Act 2 of Macbeth is only four scenes, and we don’t “see” much, but the key event that affects the rest of the plot – in my opinion anyways – is that Macbeth kills King Duncan. He is quite obviously distraught by his action – returning to his wife still holding the bloody daggers, and claiming to have heard voices:
.. Still it cried “Sleep no more!” to all the house;
“Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor
Shall sleep no more; Macbeth shall sleep no more.” (Scene 2, lines 45-47)
Lady Macbeth attempts to reassure him, and when he hesitates to take the daggers back to the room and place them so that they incriminate others, she does it herself:
Infirm of purpose!
Give me the daggers. The sleeping and the dead
Are but as pictures. ‘Tis the eye of childhood
That fears a painted devil. If he do bleed,
I’ll gild the faces of the grooms withal,
For it must seem their guilt. (Scene 2, lines 56-61)
Ultimately the others in the castle discover Duncan’s death. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth display shock as much as everyone else. Before the decision of who shall succeed the king is made, Duncan’s sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, decide that they should leave separately and secretly to keep safe:
This murderous shaft that’s shot
Hath not yet lighted, and our safest way
Is to avoid the aim. Therefore to horse,
And let us not be dainty of leave-taking,
But shift away. There’s warrant in that theft
Which steals itself when there’s no mercy left. (Scene 3, lines 143-148)
Since Malcolm and Donalbain have fled, they become suspects of their father’s death, and the crown of King falls to Macbeth. He is on his way to his coronation as the scene closes.
Obviously Macbeth has his doubts over what he has done, but the prophecy of the witches in Act One has come true and he is now King. Whether this is pleasing to him or not given how it was obtained remains to be seen, but just as obvious as Macbeth’s doubts is Lady Macbeth’s ambition for her husband.
Still with me in Act 2? What are your thoughts?