. Of course Macbeth has a reason for doing this: he is torn in his loyalty to Duncan and, within a few scenes, will resolve, after his wife badgers and humilitates him verbally, to kill him. Hendiadys takes the emotion out of the passage; if it doesn't pour "Round Up" on the growing plant that is the relationship between Duncan and Macbeth, it at least doesn't water it.
Nevetheless, Duncan, ever the blind regent, ignores the tepid response and embrances him further: "Welcome hither;/ I have begun to plant thee, and will labor/ To make thee full of growing" (1.4.27-29). He turns to Banquo to say similar words. Duncan has missed Macbeth's point completely. But Shakespeare has chosen to make Macbeth's point by reversing the normal function of hendiadys.
Lady Macbeth and Hendiadys
It struck me that when Lady Macbeth welcomes Duncan into their castle in 1.6 that she, too, addresses him with hendiadys. Yet she seems to be more enthusiastically inclined towards the King, possibly because she is inveterately committed to the treason and knows instinctively how to "look like the time," while her husband is still 'limping between two opinions.' Duncan has just made a kind of joke in 1.6.10-14, the complex language of which is well exposited in Dr. Philip Weller's online Macbeth Navigator. The joke is possible because Duncan is trying to show his utter good will and vulnerability to the Macbeths. Lady Macbeth responds to it:
"All our service
In every point twice done, and then done double,
Were poor and single business, to contend
Against those honors deep and broad, wherewith
Your Majesty loads our house: for those of old,
And the late dignities heap'd up to them,
We rest your hermits" (1.6.14-20).
Notice the "ands" here. The first stresses the "70 X 7," not of biblical forgiveness, but of loyal duty. Then this loyalty is "poor and simple business." How can it possibly match those honors "deep and broad" which Duncan brings, for they are those "of old and the late dignities." The word "service" at the beginning and "your hermits" (i.e., your servants that pray) at the end acts is a device that grammarians/rhetoricans call inclusio, which "binds up" or "includes" the whole by uniting the first and last. Whereas Macbeth's use of hendiadys in 1.4 served to isolate him further from his sovereign, Lady Macbeth's seem more sincere and more reflective of the real purpose of the hendiadys: to amplify. Did we not know her resolve to kill Duncan, we would say that she puts more feeling into her words. As suggested above, perhaps she actually does so, and can do so more easily because the die has already been cast in her mind. Pure hypocrites praise easier than those torn by the concept of hypocrisy.
Two different uses of hendiadys, by Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, give us insights not only into Shakespeare's creative genius but into the couple's different mental states when they use the device. Indeed their variant uses of hendiadys "divides" them, until they unite in their purpose to untie Duncan in 1.7.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long