home contact

Macbeth Glossary

First Witch. When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain? (1-2)

Here the Witches are not asking about the type of weather in which they should next meet, but when they should next meet. Interestingly, these lines follow the punctuation set by an early editor of the play. In Shakespeare's First Folio (1623), we have instead:
When shall we three meet again?
In Thunder, Lightning, or in Rain?
Allan Park Paton, in The tragedy of Macbeth: according to the first folio explains:
These lines are thus printed in the Folio of 1623, with a mark of interrogation after each, and, having the author's blotless manuscript before them, we cannot think it possible that Heminge and Condell could have allowed a mistake to occur in the printing of the very first line of the work, and must, therefore, believe that it is the Poet's mark of interrogation, religiously retained through the three succeeding Folios, which stands there. Yet Sir Thomas Hanmer removed it, as if it were a slip on the part of the printer, and in all the modern editions that we are acquainted with, the lines run:
When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
which is a different thing. It seems to us that Shakespeare could not manage without the two marks of interrogation, odd as they look: that he found it necessary so to arrange the lines, to tell his meaning, which was: "All our meetings are in thunder, lightning, or in rain, when shall our next be?" not, "We meet sometimes under other elemental circumstances, but when shall we meet again in thunder, lightning, or in rain?" and this opportunity may be taken to note the importance of remembering, as we study the 1623 Folio, that, though occasionally confused through obvious misprinting, we have before us there, Shakespeare's pointing, as well as his words.

Back to Macbeth (1.1)

How to cite this article:
Mabillard, Amanda. Macbeth Glossary. Shakespeare Online. 20 Oct. 2013. < >.

Further Reading
Shakespeare, William. The tragedy of Macbeth: according to the first folio (spelling modernised). Ed. Allan Park Paton. Edinburgh: Edmonston & Co., 1877.


Research Your Topic

 Explanatory Notes for Lady Macbeth's Soliloquy (1.5)
 The Psychoanalysis of Lady Macbeth (Sleepwalking Scene)
 Is Lady Macbeth's Swoon Real?

 Explanatory Notes for the Witches' Chants (4.1)
 Macbeth Plot Summary (Acts 1 and 2)
 Macbeth Plot Summary (Acts 3, 4 and 5)
 How to Stage a Production of Macbeth (Scene Suggestions)

 A Comparison of Macbeth and Hamlet
 The Effect of Lady Macbeth's Death on Macbeth
 The Curse of Macbeth
 On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth

 Macbeth Q & A
 Essay Topics on Macbeth
 Aesthetic Examination Questions on Macbeth
 What is Tragic Irony?

 Stages of Plot Development in Macbeth
 Time Analysis of the Action in Macbeth
 Macbeth Study Quiz (with detailed answers)
 Quotations from Macbeth (Full)
 Top 10 Quotations from Macbeth

 Shakespeare's Workmanship: Crafting a Sympathetic Macbeth
 Origin of the Weird Sisters
 Temptation, Sin, Retribution: Lecture Notes on Macbeth
 Alchemy and Astrology in Shakespeare's Day

 Characteristics of Elizabethan Tragedy
 Why Shakespeare is so Important
 Shakespeare's Language
 Shakespeare's Influence on Other Writers

 Daily Life in Shakespeare's London
 Life in Stratford (structures and guilds)
 Life in Stratford (trades, laws, furniture, hygiene)
 Stratford School Days: What Did Shakespeare Read?

 Games in Shakespeare's England [A-L]
 Games in Shakespeare's England [M-Z]
 An Elizabethan Christmas
 Clothing in Elizabethan England

 Queen Elizabeth: Shakespeare's Patron
 King James I of England: Shakespeare's Patron
 The Earl of Southampton: Shakespeare's Patron
 Going to a Play in Elizabethan London

 Ben Jonson and the Decline of the Drama
 Publishing in Elizabethan England
 Shakespeare's Audience
 Religion in Shakespeare's England

 Entertainment in Elizabethan England
 London's First Public Playhouse
 Shakespeare Hits the Big Time

More to Explore

 Macbeth: The Complete Play with Critical Notes
 The Theme of Macbeth
 The Metre of Macbeth: Blank Verse and Rhymed Lines

 Macbeth Character Introduction
 Metaphors in Macbeth (Biblical)
 Figures of Speech in Macbeth

 The Three Apparitions in Macbeth
 Supernatural Solicitings in Shakespeare
 Shakespeare on Omens

 Macbeth, Duncan and Shakespeare's Changes
 Contemporary References to King James I in Macbeth
 The Royal Patent that Changed Shakespeare's Life

 Soliloquy Analysis: If it were done when 'tis done (1.7.1-29)
 Soliloquy Analysis: Is this a dagger (2.1.33-61)
 Soliloquy Analysis: To be thus is nothing (3.1.47-71)
 Soliloquy Analysis: She should have died hereafter (5.5.17-28)