Macbeth Act 2.1-2.2

2.1 Summary SummaryAs Macbeth makes his way toward the king’s bedchamber, he encounters Banquo with his son Fleance. Banquo has been unable to sleep and explains to Macbeth that he has been dreaming of the weird sisters. After arranging to meet again in order to discuss the matter, Banquo asserts his allegiance to the king and bids good night to Macbeth. No sooner is Macbeth alone, than he has an extraordinary experience. Either in the heat of the moment or through some supernatural visitation, he sees a ghostly dagger indicating the way to the Duncan. Convinced that “there’s no such thing,” he climbs to the king’s chamber.
2.1 Analysis AnalysisThe opening dialogue sets the scene: It is past midnight, the moon has set, and the “candles” of heaven — the stars — cannot be seen. Symbolically, the airy lightness that greeted Duncan’s arrival at the castle in Act I has completely vanished, to be replaced by brooding darkness.In this opening scene of Act II, as in the later Porter scene, the audience feels momentarily suspended from the action but in no way removed from the intensity of emotion as the innocent Banquo and his son pass the time of night. The moment at which Banquo so very nearly draws his sword on a potential intruder (actually Macbeth) is a master-stroke of dramatic irony: Banquo has no idea of what the audience knows.The dagger speechThe dagger speech (32-65) is, deservedly, one of the most celebrated in Shakespeare. Like “If it were done” (Act I, Scene 7), this soliloquy is a fascinating piece of stage psychology. The structure of the lines precisely echoes the swings from lucidity to mental disturbance that characterize Macbeth throughout the play. There are three false alarms: “I see thee still . . . I see thee yet . . . I see thee still!” Between each of these alarms comes a moment of respite in which Macbeth appeals to the world of the physical senses: “Art thou not . . . sensible to feeling?” “Mine eyes are made the fools of the other senses,” and “It is the bloody business which informs thus to mine eyes.”Nevertheless, as in the earlier scene with his wife, Macbeth eventually capitulates. The urge to become king is now strong in him. In his final lines, as he ascends to the king’s chamber, he imagines himself as the personification of Murder itself, stealthily making its way towards its victim. The change of tone to one of high rhetoric and classical allusion (Hecate, Tarquin) may seem out of place, but not if we imagine Macbeth putting on a “mask” of language in preparation for the murder. The distinction between word and deed in the last line is an idea that occurs frequently in Shakespeare. What we say and what we do are frequently very different matters. But in the final couplet, Macbeth seems to transfer his own doubts concerning the afterlife to Duncan: Whether the king will go to heaven or hell is now an academic matter; ironically, for Macbeth himself, the outcome is likely to be more certain.
2.1 GlossaryGlossaryhusbandry in heaven (4) cleave to my consent (25) augment (27) dudgeon (46) gouts (46) Hecate (52) Tarquin (46) prate (58) Glossaryhusbandry in heaven (4) the gods are economical with their starlightcleave to my consent (25) approve of my planaugment (27) supportdudgeon (46) handlegouts (46) dropsHecate (52) goddess of witchcraftTarquin (46) murderous king of Romeprate (58) prattle
2.1 Questions
2.2 Summary SummaryHaving drugged the guards of Duncan’s chamber, Lady Macbeth now meets her husband in the lower courtyard as he emerges from the king’s room itself. Macbeth’s conscience is clearly disturbed by what he has done, and once more his wife criticizes his lack of firmness. The success of their plot is also in jeopardy because Macbeth has brought the daggers with him. Lady Macbeth returns to the scene of the murder in order to place the daggers and to smear the king’s sleeping servants with blood, a deed that presents her with none of the horror that now affects Macbeth. As the scene closes, we hear, with the Macbeths, a loud and persistent knocking at the door.AnalysisLady Macbeth’s opening words introduce a new level of emotional intensity. Fear of failure has been replaced with fear of discovery, and even though she describes herself as drunk with boldness and on fire with passion, she is just as easily alarmed as her husband is by the tiniest noises and movements. Her swift changes of thought and speech foreshadow the language of her final lapse into madness in the sleepwalking scene (Act V, Scene 1), when she relives these same moments.Yet, despite all this, Lady Macbeth appears to be sufficiently hardened to the deed to be able to make several horribly ironic comments, including the observation that she would have committed the murder herself, had she not been put off the idea by the resemblance of the sleeping king to her own father. Note the similarity of this line — by which she seems to excuse something lacking in herself — with her earlier taunt to Macbeth that she would have dashed out the brains of her own child had she sworn to do so. The fact is that what Lady Macbeth would do her husband has actually done. The total reversal of roles that she anticipated cannot now occur because, despite his stricken