Macbeth: Study Guide Questions, Act V

What does Lady Macbeth talk about while she is sleepwalking? She talks about the stain and smell of blood on her hands, and that she can’t remove it
What events do Lady Macbeth’s words refer to in the first scene of Act V? The murders of King Duncan, Lady Macduff, and Banquo, and Macbeth’s complaint about not being able to wash away the blood with an ocean after he kills the king
What does the sleepwalking scene reveal about Lady Macbeth? She is so tortured by guilt that her mind dwells constantly on the crimes
Why does the gentlewoman refuse to disclose what she has overheard Lady Macbeth say? She’s probably afraid she will be killed for what she has heard already
What does Lady Macbeth do with her hands while she walks in her sleep? She continually rubs her hands together to ‘wash’ the blood off
Why does Macbeth not fear death at the hands of the rebel army? Because he has faith in the witches’ prophecies
What is a tragedy? A literary work in which the main character, or hero, suffers a downfall as a result of a character flaw or an error of judgment
What is a tragic hero? A person of high rank who violates a human, natural, or divine law
What is Macbeth’s tragic flaw? Ambition, an unchecked desire for power, is Macbeth’s tragic flaw
What does the “tomorrow” soliloquy reveal about Macbeth? A sense that life is meaningless
How do Caithness and Angus describe Macbeth’s state of mind? Caithness says that Macbeth is either insane or in a rage, while Angus says his deeds have come back to haunt him
Why do Malcolm and Macduff believe their army will be victorious over that of Macbeth’s? They believe Macbeth’s army is only doing what they are commanded to do, and not out of any love for Macbeth–they’re no more than mercenaries
What is the significance of Macbeth feeling “his title hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe upon a dwarfish thief”? This is part of the motif of the play, the recurring imagery of ill-fitting clothing
Why does Macbeth not fear Malcolm or his forces in Scene 3 of the last act of the play? None of woman born can harm him, and he’s safe until Birnam Wood marches to his castle at Dunsinane
What happens in Scene 3 that reminds us that Macbeth is still the tragic hero we met in Act I? He says that he will fight till his bones are hacked from his flesh, unafraid of doing battle with the enemy
Why is it ironic that Macbeth asks the doctor to diagnose his country’s ailment? The ailment is Macbeth himself, and his seizure of power
When Malcolm bids his troops to take a bough from a tree and carry them as they approach Dunsinane, of what literary device is this an example, and why? Dramatic irony–we know what this means and they don’t–and foreshadowing
How does Macbeth react when he hears of the death of Lady Macbeth? He wishes it could have happened at a time when he could mourn her properly
What metaphors does Shakespeare use to convey Macbeth’s attitude toward life after Lady Macbeth’s death? He describes life as a brief candle, a bad actor, and a tale told by and idiot–loud and angry, but meaningless
Why does Macbeth decide to leave the safety of his castle at Dunsinane and attack his enemy? He realizes he was blinded by ambition and the approach of “Birnam Wood” shows the prophecies are coming true
How are the prophecies fulfilled in Act V? Birnham Wood marches on Dunsinane, and Macbeth should have avoided Macduff, who was not of woman born, having been delivered by Caesarian section
What dramatic function do the prophecies of the apparitions serve in Acts IV & V? The prophecies intensify the tragic flaw in Macbeth’s character, his ambition
Did Macbeth’s death “set everything right”? Social order is restored, but the suffering caused by Macbeth can never be undone
Why does Macbeth say he won’t fight with Macduff in the battle? Macbeth has already done enough to Macduff by having his family murdered
Why does Macbeth fight to the death against Macduff? Macbeth fights Macduff to the death because he prefers an honourable defeat to a humiliating surrender
Who kills Macbeth? Macduff, the Thane of Fife

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