MACBETH Thou losest labour.
As easy mayst thou the intrenchant air
With thy keen sword impress as make me bleed.
Let fall thy blade on vulnerable crests.
I bear a charmèd life, which must not yield
To one of woman born.
MACDUFF Despair thy charm,
And let the angel whom thou still hast served
Tell thee Macduff was from his mother’s womb
Untimely ripped. (5.10.9-17)
They’ve been fighting fiercely; lots of choices as to who might have the upper hand at this moment, or whether (and this might be preferable) they’ve disengaged to catch their breath, reassess, and taunt. Or they’re going at it, shouting at each other over the clash of swords, or as they wrestle. (Hard to get right, better to stop and breathe.) Thou losest labour, says Macbeth, you’re wasting your effort and your time, putting in all this hard work for nothing (you loser), he taunts Macduff. You might as well be trying to cut the air, the intrenchant, uncuttable, unimpressible air with that sharp, keen sword of yours as make me bleed. You can’t leave a dent, a scratch on me! Go off and fight someone where you might actually have a chance of doing some damage; let fall thy blade on vulnerable crests, helmets (and heads, and bodies) which are capable of being wounded. I’m invincible, invulnerable! I bear a charmed life, which must not yield to one of woman born. That’s my superpower! I’m un-killable by any normal human being! I can’t die!
Despair thy charm, responds Macduff, grimly, ominously, fell and laconic. Not so fast; your time is up. And let the angel—heavy irony, the devil, the evil one—whom thou still has served, relentlessly, unashamedly, right from the start and in every action, every moment, you hell-hound—let your master tell you this: Macduff was from his mother’s womb untimely ripped. I wasn’t—technically speaking—of woman born. (This is not the moment to be quibbling about the validity, nature and terminology of c-sections.) Untimely ripped, after my mother’s death, or else when her death was certain, come into the world in a welter of blood and violence, ripped, reckless, my life gambled and saved. I survived, and I’m here, your nemesis. Prepare to die.