MACBETH – Act 2 Summary

Scene 1

Characters: Banquo, Fleance, Macbeth

Location: A court within Macbeth’s castle

Events: Banquo + Fleance set the scene by saying it is past midnight. The three of them are having trouble sleeping, and then say goodnight to each other. Macbeth see’s a dagger and talks about his next action of killing Duncan.


“I dreamt last night of the three weird sisters:
To you they have showed some truth.” (Banquo) Banquo talks to Macbeth about seeing the witches. This is significant because it means more than one person (Macbeth) has seen the witches and heard their predictions.
“Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? Or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressèd brain?” (Macbeth  – soliloquy) This is the start of Macbeth’s in-depth and metaphor-rich soliloquy. He see’s a dagger hovering in the air. The handle is towards him, referring to him using it to kill Duncan instead of him being killed. He can’t hold it but he can see it, meaning it must a figure of his imagination (like a hallucination). He says “a dagger of the mind” meaning his thoughts are creating this dagger that only he can see. his brain is so full of thoughts about the murder he is about to do that it’s making him go crazy! If I was to direct this play I wouldn’t have a literal dagger hovering above him, because I think that the purpose of this soliloquy is for the audience to listen to his language and it emphasizes that fact that ONLY HE can see the dagger!
“Witchcraft celebrates
Pale Hecate’s offerings, and withered murder,
Alarumed by his sentinel, the wolf,
Whose howl’s his watch, thus with his stealthy pace,
With Tarquin’s ravishing strides, towards his design
Moves like a ghost.” (Macbeth – Soliloquy) Macbeth metaphorically refers to MURDER as a WOLF. and describes how he plans to murder Duncan like a wolf hunting his pray.
“I go, and it is done. The bell invites me.
Hear it not, Duncan, for it is a knell
That summons thee to heaven or to hell.” (Macbeth) Macbeth hears a bell and thinks of it as a signal that it is time to kill the king.
Scene 2
Characters: Lady Macbeth, Macbeth
Location: A hallway/courtyard in Macbeth’s castle
Events: Lady Macbeth is waiting for Macbeth in the courtyard after he set off to kill King Duncan. She thinks she hears a noise and when Macbeth comes back and tells her he has killed the king, they both agree that they heard a noise and that must mean someone is awake. Macbeth says he feels very ‘unholy’ and ‘sinful’ he can’t believe what he just did! But he made a mistake, he didn’t leave the daggers in the bedroom with the guards to stage they were responsible. He refuses to go back (which shows that he is scared and cowardly) so LadyMacbeth goes (proving that she is strong and determined).
“The sleeping and the dead
Are but as pictures. ‘Tis the eye of childhood
That fears a painted devil. ” (Lady Macbeth)
This quote proves that Lady Macbeth has very dark, deep and ‘male’ (of the time) thoughts. she is saying that sleeping Duncan and Dead Duncan look just the same, it’s only a coward who sees’s the difference and is afraid of that. When she says ‘the eye of childhood’ she is referring to Macbeth because he is weak and is demonstrating childish behavior in her eyes.
“Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red.” (Macbeth)
Macbeth is saying that not even the greatest mass of water (the ocean) could not wash the blood from his hands. He says that there is so much blood on his hands that if he tried to wash his hands he would make the water red.
“My hands are of your color, but I shame
To wear a heart so white.” (Lady Macbeth)
Lady Macbeth is saying that her ‘hands’ referring to the deed they have just performed and the color of blood,  are the same as Macbeth’s but she refuses to feel bad or forgiving about it. She refuses to be a coward like Macbeth.
“To know my deed, ’twere best not know myself.” (Macbeth)
Macbeth is saying that when he thinks of the deed he has just done (killing the king) he doesn’t recognize himself and doesn’t like himself for doing it.
Scene 3
Characters: Porter, Macduff, Lenox, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Banquo, Donalbain, Malcolm
Location: A courtyard at Macbeth’s castle
Events: MORNING…..The guest’s in the house wakes up and the porter opens the gates to the castle. Macbeth shows Macduff where the king is sleeping and they find him dead in his bed and his guards holding bloody knife’s. They all react to the king dying and are very shocked. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth make up a cover story to how they ‘suppose’ Duncan was killed. Lady Macbeth faints and Malcolm and Donalbain plan to leave for England and Ireland to tell the office of this horrid news. Malcolm and Dolobain express their suspicion on whether it really was the guards that killed him!
“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.” (Macduff)
This quote is relevant because they are saying that Lady Macbeth can’t handle the news that Duncan is dead when she was the one who killed him!!!
Scene 4
Characters: Old man, Rosse, Macduff
Location: Outside the castle
Events: Rosse and the old man stand outside Macbeth’s castle and discuss the unnatural events that have lead to the king Duncan being killed. Macduff joins them and tells them that is it said Duncan’s son’s brided the bodyguards. He also tells them that Macbeth has already gone to Scone to be crowned as king.
“They were suborned.
Malcolm and Donalbain, the king’s two sons,
Are stol’n away and fled, which puts upon them
Suspicion of the deed.” (Macduff)
Saying that there is a suspicion that Duncan’s son’s paid the guards to kill the king. They think this is true because both brothers fled quickly when they heard the news.



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