Science in Literature: ‘Double, double toil and trouble…’

‘…Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.’

In this famous scene from Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’, the three witches huddle around their cauldron in a cave, creating a dark and dangerous atmosphere to precede the arrival of Macbeth himself.

The witches’ potion-brewing may remind you more of Hogwarts than your average BGS Chemistry lesson, although the building tension as they add ingredients to the gruesome mixture certainly does bear some similarity to the excitement of starting a new experiment and wondering what will happen.

From Macbeth – William Shakespeare

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Scale of dragon; tooth of wolf;
Witches’ mummy; maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark;
Root of hemlock digg’d i’th’dark;
Liver of blaspheming Jew;
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse;
Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips;
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,—
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

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