|Elisabet Ney: Lady Macbeth, Detail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
The scene of Duncan’s murder isn’t performed on the stage. There is two long soliloquies before the murder which reflects Macbeth’s inner conflicts. Consequently, it will be too melodramatic to make the murder takes place on the stage as it will ruin its effect. Moreover, the play is a tragic play, not a melodramatic one. Furthermore, if the murder takes place on the stage, Macbeth will be a complete villain. So Shakespeare chooses that way to add to his nobility. He never commit a murder on the stage, and the ones that takes place on the stage are done by his orders only. In that way, Shakespeare tries to redeem (to make something less bad) him as a tragic hero not a complete villain. Thus, the audience sympathize with his state of panic, regret and remorse. To sum up, melodramatic is counter productor as it shows too much bloody scenes. That’s way Shakespeare makes the murder off stage.
The representation of Lady Macbeth is a reflection to the starting point of the idea of realism in the twentieth century.
Why is the murder of Duncan a cycle of evil that starts to revolve?
Macbeth will kill many people after this murder like Banquo, Macduff and his wife. Moreover, Duncan is the representation of divine monarchy. His murder violates the divine right. Thus, this scene is full of tension. They are panic and afraid of discovery. This is proved in her words “A lack! I am afraid they have awaked, and’t is not done: –the attempt, and not the deed.” She is very afraid that any body wakes and discovers the murder. She is afraid that Macbeth couldn’t commit the crime because of his kindness. She wants for him to come and say that everything is finished. In line 5 – 8, she gives him the details of the murder. This makes her a villain and castrating woman. This adds to Macbeth’s nobility and his great statue.
Line 12 – 13 ----> “He could not miss them. Had he not resembled my father as he slept, I had don’t.” She says that if Duncan doesn’t look like her father when he is asleep, she will kill him herself. This gives her a faint of human touch in her character to identify with her rather than think of her as a monster of evil.
Compare between the attitude of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth after the deed. (Line 14 – 25)
“Didst thou not hear a noise?” ----> They are afraid of the discover. Both of them are in a state of panic as they imagine that they hear a noise. She could get hold of herself when she sees him weak. This is a tone of atmosphere.
Line 29 ----> “Consider it not so deeply.” ----> She is trying to put in the right path. She tries to get him out from his state of panic by saying not to think too much of it.
Line 30 ----> “But wherefore could not I pronounce “Amen”? -----> He thinks of the seriousness to fall from grace. Killing Duncan is the beginning of his moral downfall. He can’t pray as there is a distance between him and God. There is no sense of nobility to lose God grace. He has been distanced from the mercy (blessing) of God.
Line 33 – 34 -----> “These deeds must not thought after these ways: so, it will make us mad.” ----> It is said by Lady Macbeth who is subjective as she does not want to think deeply. She doesn’t think of what Macbeth think of. She tells him not to think too much of what he has done (the deed) and its moral consequences. If he does so, he will go mad.
Line 34 – 37 -----> Methought I heard a voice cry, ‘Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep,’ …. the innocent sleep; sleep …., sore labour’s bath.” ----> Macbeth isn’t able to find comfort, as he murders sleep when he kills King Duncan. He can’t sleep the innocent sleep when he kills King Duncan. He hears a supernatural sound that tells him he will sleep no more. It may be his conscience due to his sense of guilt and remorse. Furthermore, this echoes what the witches did to the sailor as they cause him insomnia. In both cases, Macbeth will never enjoy his sleep again. In addition, according to the code of chivalry and being a soldier, Macbeth must kill his enemy face to face. On contrary, he kills Duncan in a cold-blood while sleeping. This is against his morals and the code of chivalry. Any way, this causes him a sense of guilt.
Line 38 – 39 ----> “Balm of hunt minds, great nature’s second course, chief noursher in life’s feast; ….” ------> Life gives food for existence, but sleep gives the greatest strength for life. It is the chief noursher. It’s also a mean of escapism or refuge from the cares of life. Here, Macbeth escapes from his guilty conscience. He has lost the blessing of sleepiness as a refuge from the evil deed he has done.
Line 40 – 42------> “Still it cried,” “sleep no more!” -----> Cawder shall sleep no more; Macbeth shall sleep no more. The repetition of the same words in different ways shows that Macbeth isn’t aware of what he is saying. He is hallucinating. This shows how tense and panic he is. His fear prevent him from saying these words in one word.
