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Macbeth Glossary

As sparrows... (1.2.40)

The Captain is speaking ironically here. Here is a paraphrase of the entire passage:

Shakespeare's Passage

As sparrows eagles, or the hare the lion.
If I say sooth, I must report they were
As cannons overcharged with double cracks, so they
Doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe:
Except they meant to bathe in reeking wounds,
Or memorize another Golgotha,
I cannot tell.
But I am faint, my gashes cry for help.

Yes (speaking ironically);
As sparrows fear eagles, or the hare fears the lion (i.e. not at all).
If I speak truthfully, I must report they were
Like cannons loaded with a double charge, they exploded,
Doubling their efforts against the enemy:
Unless their purpose was total carnage,
Or to make the field a place of skulls,
I cannot understand what motivated them to fight so hard.
But I am faint, my wounds need mending.

Back to Macbeth (1.2)

How to cite this article:
Mabillard, Amanda. Macbeth Glossary. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2009. < >.


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"Nowhere is Shakespeare's analysis of human character more keen and exhaustive. Not content with tracing the outward manifestations of guilt and its human punishment he penetrates the innermost chambers of life, and discloses the purposes and motives which dwell therein. The gradual loss of reputation, influence, and honor, and the gathering power of vengeance are but the manifestations of a more fearful process which is being wrought in the heart, and is reaching out through all the functions and relations of life." Charles W. French. Read on...


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