This is one of the famous speeches of Shakespeare delivered a famous character, Macbeth in the play of the same title. He says this to indicate that another day in his life would be just futile and monotonous crawl towards the inescapable end, “To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-“morrow,/Creeps in this petty pace from day to day”(Act-V, Scene-V). In this soliloquy, Macbeth mourns his meaningless life and time after his wife’s death. He states that life is full of events and action, however, absurd and short and completely meaningless at the end.
The meaning of this phrase is that life is meaningless, useless and empty and every day is just creeping like other days, which have passed. After his wife, time seems to Macbeth an intolerable burden and future an overwhelming force that leads him to his destiny, opposite of conventional and easy future he had fantasized with his wife before murdering King Duncan. After the death of Lady Macbeth, he feels his future hopelessly tedious and empty, while life looks ridiculously short.
The use of this phrase is common in literary language; however, you can use it in your everyday life. For instance, if a person’s closed one or a loved one dies, then suddenly this tragedy would make his life empty and colorless without the presence of that loved one. He would feel his every day of life useless and meaning like Macbeth. Similarly, a lover who parts with his beloved may also use this phrase to express the meaninglessness of his life without her.
Shakespeare has used this phrase in Macbeth‘s famous soliloquy in Act-V, Scene-V. The repetition of the words, “tomorrow, tomorrow” expresses growing madness of Macbeth as given below in the speech;
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
(Macbeth, Act V, Scene V, Lines 19-28)
Macbeth hears the news of his wife’s death and audience sees conclusion of his life, devoid of meaning and filled with struggles. He feels days on earth are very short like a “brief candle” and like an ignorant move towards the fruitless end. The life of a person is flimsy similar to the life of an actor playing minor roles in comic and absurd dramas.
The theme of this line is time, fate, fortune and war. When Macbeth hears that his wife is dead, he takes his indifference to the occasion. For him, death is merely a last act of the bad play, and like an idiot’s story full of melodrama and bombast, but meaningless. Killing King Duncan and taking hold of his throne and now viewing all this in the past memories, seem to be the scene of a well-planned script. If human life is a bad play, then it is an illusion — just a shadow spread by a candle, which is perhaps soul, and hence prediction for the life of Macbeth is grim.
- Metaphor: Repetition of tomorrow is a metaphor for meaningless life.
- Repetition: The world tomorrow has been repeated three times to create powerful effects.