Line 43 – 49 -----> “Who was it that thus cried? why, worthy thane, you do unbed you noble strength to think so brain sickly of things.” -----> She manipulates him as she tries to get him out of his fear and panic state. She also tries to put him in the right path when he begins to feel panic. They are perfect partners. When she says “Go get some water, And wash this filthy witness from your hand” she gives him instructions to wash his hand. She also orders him to go back and leaves the dagger in the Duncan’s hands and smears the chamberlains’ faces and hands with blood. She says “They must lie there; go, carry them, and smear the sleepy grooms with blood.” In that way, she gives him instructions to put the evidence in the right place. It is her role to rearrange the murder scene.
Line 50 -----> “I man afraid to think what I have done;” ----> Macbeth here refuses to return to Duncan’s room as he couldn’t see what he has done. This adds to his nobility. Moreover, he suffers from two things: the first is that he has a feeling of guilt; the second is that he fears from the discovery.
Line 52 – 57 -----> “In firm of purpose! Give me the daggers. The sleeping and the deed Are but as pictures; ‘t is the eye of childhood …. for it must seem their guilt.” ----> Lady Macbeth can build up Macbeth’s strength by simplifying the situation. She says that sleeping (chamberlains) and death (Duncan) are only pictures as they can’t feel anything. She tells him that he is afraid of the image of the devil who is not there. It is only from his imagination. Furthermore, she says that children only are the ones who are afraid of the devil’s picture. In addition, she goes to return the daggers in order to be the evidence that the chamberlains are the true murderers. Some critics consider her a vampire as she returns the room and sees the murder and the blood.
Line 63 – 64 -----> “My hands are of your colour; but I shame to wear a heart so white.” ----> In these lines, Lady Macbeth plays on the idea of manhood. She says that her hand’s colour is like the colour of Macbeth’s hands. However, she isn’t a coward like him. She is a woman and ashamed to be a coward. This is when she says “To wear a heart so white.”
Line 65 – 67 -----> “At the the south entry: return we to our chamber. A little water clears us of this deed. How easy is it then.” ----> She tells him to go to their chamber as she hears a knock at the gate. Moreover, she tries to simplify the matter and sees the situation very easy when she says “How easy is it then!” There is a difference between her attitude and Macbeth’s attitude. We can compare between Macbeth’s over-ambition and how he shows a great sense of guilt and remorse and Lady Macbeth’s resolution. She puts aside any moral thinking.
Line 70 -----> Get on you night-gown, lest occasion call us, And show us to be watchers. Be not lost so poorly in your thought.” ----> This reflects the idea of appearance and reality. She also tells him not to think too much about that and not to be a pathetic person (making you feel sympathy or pity).
Line 72 – 73 ----> “To know my deed, ‘t were best not know myself. Wake Duncan with thy knocking: I would thou couldst!” ------> Macbeth here shows a sense of regret. He wishes time would go back and Duncan comes to life. He also wants to escape from himself. He wants to undo (remake the bad effects of something you have done) what he has done.
It is called the Porter Scene. It isn’t important, but the relief of the tension of the previous scene. Moreover, it shows the discovery of the murder and the gloomy atmosphere behind it.
Line 42 – 56 ----> “The night has been unruly: where we lay, …. And prophesying with accents terrible ….” ----> Lenex’s speech shows that there is something wrong in this night. He hears lamentings in the air which prophecies that something bad will happen. This shows how nature is perverted (abnormal). Furthermore, that emphasizes the significance of Duncan’s murder as a divine monarch. His death causes the major perversion in the universe.
Lament: a piece of music that expresses a feeling of sadness.
Linne 62 – 64 -----> Confusion now hath made his masterpiece … The lard’s anoited temple, and stole thence ….” -----> These lines is said by Macduff who is the one who discovers the murder as he is supposed to wake the king. He says that the king’s murder is the masterpiece of confusion. his also emphasizes the divine significance of Duncan as a divine monarch. His murder is sacrilegious (against religion). He imagines that the temple is a symbol for Duncan’s body and someone has broken into it and take Duncan’s spirit. Someone violates sacred figure of Duncan. There is a state of confusion and shock, as everyone wakes up.
Line 80 ----> “O gentle lady, ‘T is not for you to hear what I can speak: The repetition, in a woman’s ear would murder as it fell.” -----> These lines which is said by Macduff is a dramatic irony. He addresses her as a gentle lady as he doesn’t know her true nature. He says that it is too much her weak body as a woman to bear what he is supposed to say. She couldn’t bear to hear about Duncan’s murder. She pretends that she doesn’t know anything although she is the one who plans for the murder.
Line 87 – 90 ----> “Had I but died hour before this chance, …” -----> Macbeth’s fear starts to build up gradually. He wishes to die before that happens. When he says in line 91 “The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees Is life this vault to brag of.” This implies how to get nervous.
