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Macbeth Soliloquy Glossary: If it were done when 'tis done... (1.7.1-29)

trammel up (3)
If the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch,
With his surcease, success;
trammel up] i.e., to entangle in a net from which nothing can break free.

surcease ] stop or conclude

To paraphrase: If the assassination could net up the consequence and catch success by Duncan's demise (his surcease).

However, Shakespeare often used his to mean its and so many editors argue his does not refer to Duncan, but to consequence. 1 Then we have: If the murder could prevent its own consequence, and catch success by the stop of that consequence. Here his = the consequence's. This reading seems unnecessarily convoluted.


1. Furness, Rolfe and Elwin believe his refers to consequence, Hudson believes his refers to the assassination and Chambers takes his to mean Duncan's.

Back to Soliloquy Annotations

How to cite this article:
Mabillard, Amanda. Macbeth Soliloquy Glossary. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2008. < >.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Macbeth. Ed. Edmund Kerchever Chambers. Boston: D. C. Heath, 1905.
Shakespeare, William. A new variorum edition of Shakespeare: Macbeth revised edition. Ed. Horace Howard Furness. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1915.
Shakespeare, William. Shakespeare's Tragedy of Macbeth. Ed. Henry Norman Hudson. Boston. Ginn, 1899.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Macbeth Ed. William James Rolfe. New York: American Book Company, 1898.


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On the Theme of Macbeth ... "With unmistakable clearness [Shakespeare] shows that the real punishment of the criminal is not that which is meted out to him by the hand of man. This may be painful, humiliating, terrible, but it is soon over. His true punishment is that which is worked by his own hand into his own life and character for all eternity; a degradation and perversion of nature which he can never struggle against successfully. A man who yields to temptation and commits a crime may conceal it from all human knowledge; but he has planted the seeds of a retribution in his own breast from which he cannot escape." Charles W. French. Read on...