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?


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.


  • 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. 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.


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

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

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