What is the meaning of double double toil and trouble?

'Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble' is one of the most famous lines in English literature. These lines are spoken in unison by three witches who predict Macbeth's future throughout the play. These lines show how what the witches say can have double meanings and can be contradictory.
A.

What is the meaning of By the pricking of my thumbs?

pricking of one's thumbs. The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. pricking of one's thumbs an intuitive feeling, a foreboding, often with allusion to the words of the Second Witch in Shakespeare's Macbeth (1606) as Macbeth approaches, 'By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes.'
  • What is Macduff's reaction to death of his family?

    In Act IV, Scene III, when Macduff learns of his family's slaughter, he reacts with sorrow and grief. He talks about the grief that "does not speak," and states that his heart is breaking. He also feels guilty; he thinks his family was killed because of his actions, not their own: They were all struck. . .
  • What is Macbeth's reaction to his wife's death?

    Macbeth's reaction to the news that his wife is dead is sadness mixed with regret. He says, "She should have died hereafter; / There would have been a time for such a word." He means that he wishes she would have died when he had the time to properly mourn her.
  • Is Macduff Banquo's son?

    Presumably, he may come to rule Scotland, fulfilling the witches' prophecy that Banquo's sons will sit on the Scottish throne. The Murderers - A group of ruffians conscripted by Macbeth to murder Banquo, Fleance (whom they fail to kill), and Macduff's wife and children. Lady Macduff - Macduff's wife.
B.

Who said something wicked this way comes?

Like so many good things, the title of Bradbury's novel comes from Shakespeare. In Act 4, Scene 1 of Macbeth, one of the witches in the play exclaims: By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes.
  • Why does Macbeth come to see the witches this time?

    During the banquet in Act III, Scene IV, Macbeth learns that Banquo has been killed (as he ordered) but that Fleance, Banquo's son, has escaped. For Macbeth, then, seeing the witches again is important because it will help him to determine whether Fleance is indeed a threat to his throne.
  • Who says this out damned spot out I say?

    In this scene, we find Lady Macbeth sleepwalking through the castle, hallucinating and rubbing her hands together as if she is washing them. She says: Out, damned spot!
  • Who said I bear a charmed life?

    Macbeth has a "charmed life", he says and no-one born of a woman can kill him. Macduff tells Macbeth to forget about his "charmed life".
C.

Who said when our actions do not?

Lady Macduff says that "when our actions do not, / Our fears do make us traitors."
  • Why was Macduff's family killed?

    Macduff is in England helping Malcolm build an army. Malcolm is the son of Duncan, who Macbeth killed. Macbeth knows that Macduff's loyalties don't lie with him, and this makes him angry. He sends his murderers to kill Macduff's family.
  • Why did Macduff leave his family behind?

    In Act 4, Scene 3, Malcolm asks Macduff this very same question. Firstly, Macduff leaves his family because he is deeply perturbed that his beloved Scotland keeps suffering under the tyrannical rule of Macbeth. His love towards his country is the primary reason he has to leave his family: Bleed, bleed, poor country!
  • Who is Ross in the play Macbeth?

    Ross is Macduff's cousin and initially a loyal Scottish noble. We first meet Ross in Act 1 of the play when he delivers the news of Macbeth's victory over the King of Norway to King Duncan. Later in Act 1, it is Ross who first greets Macbeth after the witches tell him that he will one day be king.

Updated: 16th October 2018

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