Lady Macbeth: Deborah Kim
Macbeth: Ashley Kim

Scene Analysis

What happens in your scene?
Macbeth comes back from murdering Duncan, and confusion is created as Lady Macbeth mistakes the sound that Macbeth makes for someone who has foiled their plot - revealing her guilty conscience. Macbeth is unusually jumpy and twitchy, and the guilt that he feels has evidently meddled with his brain and made him slightly delusional. The weight of his conscience has driven him towards craziness and he is slightly hysterical - proclaiming about how he heard voices in his head telling him that he will not sleep, and narrating the scene that took place in the guards' room. Lady Macbeth is frustrated at Macbeth's weakness and by the fact that he did not leave the daggers with the guards - as this is a necessary measure in order to frame them. Macbeth's conscience prevents him from going back and so Lady Macbeth goes back to do this and smears the guards with blood. She berates Macbeth. A knocking interrupts them and they dress in their pajamas so that they may pretend they are innocent.
  • Macbeth murders Duncan
  • Macbeth becomes hysterical and slightly crazy - exclaiming about hallucinations. This is brought on by his guilt
  • Lady Macbeth sees that Macbeth has brought the daggers with him
  • She takes them back and smears the sleeping drugged guards' faces with the blood and leaves the daggers there in order to frame them
  • She berates Macbeth
  • There is a knocking and they both change into pajamas so that no one will suspect them of being awake to witness the murder

What is the purpose/importance of your scene?
The scene is important because it marks the start of the sullying of Macbeth's soul and conscience. The guilt overpowers him and makes him hysterical in a manner that we, as readers, have never seen before this point. He has become stained for the first time - as he mentions that his hands are now stained red in a way that no amount of water (even the entire sea) can wash away. It introduces his insomnia that carries on through the rest of the play and which serves as a sort of symbol of his soul. Sleep symbolizes peacefulness and rest, and so this affliction shows that Macbeth is never at peace nor does he ever feel safe. Instead he is always troubled and restless - always alert, always awake. Later on this scene serves to contrast with Macbeth's personality and his method of dealing with his troubled conscience - by ignoring it and becoming hardened to it. By the end of the play the stain on Macbeth conscience has spread to his entire being and he is a corrupt ruler who is hated by all as a result, whereas at this point his actions and his guilt are traumatizing him

What are your reactions to this scene?
I find this scene interesting as it really enforces Lady Macbeth as the authoritative and stronger figure of the two, as she stays strong through the entire scene and almost sneers at Macbeth's reaction to their deeds, saying "my hands are of your colour, but I shame to wear a heart so white." Another part that I thought was interesting was Macbeth's seeming complete mental breakdown. The fact that his guilt over his actions could manifest in actual maladies of the mind and brain (insomnia) is morbidly fascinating, and it is striking to see how one who was introduced as such a hero at the beginning of the book has been transformed by corruption into a blithering, nervous wreck who is near lunacy and who is hearing voices in his head.

Character Report

What does Macbeth want in this scene?
Above all other things Macbeth wants a clean conscience. He wants to never have murdered Duncan as is demonstrated when he says "wake Duncan with thy knocking! I would thou could'st!" He desires all of the attributes that a clear conscience brings. He wants to be able to sleep, to be at peace with himself and not jump and start at every odd occurrence or noise. He wants his hands to be clean again, and unstained with the permanent sin of murder. This creates the feeling hopelessness in the scene and stirs pity, since none of this can happen, and are, of necessity, unatainable goals that will drive Macbeth to madness the more he longs for them.

