Act II. Scene I. - Inverness. Court within the
Macbeth: "Is this a dagger which I see before
Banquo and son Fleance arrive at Macbeth's
castle. Banquo is troubled by the Three Witches'
prophecy and tells Macbeth this. Macbeth pretends not
to take the Three Witches seriously. Learning from Banquo
that King Duncan is asleep, Macbeth, alone, follows
an imaginary dagger to King Duncan's bedchamber
where he will kill him in his sleep...
Banquo and son Fleance are walking in the castle preceded
by a servant bearing a torch. Fleance exclaims, "Hold
[stop], take my sword. There's husbandry in heaven;
/ Their candles are all out" (Line 3). Fleance can't
sleep, so troubled is he by his own thoughts: "A heavy
summons lies like lead upon me, / And yet I would not
sleep: merciful powers!" (Line 6).
Banquo suspects the presence of danger but can not
say exactly what it is. Macbeth meets them and when
the question "Who's there?" is asked, replies "A friend"
Banquo is surprised Macbeth is not yet asleep and informs
Macbeth that the King is asleep having been in "unusual
pleasure," (been unusually happy), (Line 13). So pleased
is the King with Lady Macbeth's hospitality that a diamond
has been given to the generous host (Lady Macbeth).
Cryptically, Banquo mentions a dream he had of "the
three weird sisters [The Three Witches]:" to Macbeth.
Macbeth replies that "I think not of them:" (Line
22). Macbeth does however want to discuss the Three
Witches with Banquo in the future.
Macbeth now alone, sees a dagger, asking himself,
"Is this a dagger which I see before me,"
which later sports "goats of blood," or becomes
covered in blood before his eyes (Lines 32, 33 and 46).
He worries again and upon hearing a bell ring (Lady
Macbeth's signal) proceeds towards King Duncan's chambers:
"Hear it not [the bell], Duncan; for it is a knell [calling]
/ That summons thee [you, King Duncan] to heaven or
to hell" (Line 63).
Act II. Scene II. - The Same.
Macbeth: "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this
blood / Clean from my hand?"
Lady Macbeth has drugged King Duncan's guards,
allowing Macbeth to kill King Duncan unchallenged. Lady
Macbeth was to have killed the King but his resemblance
to her late father means Macbeth does the deed instead.
A bell frightens Lady Macbeth and Macbeth too is nervous,
but he announces that he did indeed kill King Duncan.
Macbeth recounts that the two guards cried out "'Murder'"
and later "'God bless us!'", Lady Macbeth
telling her husband not to fret over such things and
the fact that his conscience prevented him from saying
"'Amen,'" when they said "'God bless
us!'" Lady Macbeth tells her husband a little water
will wash away their guilt and the two retire to their
bedroom when knocking is later heard...
Lady Macbeth enters, remarking that the alcohol that
has made the guards drunk has made her bold: "That
which hath [has] made them drunk hath made me bold,"
(Line 1). She has drugged King Duncan's two guards.
Macbeth enters and Lady Macbeth fears a bell which has
sounded (Line 4) may have awakened the two guards without
the murder having taken place.
We learn that Lady Macbeth was to have killed the King
but the King's resemblance to her father stopped her.
Macbeth announces that he has "done the deed" (Line
15) and asking if she heard, she replies only that she
heard an owl scream and a cricket cry.
Macbeth was nervous and when two men in the adjoining
room cried, "'Murder!'" and later "'God bless us!'"
(Lines 24-30), Macbeth could not reply "'Amen,'" (Lines
30-32) as the other man did, variously interpreted as
symbolic of the fact that Macbeth no longer sees himself
as connected to God or on the side of good.
Macbeth thought he heard a voice say "'Sleep no more!
/ 'Macbeth does murder sleep,' the innocent sleep...",
"'Glamis hath [has] murder'd sleep, and therefore Cawdor
[Macbeth] / Shall sleep no more, Macbeth shall sleep
no more!'" (Lines 42-44).
Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth not to think such things
and to get some water to wash away the blood.