conscience, Macbeth has done what she could never do.The quick-fire dialogue and fragmented line structure in this part of the scene denote a sense of frightened urgency in both characters. Macbeth’s concern centers on two major areas. First, he believes he has “murder’d sleep.” Sleep, he argues, ought to bring physical calm in the same way that prayer soothes the spirit. But in his case, the ability both to pray and to sleep has been cancelled. Macbeth is haunted by the knowledge that he will never again rest easy in his own bed: “Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor / Shall sleep no more, Macbeth shall sleep no more!” (41-42). Lady Macbeth, refusing to accept such “brainsickly” thoughts, reminds Macbeth of the familiar comparison that “the sleeping and the dead / Are but as pictures.” Ironically, she is the one who will be kept from sleeping by the picture of death long after it has left Macbeth’s mind.The second area of Macbeth’s concern is the bloodiness of the deed and specifically the fact that his own hands bear witness to the unnatural deed of murder. Again, for Lady Macbeth, blood is only like paint used to daub the picture of death and can be easily washed off. But Macbeth is aware of the deep stain beneath the surface. His capacity for recognizing the grand scale of his action, which foreshadows his later remark that he is “in blood stepped in so far,” is missing in Lady Macbeth.At this point, the knocking begins. Like the beating of the heart in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the noise is partly the knocking of their consciences and partly an actual exterior knocking. Symbolically, the knocking is the knocking of justice, or of vengeance.Glossarybellman (3) man who summoned condemned prisonerssurfeited (5) drunktheir charge (6) that is, Duncansecond course (38) that is, at the banquet of lifegild (55) paint them with golden bloodincarnadine (61) make red
2.2 Analysis AnalysisLady Macbeth’s opening words introduce a new level of emotional intensity. Fear of failure has been replaced with fear of discovery, and even though she describes herself as drunk with boldness and on fire with passion, she is just as easily alarmed as her husband is by the tiniest noises and movements. Her swift changes of thought and speech foreshadow the language of her final lapse into madness in the sleepwalking scene (Act V, Scene 1), when she relives these same moments.Yet, despite all this, Lady Macbeth appears to be sufficiently hardened to the deed to be able to make several horribly ironic comments, including the observation that she would have committed the murder herself, had she not been put off the idea by the resemblance of the sleeping king to her own father. Note the similarity of this line — by which she seems to excuse something lacking in herself — with her earlier taunt to Macbeth that she would have dashed out the brains of her own child had she sworn to do so. The fact is that what Lady Macbeth would do her husband has actually done. The total reversal of roles that she anticipated cannot now occur because, despite his stricken conscience, Macbeth has done what she could never do.The quick-fire dialogue and fragmented line structure in this part of the scene denote a sense of frightened urgency in both characters. Macbeth’s concern centers on two major areas:1) First, he believes he has “murder’d sleep.” Sleep, he argues, ought to bring physical calm in the same way that prayer soothes the spirit. But in his case, the ability both to pray and to sleep has been cancelled. Macbeth is haunted by the knowledge that he will never again rest easy in his own bed: “Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor / Shall sleep no more, Macbeth shall sleep no more!” (41-42). Lady Macbeth, refusing to accept such “brainsickly” thoughts, reminds Macbeth of the familiar comparison that: “the sleeping and the dead / Are but as pictures.” Ironically, she is the one who will be kept from sleeping by the picture of death long after it has left Macbeth’s mind.2) The second area of Macbeth’s concern is the bloodiness of the deed and specifically the fact that his own hands bear witness to the unnatural deed of murder. Again, for Lady Macbeth, blood is only like paint used to daub the picture of death and can be easily washed off. But Macbeth is aware of the deep stain beneath the surface. His capacity for recognizing the grand scale of his action, which foreshadows his later remark that he is “in blood stepped in so far,” is missing in Lady Macbeth.Significance of the Knocking:At this point, the knocking begins. Like the beating of the heart in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the noise is partly the knocking of their consciences and partly an actual exterior knocking. Symbolically, the knocking is the knocking of justice, or of vengeance.
2.2 Glossarybellman (3) surfeited (5) that is, Duncansecond course (38) tgild (55) incarnadine (61) Glossarybellman (3) man who summoned condemned prisonerssurfeited (5) drunktheir charge (6) that is, Duncansecond course (38) that is, at the banquet of lifegild (55) paint them with golden bloodincarnadine (61) make red
2.2 Questions

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