How we cite our quotes:
MACBETH […] 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; (1.7.1)
Even Macbeth admits that Duncan's done a good job being king: he's been "clear in his great office. But is "meek" really a quality that you want from the most powerful man in your kingdom?
PORTER […] Knock, knock! Who's there, in the other devil's name? Faith, here's an equivocator, that could swear in both the scales against either scale; who committed treason enough for God's sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven: O, come in, equivocator. (2.3.1)
All this talk about "equivocators" is a reference to the recent Gunpowder Plot, the treasonous Catholic plot to blow up Parliament. (See our "Symbols: Equivocator" section to get the facts on that.) This little joke helps Shakespeare get away with dramatizing the murder of a king on stage: the reference to the Gunpowder Plot is a clear condemnation of the crime Macbeth has just committed. Whew.
ROSS Ah, good father, Thou seest, the heavens, as troubled with man's act, Threaten his bloody stage: by the clock, 'tis day, And yet dark night strangles the travelling lamp: Is't night's predominance, or the day's shame, That darkness does the face of earth entomb, When living light should kiss it? OLD MAN 'Tis unnatural, Even like the deed that's done. (2.4.1)
It's the day after King Duncan's murder, and things are not looking good. Even though it's the middle of the day, darkness fills the sky, as though the sun ("the traveling lamp") has been "strangle[d]" by "dark night." Anyone else get the feeling that this is symbolic? Duncan's rule and his life have both been extinguished by Macbeth, who has committed the most "unnatural" act of all: upending the natural order of power.