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Free Barron's Booknotes-Macbeth by William Shakespeare-Free Book Notes
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This scene shows us what has happened to the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. We remember how close they were at the beginning of the play. Macbeth rushed home to tell his wife about the witches' predictions, and everything they did, they did together.


Lady Macbeth does not know why Macbeth keeps so much to himself these days. You can tell that she is not enjoying the fruits of their murder any more than he is. But while he is concerned about Banquo, she is mainly concerned about him.

LINES 8-56

Lady Macbeth tries to get through to her husband. She scolds him for brooding so much: "Why do you keep alone, / Of sorriest fancies your companions making?" (lines 8-9). She sees his conscience is bothering him. As she did right after the murder, she urges him to be practical: "Things without all remedy / Should be without regard: what's done is done" (lines 11-12).

That may be good advice, and Macbeth probably wishes he could take it. He is thinking about Duncan. Macbeth says that, while he himself can't sleep because of horrible nightmares, Duncan "sleeps well" (line 23). Macbeth actually envies the man he killed. Since Macbeth is partly a morality play, it is perfectly in keeping that a good man who is dead is happier than an evil man who is still alive.

But Macbeth is not tortured only by his past. As we know, he is worried about the future, too. He reminds his wife that Banquo and Fleance are alive. Though Lady Macbeth seems more worried about whether Macbeth will be able to cover up his feelings at the banquet tonight than she is about Banquo and his son, she tries to comfort her husband. Appropriately enough for her, the comfort takes the form of reminding him that Banquo and Fleance can be killed.

Macbeth's response to that suggestion demonstrates how their relationship has changed. He hints that the murder has already been arranged, but he does not take her into his confidence. He conjures night to "Scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day" and to "tear to pieces" Banquo's fate with its "bloody and invisible hand" (lines 47-48).

Shakespeare suggests that Lady Macbeth is amazed by the change in her husband. Macbeth says to her, "Thou marvel'st at my words" (line 54). We do not know why she reacts that way, but it could very well be that she did not know he had so much evil in him.


Trying to express how he feels, Macbeth says, "O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!" (line 36). Can you think of any stronger way to convey his feeling? The line is made even more poignant by the fact he addresses her as "dear wife." Knowing how he feels, can you wonder why he keeps to himself?

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