Macbeth Study Guide: Act 2: scenes 1-4

Act 2: scenes 1-4

By ShakespeareRelease Year: 1623

Scene 1

Characters: Banquo, Fleance, Macbeth.

The scene opens with Banquo and Fleance talking about the night. Banquo cannot fall asleep, tormented by the heavy thoughts about the Witches prophecy. He prays for these thoughts to fade away. While going outside, he meets Macbeth in the courtyard and compliments his hospitality. He informs him that the king has already fallen asleep, besides Banquo has the intention to share his feeling about the Witches with the friend. Yet, Macbeth responds coldly and suggests to postpone this conversation.

After they bid each other goodnight, Macbeth heads to the empty room to wait for his wife’s signal. She will ring the bell the moment when she manages to put to sleep the king’s guards. Macbeth is still in doubts and tumult about the planned murder. All these feeling make him hallucinate and he sees a bloody dagger floating in the air. Finally, he concludes that talking and thinking about the murder won’t change its consequences and only make it harder. When he hears the bell, he is full of readiness to implement his horrible plan. 

Scene 2

Characters: Macbeth and his wife.

Lady Macbeth is in agog and excited by her deeds. She waits for her husband and thinks that she has arranged everything right for the perfect murder: she has drugged the servants and laid their daggers ready. She says that she would have even killed the king by herself if he hadn’t been so alike her father. Yet, she nervously listens to the castle noises and impatiently waits for her husband to return.

Macbeth enters the room. His hands are in the blood, he still holds the daggers and seems raving. He looks shocked by what he has done and cannot think rationally. His wife has to be sober and to finish the matter properly. She returns to the king’s chamber, put the daggers in the hands of his servants and smear them with his blood.

She returns with the blood on her hands, too. Suddenly they hear knocking at the castle doors. The wife tells Macbeth to go to wash, put a robe on and go to bed. The scene ends with Macbeth’s words of regret.   

Scene 3

Characters: Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Macduff, Lennox, Banquo, Malcolm, Donalbain, a porter.

The unexpected visitors are Macduff and Lennox who have arrived to visit the king. The master of the house respectfully greets the guests. Macbeth seems to suddenly regain control over his emotions. Sober and confident he acts naturally and looks like just woken up. While Lennox and Macbeth are chatting, Macduff heads to the king’s chamber. Lennox tells the host that their journey was unpleasant - they encountered a severe storm. And the wind howling resembled the screams and moans. Macbeth with the deadly cynical irony agrees that it was a rough night.

Everybody is shuddered by the Macduff's appearance. Nearly speechless, he reports the king’s death. As Lennox and Macbeth run to see the king, Macduff screams and rings the alarm bells. Everybody gathers to hear the terrifying news.

Meanwhile, Macbeth heads to Duncan’s rooms. He faces the king’s chambers and before they speak a word, he kills them, reporting Macduff that he, being livid with wrath, has killed the king’s murderers.

Everybody looks stunned. Lady Macbeth collapses in her shock and the men rushed to help her. Everybody leaves the court, except the king’s sons. In all this hustle, Duncan’s sons seem not to lose their minds. Malcolm and Donalbain feel the grave danger they are in and decide to flee separately. Malcolm to England and his younger brother to Ireland. 

Scene 4

Characters: Ross, Macduff, the Old Man.

Outside the castle, Ross discusses with the old man the dreadful event that shocked the place. The old man tells Ross that the king’s death is accompanied by the sinister omens. As Macduff enters, he expresses his doubts about the assumptions that the chambers have killed the king. Since right after the murder Duncan’s sons have fled, they now are considered as the guilty of the king’s death and treason.  As the traitors, they cannot claim the throne. So the nobles agree that Macbeth will be the new king of Scotland.

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