MACBETH ACT II
ACT II, scene i • Banquo and his son Fleance enter a court yard and remark on how dark it is. Here is another reference to darkness. • Macbeth enters the courtyard and runs into Banquo and Fleance. • Banquo tells Macbeth that he dreamt of the Weird Sisters, yet Macbeth says he’d rather talk about that later. • The Dagger Soliloquy-Macbeth imagines a bloody dagger floating toward him, dripping with blood, before floating toward the sleeping Duncan’s chamber.
The Dagger Soliloquy • After Banquo and Fleance exit, Macbeth is left to his thoughts. • Shakespeare’s characters often used soliloquies in order to let their inner most thoughts known to the audience. • The Dagger Soliloquy shows just how torn Macbeth is between his political ambitions and his moral anguish. As the dagger floats toward Duncan’s chamber, Macbeth realizes it is just a trick of his mind, and resolves to kill King Duncan. • Macbeth’s ambition wins over his morality.
ACT II, scene ii • Lady Macbeth and Macbeth speak about Duncan’s murder. Macbeth is distraught and laments his decision. • Lady Macbeth chastises Macbeth for bringing back the bloody daggers. • She goes back to place them by Duncan’s sleeping servants and returns. She notes that she also has blood on her hands, too.
Act II, scene ii Literary Devices • Cause-and-Effect Relationship- • Macbeth: “One cried “God bless us!” and “Amen” the other. As they had seen me with these hangman’s hands: List’ning their fear, I could not say “Amen,” when they did say “God Bless us!” (II.ii.27-30) • Macbeth has sinned and is no longer in a state of God’s grace. Therefore, he cannot be counted among the blessed. Later, you will see his foil, Banquo, be above reproach and still in God’s good graces.
Act II, scene ii Literary Devices • Theme: In lines 35-44, Macbeth has literally “murdered sleep,” the resting king. He has also figuratively murdered sleep (by his never sleeping soundly with a clear conscience) by committing the act of murder. • Macbeth: “Methought I heard a voice cry “Sleep no more!” Macbeth does murder sleep—the innocent sleep, Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave (tangled threads) of care, the death of each day’s life, sore labors bath, balm (healing ointment), of hurt minds, great nature’s second course (main-meal), Chief nourisher in life’s Feast--” (II.ii.35-40)
Act II, scene iii The Porter and Comic Relief • Comic Relief-Releasesthe audience from the built up tension from the previous scene. • In the last scene Macbeth and Lady Macbeth conspired to Kill Duncan, and did so successfully. • There’s knocking on the front door when a drunken porter enters to answer a slew of knock, knock jokes. This joking relieves the audience of the horror they had just witnessed. • The Porter uses Irony to convey dark humor to the situation. He refers to the castle as “hell” and Macbeth is the Porter’s master…Macbeth is the devil.
Act II, scene iii Imagery • Macduff rouses the castle calling upon Malcolm and Banquo to awake. • Macduff paints imagery by comparing sleep to “death’s counterfeit” and urges Banquo and Malcolm to rise from their “graves” (beds) like ghosts. • The “hideous trumpet” will raise the dead. In this case, an allusion to Judgment Day and the Archangel Gabriel is made. • Macduff tells Lady Macbeth what has happened: • Macduff: “O gentle lady, ‘Tis not for you to hear what I can speak: The repetition, in a woman’s ear, would murder as it fell.” (II.iii.80-82) • Lady Macbeth faints after hearing the news and is carried off-stage. The question arises: Is Lady Macbeth pretending to faint?
Act II, scene iii Foil • Banquo is made to be Macbeth’s foil. A foil is a minor character whose attitudes, beliefs, and behavior differ significantly from those of the main character. The main character and his/her foil are equals, yet polar opposites. • In lines 123-128, Banquo does all the things Macbeth could not in scene ii. This is because Macbeth has sinned by killing Duncan, and Banquo (father of many kings including King James I), was above reproach and still in God’s grace. • “In the great hand of God I stand, and thence against the undivulged pretense I fight Of treasonous malice.” (II.iii.126-127)
Act II, scene iii Theme • Malcolm and Donalbain upon hearing of their fathers death suspect that they’ll be the next to be murdered. • Malcolm refers to the show of “unfelt sorrow,” which comes easy to the “false man.” • Donalbain notes that, in Scotland, there are “daggers in men’s smiles.”
Act II, scene iv • The nobleman Ross and an Old Man enter the courtyard and take note of the evil goings on of the past night. • The Old Man: “T’is unnatural, Even like the deed that’s done. On Tuesday last A falcon, tow’ring in her pride of place (circling high up in the air), was by a mousing owl hawked at and killed.” (II.iv.10-13). • Imagery takes hold here by the Old Man noting that the owl, a nocturnal bird, killed a Falcon, a bird that preys during the day. • Remember, Owls were seen as a witches’ familiar, and by nature should be inferior to the Falcon, a bird that soars high in the air during the day. Falcon’s are representative of royalty.
Act II, scene iv Atmosphere • Ross: “And Duncan’s horses—a thing most strange and certain—beautious and swift, the minions of their race (best of their breed). Turned wild in nature, broke their stalls, flung out, Contending against obedience, as they would make war with mankind.” (II.iv.13-18) • Here Duncan’s horses are being described as real horses, yet there is a layer of double meaning where that the horses (which are the best of their breed) could refer to the nobles.
Act II, scene iv Atmosphere • The horses turning wild in their nature and breaking their stalls also gives the feel that the nobles are losing their place. • The horses “contending against obedience” are the nobles preparing to “make war with mankind.” Here the horses representing the nobles show how by their disobedience (Macbeth’s disobedience) will lead Scotland to war. The horses attacking one another are the nobles attacking one another. • Horses are a symbol of wealth and nobility.