Line 97 – 100 -----> “Those of his chamber, as it seemed, had done’t: their hands and faces were all badged with blood; so were their daggers, which, unwiped, ….” ----> Lenox here tries to get the truth by analysing the evidences. He says that it is very clear that the chamberlains are the real murderer by observing their appearance. He sees their faces and hands smear with blood. This indicates how appearance is deceptive and how reality is totally different. Lenox is not sure from the truth as he says “It seemed”.
Line 103 – 104 ----> “O! Yet I do repent me of my fury That I did kill them.” ----> Macbeth seems to kill the gaurds out of his anger and to take revenge for Duncan. The whole cycle of violence has started with Duncan, the guard, Banquo and Macduff’s family.
Line 105 ----> “Who can be wise, amazed, temperate and furious, loyal and neutral, in a moment? No man:”----> Macbeth tries to justify his deed as his violent love for Duncan controls his reason. He also says that who can combine all these emotions at one time. Moreover, he starts to describe the scene of the murder in a very poetic style to add to his nobility. Shakespeare mentions that the high class people talks in a poetic style. This adds to the mood of the play. Macbeth exposes himself by describing the murder of Duncan.
Line 115 ----> “Help me hence, ho!-----> She sees him explain more and mare about the murder in front of people. She is afraid that he may tell the truth. Consequently, she pretends faint to distract people’s attention and she succeeds. Macduff says “Look to the Lady.”
Line 117 – 120 -----> Aside to Duncan and Malcom. They aren’t convinced by the responsibility of the guards for committing the crim. Moreover, the guards have no motive,, so they suspect someone else. It must be a political conspiracy.
Line 136 – 138 ----> “What will you do? ….. I’ll to England” … “To Ireland I: our separated fortune.” ….. “The near in blood, the nearer bloody.” ----> Although Malcolm is supposed to be the successor of King Duncan, he decides to travel to England to be in a safe place. Moreover, the other son of Dunacn, Donalbain, decides to travel to Ireland. He say “the near in blood, the nearer blood.” This shows the possibilities of murdering Duncan’s relatives. They feel the they are a target, so they escape. The nearer in blood to Duncan will may be the next to be killed as the one who killed Duncan has the same motive to kill his sons.
How does Macbeth establishes legitimacy for his authority? The escape of Malcolm and Donalbain is used politically to put the blame and suspicion on them. Macbeth uses it for his favour and starts to establish legitimacy for his power. He also represents morality by giving an image of his moral integrity. This is by pushing the offenders (guard) as he seems to be very swift in establishing the law. In addition, he starts to reform whatever is wrong. He doesn’t leave the country in its state of confusion like the heir has done. This gives him the appearance of being responsible for the country as he is who punishes the criminals and rewards who deserves that. As a result, the legitimacy of authority is based on the image of moral integrity, not on the one whom he deserves. To sum up, he takes the image of a responsible leader who controls everything.
In this scene, Rosse talks with an old man about the supernatural events seen around about Macbeth’s castle the night before. This scene also tells us the news after the death of King Duncan.
Line 25 ----> “They were suborned. Malcolm and Donalbain, the King’s two sons, Are stol’n away and fled; which puts upon them Suspicion of the deed. -----> Macduff says that the sudden disappearance of the king’s sons puts suspicion on them. It doesn’t give them a chance to defend themselves. This is very dangerous politically as it sets a public opinion against them. The appearance of Macbeth is that is a moral and responsible person who shows a great morality. Consequently, if you presume the appearance and reality, you will find that appearance is deceptive and reality is elusive. It is difficult to understand or you can’t catch it. Rosse’s words shows how any political event has different interpretations. He says “the sovereignty will fall upon Macbeth.” He says that Macbeth will take the kingship. Moreover, Macbeth appears to be a noble character while the King’s sons are blamed for committing the murder.
Some notes about the previous act: Lady Macbeth is an archetype of evil and a castrating woman. There are few remarks of human touch, but they aren’t enough to draw her as a human being and make us identify with her. There human touch appears when she couldn’t kill Duncan as he looks like her father during sleeping.
Another point which Shakespeare wants too redeem Macbeth as a tragic hero not a villain. Consequently, the scene of the murder doesn’t happen on the stage. After the murder, Macbeth looks pale and horrified. This makes the audience identify with his state of panic, remorse and his psychological death.
Act III is considered the climax of the play. The complication is raised not only due to Duncan’s murder, but also due to Banquo’s murder and the escape of Fleance and the refusal of Macduff to attend the Banquet.