William Shakespeare
Contributed by Sharon Fleming
Act 5 Scene 3

Macbeth receives reports of an impending attack. However, Macbeth remembers the prophecy that he will be invincible on the battlefield. When a servant informs Macbeth of a huge army advancing toward their lands, his confidence falters. His speech is no longer full of the braggadocio that characterized his previous experiences in battle. Yet, Macbeth is a strong warrior who never fears an attack. He orders his servant to help him put on his armor. At the same time, the doctor arrives with a message concerning Lady Macbeth. He dismisses the soldier with contempt.


When Macbeth first hears of the soldiers camping in a neighboring land close to his stronghold of Dunsinane, he dismisses them. He relies on the prophecies of the apparitions, which he interprets to mean he will not lose the war. Instead, he believes he will defeat his enemies. However, his interpretation is flawed. He does not want any more information about the battle. He says, “Bring me no more reports” and “Fly, false thanes.” Their reports do not impair his confidence. He feels there is no need to worry or even prepare for an attack.

Macbeth engages in a fierce exchange with his servant. He orders him to pinch his cheeks so that he may develop some color on his face. That statement resembles an exchange between Macbeth and his wide when his wife accused him of having a white heart in contrast to her red hands. Macbeth has been shouting, “Give me my armor,” but his servant hesitates to follow his orders. When the doctor tells Macbeth he has been unable to cure Lay Macbeth, Macbeth demands he “throw physic [medicine] to the dogs.”

Previously Macbeth asked the doctor to remove his wife’s thoughts and feelings. However, it is now apparent that the doctor is not able to take away that “which weigh[s] upon the heart.” The doctor responds to Macbeth by saying that “therein the patient must minister to himself.” It is surprising that Shakespeare decides to use a masculine pronoun, in this case, to refer to Lady Macbeth. It could be interpreted to mean that the doctor too must find a way of dealing with the situation because military preparations may not address their challenges effectively.

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