Lady Macbeth scolds Macbeth for bringing the daggers
with him, telling him to return them to the scene of
the crime. He won't and scolding Macbeth as "Infirm
of purpose!" (Line 54) or weak-willed, she returns the
daggers smearing blood on the grooms faces to implicate
Macbeth wonders if water is enough to clear his conscience:
"Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood / Clean
from my hand?" (Line 61).
Both Macbeth and his wife hear knocking.
Lady Macbeth suggests that they retire to their chamber,
saying "A little water clears us of this deed;"
Act II. Scene III. - The Same.
Donalbain: "There's daggers in men's smiles: the near
in blood, / The nearer bloody."
Macduff and Lennox, the source of the knocking in
the last scene, arrive at Macbeth's castle. News
of King Duncan's death reaches all at Macbeth's
castle. Lady Macbeth faints and Macbeth in rage kills
the two drunken guards after claiming that they obviously
killed their King. These actions largely free Macbeth
and Lady Macbeth from suspicion. King Duncan's
sons, Malcolm and Donalbain are introduced, both men
wisely deciding to flee Macbeth's castle as a precaution
against their own murder. Malcolm will head for England,
Donalbain for Ireland.
At the castle gates we hear knocking. The Porter attending
the door exclaims that he is akin to the porter of hell
and we soon learn that the earlier knocking was caused
by the arrival of Macduff and Lennox, Macduff engaging
the Porter in some insightful yet trivial banter (Lines
Macduff and Lennox enter and are shortly greeted by
Macbeth. Macduff asks of the King. Macbeth leads Macduff
to the King's chambers.
Shortly afterwards, we hear from Macduff, "O horror!
horror! horror! Tongue nor heart / Cannot conceive nor
name thee!" (Line 70).
Macbeth asks what the problem is, and feigning surprise
incredulously asks if the King's life is what he speaks
of. Macbeth and Lennox awaken the rest of the castle.
Lady Macbeth asks what's going on, Banquo tells Lady
Macbeth who later feints.
Macbeth says that had he died before this deed, he
would have "liv'd [lived] a blessed time; for, from
this instant, / There's nothing serious in mortality,"
Malcolm and Donalbain hear of their father's death
from Banquo and Macbeth exclaims that he killed the
two bridegrooms in his fury.
The two brothers wisely conclude that their lives are
now in danger, Malcolm decides to head for England,
Donalbain for Ireland.
Donalbain famously exclaims "There's daggers in men's
smiles: the near in blood, / The nearer bloody" (Lines
Act II. Scene IV. - The Same. Without the Castle.
Ross speaks with an Old Man who describes various
unnatural acts happening in Scotland, perhaps the single
most significant scene for the theme of nature at war
with itself, which relates to the idea of a natural
order being disturbed by killing a King, a prevalent
theme throughout this play.
We learn that King Duncan's two sons have fled,
leaving Macbeth to be crowned the new King of Scotland.
Macduff, who later becomes instrumental in Macbeth's
downfall, has significantly snubbed Macbeth's coronation
at Scone to go instead to Fife. A tone of increasing
despair for Scotland begins in this scene...
Ross speaks to an Old Man who discusses nature at war
The Old Man speaks of a falcon killed by an owl last
Tuesday and Ross adds that King Duncan's horses "Turn'd
wild in nature, broke their stalls, flung out," (Lines
14), the Old Man remarking that "'Tis [it is] said they
eat each other" (Line 19).
Macduff arrives, commenting that King Duncan's two
sons have run away "which puts upon them / Suspicion
of the deed" (which puts on them the suspicion that
they killed their father, King Duncan), (Line 26).
Ross does not accept this explanation; why would the
two sons kill their own father whom he refers to as
their "own life's means!" or someone they
depend upon, adding that such an action is "'Gainst
nature still!" or unnatural (Lines 29-31). Ross
now remarks that the kingdom will most likely reside
with Macbeth and tellingly, we learn that Macduff will
head to Fife and not to Scone where Macbeth will be
The Old Man ends Act II, remarking "That would make
good of bad, and friends of foes!" (Line 41).