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This is taken from Shakespeare's Macbeth, and I am having difficulty comprehending what this means. Can someone please put it into normal English, with all explanations?

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+1, very nice question –  Unreason Jul 5 '11 at 10:24

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

While searching for exact text around those lines (don't remember Macbeth by heart, sorry) stumbled upon this comment:

to be king is nothing, unless, as king, you are safe.

Shakespeare-online

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and library.thinkquest.org/2888/essay.html and enotes.com/macbeth-text/act-iii-scene-i which state the same –  JoseK Jul 5 '11 at 10:08
    
Thanks for the links. Makes comprehension a whole lot easier. –  Thursagen Jul 5 '11 at 10:21
    
@JoseK: I caution wariness of the enotes translations: in this instance the translation is good, but in many places they are just wrong, and some of the most confusing bits they don't bother to translate at all. –  Colin Fine Jul 5 '11 at 13:29
    
Arguably, to be king without being safe is actually worse than nothing. Kings, emporers, etc. are far more likely to be assassinated than commoners. –  FumbleFingers Sep 6 '11 at 22:24

In modern terms, what matters is to be in a defensible position. It doesn't matter if you are king or head of an organization. You can be toppled unless you are in a defensible position.

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I would assume that it means that being thus affords you nothing apart from the safety of knowing that you are thus.

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No. In context it is not that at all. –  Colin Fine Jul 5 '11 at 13:25

protected by Will Hunting Nov 13 '12 at 1:49

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