Crucial Scene in Macbeth: The Dagger Soliloquy

Essay by CrabholeHigh School, 11th gradeA+, November 2004

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Is this a dagger which I see before me,

The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee:

I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.

Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible

to feeling as to sight? Or art thou but

a dagger of the mind, a false creation,

Proceeding form the heat-oppressed brain?

I see thee yet, in form as palpable

As this which now I draw.

Thou marrshall'st me the way that I was going,

And such an instrument I was to use.

Mine eyes are made the fools o'th'other sense,

Or else worth all the rest. I see thee still

And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of bleed,

Which was not so before.

There's no such thing:

It is the bloody business which informs

Thus to mine eyes.

Now o'er the one half-world

Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse

The curtained sleep.

Witchcraft celebrates

Pale Hecate's off'rings, and withered murder,

Alarumed by his sentinel, the wolf,

Whose howl's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace,

With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design

Moves like a ghost.

Thou sure and firm-set earth,

Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear

Thy very stone prate of my whereabout,

And take the present horror form the time,

Which now suits with it.

Whiles I threat, he lives; ...Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.

How this scene contributes to our understanding of character and play:

So far, the play has hurdled through seven scenes of mounting tension and now tithers on the threshold of regicide. At this point, Shakespeare freezes the action. In the tension of silence, both character and play develop on new levels.

For Macbeth, this soliloquy, in A.C. Bradley's words: "is where the powerful workings...