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
Two More Partial Lines in Macbeth I.2
Bill Long 3/16/06
And a Brief Bonus on a Few of S's Words in I.2
The third partial line in I.2, which makes us pause and imagine either the alternatives presented or the scene described, comes in I.2.50--"And fanned our people cold." Six beats (instead of the customary ten) are used to describe the effect of the "Norweyan" banners which were flying over the battlefield. The Norwegians were the third opponent Macbeth and Banquo faced. First were Macdonwald and his kerns and gallowglasses. Then there was whorish Fortune. Third, after M disdained the one and sliced up the other, the oppoents from the North arose and attacked. This "fresh" assault, one would think, terrified and dismayed M. Did it? "Yes" is the response at the end of line 34. But then, there is line 35: "As sparrows eagles, or as the hare the lion." A smile crosses our faces. Surely M can handle even the Norweyans. Surely he who is on a roll can roll still further over the foe.
But this victory is not an easy one. Indeed, the soldier grows faint before he can narrate the result of this battle, and he is replaced by the worthy Thane of Rosse who is the one to tell the tale. But before we get to the tale, there is a slight Shakespearean irony we shouldn't miss. The Thane enters. The king remarks how his eyes betray some "haste" in his message. It will be a "strange" message indeed. Then the Thane says, "Long live the King." Unbeknownst to anyone, the words "Long Live the King," are the really strange, or unfamiliar, or unknown, or extreme, words here because the king, actually, will be short-lived. But we are caught up with the urgency of the moment, and we see the purpose or "haste" in Rosse's eyes, and we also want to hear him tell us about the battle. So, we almost ignore the hackneyed greeting "long live the king," and rush on to hear what Rosse has to say. We should pause for a second, however, on "long live the king."
Then we move to what the Thane says. The banners of the Norweyans are "flouting" the skies, "and fan our people cold." How do banners "flout" the skies? The word flout means to "mock" or "deride" or "express contempt for." They flout the skies because their mere presence in Scotland is a mockery, a sort of contemptuous statement about the weakness and vulnerability of the Scots. But there is also something else going on with the word flout. We can almost hear the banners "flapping" as they flout the skies. In a strong wind a big banner almost sounds as if it is a whip, so intense is the flapping. Rather than saying that the banners "embarrass" or "make fun of" or "jeer" or something like that, flout carries with it the notions both of flap and mock. We hear as well as see the banners.
Now we are ready for the six counts: "And fan our people cold." Brrr. We have four beats to think about what it is like when the people are "fanned" cold by the banners. Of what does this coldness consist? There is the coldness of fear, of raw terror. There is the coldness that tends to immobilize, that makes people huddle together, to look searchingly at each other, afraid to speak, afraid to admit their fears, afraid to think of any positive outcome. So we have the bold banners of the Norweyans, colorful and snappily snapping in the wind, reminding the Scots of their impotence and subservience. But then, everything will change. Victory comes for the Scots.
I.2.66--"I'll see it done."
I wonder why S never had a comparable short line to express the final victory of Macbeth and Banquo over the Norweyans. S could have had such a line, "And victory was ours," or something like that, which would encourage the reader to stop and savor the win over the foe. But, instead, the narration of victory continues, and the final short line describes an action which will be more vital for the flow of the play than any words about a victory over the Norweyans could be. This short line comes after we are told that the Norweyans will pay a healthy indemnification to the Scots for the battle. Then, the king deals with the treachery of the Thane of Cawdor. He orders his death and Macbeth's "replacement" of him as Thane of Cawdor. Rosse's brief line in acknowledgment of the king's order is simply, "I'll see it done."
"I'll see it done." It sounds so easy, so breezily efficient, so productive of smooth transitions and an ever more powerful king. Smooth transitions are extremely important in contemporary America, lest businesses, universities and other wealthy institutions lose their "competitive advantage." When a CEO dies or steps down, jittery investors and critical analysts must be assured that the CEO-in-waiting has been training at the job for decades, has fully imbued the values of the company, will be more able than his (and it usually is a "he") predecessor to take the company to new heights. Investor confidence is restored. Ratings on the stock ratchet up a notch. Transition has successfully transpired. All of these thoughts rush through my mind when I hear Rosse say "I'll see it done." We think of how secure the kingdom will be now that a fearless and triumphant warrior will replace the treacherous Cawdor.
"I'll see it done" are words now spoken by a victor. They cancel out the previous short line, "And fan our people cold." The huddled people are now the confident people, and the words bespeaking that confidence are "I'll see it done."
But in those words, "I'll see it done," the observant reader notices the ambiguities I have hinted at in the previous paragraphs. 'Right,' we say. 'It will be done. Certainly. Everything is taken care of. No worries at all.' But if we only had to contend with human forces in the world, the victory might be assured. As it is, however, there are other forces to be reckoned with--especially the Weird Sisters, who appear once again in I.3.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long