Macbeth Readalong – Act 2

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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?

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One Response to Macbeth Readalong – Act 2

  1. I think my favorite part (it feels weird to call it my favorite since it’s so bloody) of Act II is the end of Scene II, when Macbeth expresses such guilt for murdering his king and friend. “Wake Duncan with thy knocking! I would thou couldst!” — loved that line.
    Maybe it’s because he feels remorse and has therefore become a more empathy-provoking character, but this scene really made me feel for Macbeth, despite his murderous deeds. Lady Macbeth on the other hand only receives contempt from me…I know she’s a strong female character (and I usually love that), but she provokes all of the evil deeds in this scene. I’m not a fan of how she emasculates her husband and practically forces him to commit treason and murder as if it’s nothing, although this goes along perfectly with the themes of “nothing is as it seems,” and “appearances can be deceiving.”

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