Sunday, November 16, 2008

Macbeth - Act II Scene I

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth

(Questions taken from the Indispensable Work-Book on Shakespeare's Macbeth by Usha Nagpal published by National Publishing House. Suitable for class XI. Only Essay type questions answered here. If you have a doubt post a comment below. Leave your mail id if you need a personal response - else i will post my reply to this blog.)
Q1. Compare the state of mind of Macbeth to that of Banquo on the night of Duncan's murder.
On the night of king Duncan's murder, Banquo was happy,content and peaceful because he was unaware of the plot to kill king Duncan. However, Macbeth was in an agitated state of mind. This was because he was about to carry out the plan of murder. Banquo was in his normal frame of mind but Macbeth was very guarded in his speech. When Banquo said " I dreamt last night of the three weird sisters; to you they have show'd some truth" - Macbeth replied that " I think not of them". Macbeth uttered a lie. He was all the time thinking of the three sisters and their predictions and had planned to kill king Duncan taking guidance from their predictions that he would be the king of Scotland.
On that night Banquo was at peace with himself after having been played a vital role in the victory of king Duncan's army over the enemies. Even though Macbeth had played a more important role in the victory of king Duncan's army -his mind was turbulent because of the murder that he had planned. He was so stressed that he started hallucinating. He saw a dagger where there was none. He saw blood stains on this dagger. He was overwhelmed by the nature of the job which lay ahead - i.e. the killing of king Duncan.
While Banquo had a good night's rest - the night tormented Macbeth. When he was about to murder king Duncan even words failed him. He was not even able to say "Amen" when Duncan in his sleep said "God Bless Us". He was so scared that every noise terrified him. Even a knocking on the door terrified him. While all this was happening to Duncan, Banquo was fast asleep. Macbeth did not sleep all night - he did not even go to bed. Yet, he had to pretend to have gone to sleep - by wearing his night-gown - when somebody started knocking on the castle door. When Macduff came the next morning, Macbeth had to pretend that he slept well the previous night and had to take Macduff to king Duncan's room as if nothing had happened. When Macduff broke the news of king Duncan's death, Macbeth had to react with false shock and false grief. However, Banquo reacted in genuine grief when he heard of the murder.
Thus, Banquo and Macbeth had completely different states of mind on the night of the murder of king Duncan.

Q2.Critically analyse Macbeth's soliloquy in this scene. What light does it throw on his character? Just before the murder, Macbeth was very stressed. He was hallucinating about a blood stained dagger. He imagined a dagger with its handle turned towards him - as if inviting him to pick it up and kill king Duncan. His senses were playing a trick on him.This illustrates that he was not in control of himself. He kept talking to himself to relieve himself of his stress. He compared the deed he was about to commit with with that Hecate' (mistress of witchcraft - who used the dead for their sacrifices) offerings. He also compared the deed that he was about to commit with that of Tarquin's crimes against innocent women.
From this soliloquy, we come to know of the following elements of his character:
a) That he was not very keen or comfortable with carrying out the act of the murder of king Duncan.
b)That he was well educated. His conversation and the use of terms like "Hecate" and "Tarquin" indicates that he was well read.
c) That he was considerate even to his servants. This can be judged from the way he tells his servant to go to sleep after tell lady Macbeth to arrange for his drink.
d) A seasoned murder would not have so many self-doubts before commiting the crime.From this soliloquy it is clear that the act Macbeth was about to commit was a temporary aberraton in his behaviour.
e) This solioquy also tells us that he behaved well with his wife. He asked the servant to tell lady Macbeth to "ring the bell when my drink is ready". Had he been inconsiderate, he would have either asked lady Macbeth to get the drink or would have asked the servant to get it for him.

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