Macbeth Quotes

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

– William Shakespeare

Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5. After hearing of his wife’s death, Macbeth delivers what is his final and the most important soliloquy in this tragedy about unbridled ambition. One of the most powerful and famous speeches in all of Shakespeare, it expresses Macbeth’s despairing and nihilistic worldview. He reflects on the futility and illusory nature of life, seeing everything we do as leading inexorably to the grave. While achieving his ambition of seizing the Scottish throne, he ends up alone and isolated, viewing life as meaningless and “Signifying nothing.” Thousands of enemy soldiers are knocking at his castle gates and his insane wife has committed suicide. This scene marks the beginning of the end of Macbeth and his tyrannical reign. The passage has examples of some of Shakespeare’s best imagery and figurative language. The repetition of “to-morrow” is a metaphor for meaningless life. “To-morrow” is also personified as a living thing which “Creeps,” with our days depicted as moving slowly along and leading to inevitable death. “Syllable” is a metaphor for time and life, as they are compared to a word from a book or story. We have personification in “all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death,” meaning our pasts show us the way to our deaths. The soliloquy ends with a flourish of extraordinary metaphors, including theatrical, in which life is variously likened to a “brief candle,” “walking shadow,” “poor player” and “tale.”