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My sister called and asked me to find some sayings to put on tombstones for the haunted Halloween trail in Milltown N.J.. They have it every year and since my nephews are a part of this town tradition of course I went searching for something she could use.

I have heard the saying Double double toil and trouble many times over the years. But I always thought that saying was from the Wizard of Oz. Turns out it’s Shakespeare, Macbeth. So I thought I would post this witches scene from Macbeth. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Facsimile of the first page ofMacbeth from the First Folio, published in 1623

220px-FirstFolioMacbeth

Written between 1611-12

First performed in 1623.

Macbeth tells of a man who is deceived by himself and his wife. The play opens with thunder and lightning and the appearance of three witches–supernatural beings. Due to the fact that this is the beginning of the play, the opening Act, it foreshadows the central theme of the play–evil.–Submitted by Shanika

Basically, there are three witches who predict Macbeth’s future; it then plays on his mind when the first prediction comes true–he becomes Thane of Cawdor. Then he would go on to be king. He writes and tells his wife and they were both really excited. When Macbeth gets back to his castle, he and his wife decide that the only way he can become king is if they kill King Duncan. With power gone to his head, Macbeth slowly starts to ‘lose the plot’, as does Lady Macbeth.–Submitted by Anonymous

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

from Macbeth

A dark Cave. In the middle, a Caldron boiling. Thunder.

Enter the three Witches.

1 WITCH.  Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.
2 WITCH.  Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d.
3 WITCH.  Harpier cries:—’tis time! ’tis time!
1 WITCH.  Round about the caldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.—
Toad, that under cold stone,
Days and nights has thirty-one;
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot!
ALL.  Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
2 WITCH.  Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
ALL.  Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
3 WITCH.  Scale of dragon; tooth of wolf;
Witches’ mummy; maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark;
Root of hemlock digg’d i the dark;
Liver of blaspheming Jew;
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse;
Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips;
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,—
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingrediants of our caldron.
ALL.  Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
2 WITCH.  Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

brinded – having obscure dark streaks or flecks on gray
gulf – the throat
drab – prostitute
chaudron – entrails

The above appears at the beginning of Act IV, Scene 1 as found in:

  • Shakespeare, William. The Globe Illustrated Shakespeare: The Complete Works Annotated. Howard Staunton ed. New York: Gramercy Books, 1993.

Summary: Act 1, scene 3

On the heath near the battlefield, thunder rolls and the three witches appear. One says that she has just come from “[k]illing swine” and another describes the revenge she has planned upon a sailor whose wife refused to share her chestnuts. Suddenly a drum beats, and the third witch cries that Macbeth is coming. Macbeth and Banquo, on their way to the king’s court at Forres, come upon the witches and shrink in horror at the sight of the old women. Banquo asks whether they are mortal, noting that they don’t seem to be “inhabitants o’ th’ earth” (1.3.39). He also wonders whether they are really women, since they seem to have beards like men. The witches hail Macbeth as thane of Glamis (his original title) and as thane of Cawdor. Macbeth is baffled by this second title, as he has not yet heard of King Duncan’s decision. The witches also declare that Macbeth will be king one day. Stunned and intrigued, Macbeth presses the witches for more information, but they have turned their attention to Banquo, speaking in yet more riddles. They call Banquo “lesser than Macbeth, and greater,” and “not so happy, yet much happier”; then they tell him that he will never be king but that his children will sit upon the throne (1.3.63–65). Macbeth implores the witches to explain what they meant by calling him thane of Cawdor, but they vanish into thin air.

In disbelief, Macbeth and Banquo discuss the strange encounter. Macbeth fixates on the details of the prophecy. “Your children shall be kings,” he says to his friend, to which Banquo responds: “You shall be king” (1.3.84). Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Ross and Angus, who have come to convey them to the king. Ross tells Macbeth that the king has made him thane of Cawdor, as the former thane is to be executed for treason. Macbeth, amazed that the witches’ prophecy has come true, asks Banquo if he hopes his children will be kings. Banquo replies that devils often tell half-truths in order to “win us to our harm” (1.3.121). Macbeth ignores his companions and speaks to himself, ruminating upon the possibility that he might one day be king. He wonders whether the reign will simply fall to him or whether he will have to perform a dark deed in order to gain the crown. At last he shakes himself from his reverie and the group departs for Forres. As they leave, Macbeth whispers to Banquo that, at a later time, he would like to speak to him privately about what has transpired.

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