Macbeth Act II Questions
Terms in this set (24)
This is the first appearance of Banquo's son, Fleance. Why might the sight of him be significant to Macbeth at this moment?
The sight of Fleance supports Macbeth's earlier conclusion that killing the King will just be the beginning. It is particularly significant that Macbeth sees Fleance just as Macbeth is going to kill the King. If the Witches' prophecies are correct Banquo's children will be kings; therefore, Macbeth may have to kill Fleance as well to secure the throne.
Why do you think Macbeth lies to Banquo and tells him that he, Macbeth, has not thought of the weird sisters?
Macbeth probably does not want to arouse any suspicions, especially because Duncan will soon be found dead. If he tells Banquo he has been thinking about the prophecies, Banquo is more likely to suspect him of the killing.
In his soliloquy after Banquo leaves, what does Macbeth tell the audience he sees? In what ways does Macbeth explain the sight?
Macbeth describes seeing a dagger floating in the air in front of him. The handle is towards his hand and the point is leading him to Duncan. The blade has drops of blood on it. Macbeth tries to grab it at first, but then thinks it is a hallucination brought on by a fever. He then reasons that his guilt and nervousness about murdering Duncan are making him see the dagger.
How would you describe Macbeth's mental/emotional state at this point?
Macbeth is so nervous and full of guilt about performing the murder that he is hallucinating. He seems paranoid and like he is dreading the actual murder. However, he resolves to continue with the plan.
What does the ringing of the bell indicate to Macbeth? How does Macbeth say the ringing relates to Duncan? What kind of poetic form ends the scene?
? The ringing of the bell is Lady Macbeth's signal to Macbeth that she is finished with the guards, and it is time for Macbeth to come kill Duncan. Macbeth says it is best Duncan does not hearing the ringing because it is an indication of his impending death, that calls him to either heaven or hell. The final two lines are in the form of a heroic couplet, meaning they are written in iambic pentameter with an AA rhyme scheme. Note that Macbeth ends Act III, Scene I in a similar way; he comments, using a heroic couplet, on Banquo's soul's flight to heaven.
What has Lady Macbeth done to the guards?
She fed them alcohol that contained a drug to make them sleep, just as she said she would.
Why does Lady Macbeth not commit the murder when she is in the room?
The sleeping Duncan resembled her father, which stopped her from killing him.
Macbeth enters and describes what he saw and heard. She tells him, "These deeds must not be thought/After these ways." Why?
She believes pondering on the deeds they have just committed will drive them mad. This idea may be foreshadowing and also ironic, since she is the one who has mental problems later.
How does the form of the dialogue create a sense of urgency early in this scene?
At first, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth speak in short, quick-f re lines, which indicate a sense of their fear and urgency.
In this scene, how does Lady Macbeth criticize her husband and show herself to be stronger? In what ways is she just as weak?
Macbeth has forgotten to place the daggers near the guards and smear them with blood. When Lady Macbeth points this out, he refuses to go back and complete the deed. She chides him for being weak and refusing to return, telling him that only children are afraid of the dead. Lady Macbeth takes the daggers and smears the guards with blood, demonstrating her strength and resolve. However, like her husband, she has jumped at small sounds. She also had an opportunity to kill the King, but was not strong enough to do it. In that way, Macbeth has been stronger.
What does Macbeth say about cleaning the blood off of his hands? How does Lady Macbeth's comments about their bloody hands contrast with his? What do their bloody hands symbolize?
Macbeth doubts if all of the water in the oceans would be able to wash his hands clean, meaning that he will never be cleansed of his guilt for this horrible deed. Conversely, he thinks his hands will turn the vast seas red. Lady Macbeth's comment is in direct contrast to her husband's. She says, "a little water clears us of this deed." Their bloody hands symbolize, as Macbeth recognizes, the guilt on their consciences, not just evidence of the murder. Lady Macbeth lacks recognition of the deeper meaning of their bloody hands.
At the close of the scene, there is an incessant knocking at the door. What might this knocking symbolize?