What is Macbeth's motivation for doing what he does?
One could argue that since in this scene it tells of Macbeth murdering King Duncan, that it happened in this scene. The motivation for this was the lust for power that Macbeth already had which was fueled by degrading comments from his wife concerning his manliness and the knowledge that the plan would work and that he would not have the responsibility for his actions put on him.
However, the primary focus of the scene is Macbeth's speech to his wife which his wife constantly belittles and disparages. Although the question requires it, I truly believe that at this point Macbeth does not have a motivation for spilling out his heart to his wife. He evidently would know that his wife would not sympathize with him, and from his prior experience would already be aware of what his wife's reaction would be to this show of "weakness". There is nothing to be gained from what he does, and he would instead receive more insults. The only possible motivation I can deduce is that he realizes that he did a terrible wrong and wants to punish himself by listening to his wife's insults of him. However, this does not seem likely to me, and is actually a practice from a time far earlier than Shakespeare. I think that most likely Macbeth has just become slightly crazy due to the immense amount of guilt and blood on his conscience and has - in a manner of speaking - "cracked". The guilt that is pressing on him and the enormity of what he has done causes him to behave like a lunatic verging on hysteria, saying whatever is on his mind.

What obstacles stand in his way?
The obstacles that stand between Macbeth and what he wants - a clear conscience - are his own actions. The actions that he has taken and the choices that he has made have ultimately sealed his own fate, and the guilt and inner turmoil that he feels are all ramifications of his actions. He cannot reach a state of peace again because he knows what he has done, and no amount of washing or decrying can change this. It is in this way, an insurmountable obstacle.

What happens when your character confronts these obstacles?
When Macbeth begins to think of what he has done and reflect upon it he in essence becomes crazy and begins to blather on and on in a manner verging on hysteria. He realizes that what he has done is wrong and knows that eventually there will be a price, yet he can do nothing about it. No matter how much he wants to, Macbeth is not able to overcome the obstacle that is himself, and his own actions.

Are there any distinct elements in Macbeth's way of speaking?
Macbeth is by no means an eloquent speaker in this scene, and although he is not uneducated and does not use completely simplistic words (for instance he uses "incarnadine"), he does use more direct wording than Shakespeare usually uses in his plays. His speech seems inconsistent and jumpy - jumping from one subject to the next with no natural transitions. He strings phrases together into long streams of babbled exclamations and this in conjunction with the manner in which he talks - verging on near hysteria - creates the feeling of lunacy in his character in this scene. However, there are some lines in which the wording, and the bluntness of the passage make it seem as though for this period at least he is able to see through the madness and guilt that clouds his brain, making him hallucinate, and is able to see the situation for what it is. "Macbeth shall sleep no more" seems almost reflective.

What is Macbeth's subtext?
He is feeling guilt and expresses it too. There is no subtext for he says what he means. For once in the play a character does not have up a false shield around them, and it is interesting to see the outcome.

Student Reflection

  • Evaluate the performance of your group. What went well? What didn’t go well?
    • I think what went well was that our props worked well - such as the bloody hands -, we were able to deliver our lines with conviction, we were able to work effectively with each other and we had planned out most of our actions so during the actual performance we knew exactly what to do. Our costumes were successful since we put a lot of effort and time into considering what would compliment our respective characters the best, and as a result it turned out well. However we forgot one prop - which did not go well. Yet this was easily fixed and no one really seemed to notice.
  • How well did you contribute to your group?
    • I contributed to my group well since we both did the same amount of work. We divided up the lines equally and we divided up the responsibilities such as the props very efficiently. We both worked to make the scene as realistic as possible and I think we worked well together - furthermore it was easier since it was only a group of two.
  • How well did you perform as an individual?
    • I think I performed as best I could and I delivered the lines with the emotion that I saw fitting to the character. A lot of people characterized Macbeth as intense in this scene but I saw him as some sort of lunatic who was blabbering on with his crazed conscience, and I tried to portray this interpretation of Macbeth as well as I could
  • What could have improved your scene performance?
    • We could have timed the knocking scene more accurately by practicing with Andrew prior to the performance.
  • How did the scene performance help you better understand the play.
    • Acting out the scene allowed me to visualize it and it forced me to look into Macbeth's character and try to figure out his inner psyche and what sort of person he was. It helped me to better understand Macbeth and through analyzing his interactions with others and his interaction with himself (soliloquies) I was able to come to conclusions about Macbeth as a whole.