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    #1

    scotch the snake, not kill it

    Dear teachers,

    Would you tell me whether I am right with my interpretation of the expression in bold in the following excerpt from the Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”?

    We have scotched the snake, not killed it,
    She’ll close and be herself; whilst our poor malice
    Remain in danger of her former tooth. (Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”)

    Thank you for your efforts.

    Regards,

    V

  1. Tullia's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: scotch the snake, not kill it

    I think you forgot to say what your interpretation was, vil :)

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    #3

    Re: scotch the snake, not kill it

    I beg your pardon.

    scotch the snake, not kill it = to make harmless something temporally; neutralize something./somebody temporally

  2. Munch's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: scotch the snake, not kill it

    I was not sure but I did some googling and this site agrees with you.

    You can read the original text and the modern version side-by-side.

    Sounds reasonable to me.

    Another source.

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    #5

    Re: scotch the snake, not kill it

    Quote Originally Posted by vil View Post
    I beg your pardon.

    scotch the snake, not kill it = to make harmless something temporally; neutralize something./somebody temporally

    Yes you are in the right sort of area for the meaning, but the reason it means that is very literal: "scotch" is a verb (now probably considered archaic) which means to slice/gore/cut.
    I suspect it was a lot more common in Shakespeare's day, of course :)

    "We have wounded the snake but not killed it completely".

    I've also heard that same line with scored or scorched instead of scotched - both variants carry a similar meaning of cut/slash though, so it seems there's some ambiguity over the original word, if not the meaning.

    I've always loved the line (The Scottish Play is one of my favourites generally) as it conjures up for me the image of the Hydra; killing Duncan has beheaded the snake but until his line is also eradicated, it will just grow back again.

    I once saw a practically perfect staging of the play in the ruins of Fountains Abbey at sunset.

    Thanks for your post vil, you just brought back some lovely memories for me.

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    #6

    Re: scotch the snake, not kill it

    It survives somewhat in the phrase "scotch that" or "scotch the plan" meaning to cancel or rule out.

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    #7

    Re: scotch the snake, not kill it

    They have scotched rumors that they are planning a special London show.

    Plans for a merger have been scotched.

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