The knocking may symbolize a number of things. It could be seen as the pounding of the Macbeths' consciences as they complete the murder. It could also be the knocking of justice or vengeance. It creates a sense of impending doom for the murderers.
The Porter's scene, or the "knocking at the gate scene," is frequently debated by scholars, but most agree it is a typical scene of comic relief often found in Shakespeare's plays. Why do you think a scene of comic relief has been placed in this particular part of the play? What is its purpose? Why are the Porter's lines in prose rather than poetry? What lines contain the bawdy humor often found in these scenes?
The Porter's comic relief scene immediately follows the murder scene, and it is meant to break the tension and give the audience a humorous breather before the tension builds again. In nearly all of Shakespeare's plays, the common people speak in prose; poetry is reserved for nobility and those in the upper classes of society. The porter tells some bawdy jokes by commenting on alcohol and its relationship to sex. He says, "it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance."
What role does the Porter imagine he is playing? How does he continue his joke? How is his characterization of his role in the castle ironic?
The Porter imagines he is the keeper of the gate to hell. He continues his joke with the audience by describing the kinds of characters he might meet at the gates. His characterization of the castle is ironic because the horrible and bloody deed that has just occurred there.
What strange events of the previous night does Lennox describe? What theme do these events reinforce?
Lennox describes experiencing wild winds, hearing screaming and wailing voices, tremors in the earth, and the calling of owls. The events reinforce a theme that Macbeth has committed a crime against nature. The natural balance has been thrown off by the killing of the King, which has resulted in these strange occurrences.
What allusion does Macduff make to Greek mythology? What is his meaning?
Macduff refers to the scene in Duncan's bedroom as "the new Gorgon." The Gorgon is a classical allusion that refers to the monster Medusa, who turned anyone who looked on her face to stone. Macduff is emphasizing the horror of the murder scene by using this metaphor.
How does Macduff question Macbeth's actions? What does Lady Macbeth do to intercede?
Deviating from the original plan, Macbeth murders the King's guards, the apparent killers. Macduff asks Macbeth why he did so, seeming suspicious of Macbeth's actions. Macbeth goes into a lengthy explanation. Lady Macbeth draws attention away from her husband by fainting.
Who are Malcolm and Donalbain? What do they suspect, and what decision do they make?
Malcolm and Donalbain are King Duncan's sons and are next in line for the throne. They suspect that the person was behind their father's murder may harm them as well, in order to pave a way to the throne. They decide to slip away quietly. Malcolm goes to England, and Donalbain leaves for Ireland.
In Greek theater, tragedies focus on the tragic hero. This tragic hero is a great man who has one tragic flaw, which brings about his downfall. As the hero accepts the consequences of his errors, he teaches the audience some truth of life. If Macbeth is a tragic hero, what is his tragic flaw?
Macbeth's tragic flaw is an ambition to obtain more power, which leads to his downfall.
What further unnatural acts are occurring? What do you think these happenings are meant to signify?
Although it is daytime, the sky is dark as night. An owl has killed a falcon. This is unnatural because an owl that catches mice is usually the prey of a falcon. Duncan's well-trained horses have fought and cannibalized each other. These strange natural events are meant to symbolize how Macbeth has upset the natural order by murdering the rightful king and taking his place. This disturbed environment is a reflection of the chaos Macbeth has caused in Scotland.
Who is suspected of setting up the murder of Duncan? Why?
Malcolm and Donalbain are suspected of paying the guards to perform the murder. Duncan's children are suspected primarily because they fled.
What does Ross have to say about the ambition that must have led to the murder?
Ross describes ambition as profitless and something that will eat up ones own life.
Who has been named King? Where will the coronation take place?
Macbeth has been named King and has gone to Scone to be crowned.
Instead of attending the coronation, Macduff plans to travel home. How might this choice be significant?
Macduff's planning to return home instead of attending the coronation would have been seen as an open display of opposition. He is essentially declaring himself Macbeth's enemy by avoiding the ceremony.