Summary

The scene takes place in Dunsinane castle, in a room near Lady Macbeth’s bed chamber. A doctor and a lady in waiting see what she earlier reported — Lady Macbeth sleepwalking. Lady Macbeth enters, eyes open, with a candle, sleepwalking. She rubs her hands and speaks lines that show us her guilty conscience. The doctor and the lady in waiting take note of what she says.

Enter

To come on stage.

Dunsinane

Dunsinane is the name of Macbeth’s castle.

Ante-room

The room where the scene takes place is an anteroom, or room outside of another room, in this case, Lady Macbeth’s bed chamber.

Doctor of Physic

This was the Elizabethan equivalent of “Doctor of Medicine,” or our modern doctor. Elizabethan medicine was far behind modern-day medicine, of course, but this was the doctor you called for if you were feeling ill.

Waiting-Gentlewoman

A lady in waiting. A servant who did minor things for her mistress, in this case Lady Macbeth.

I have two nights watched with you, but can perceive / no truth in your report. When was it she last walked?

I’ve stayed up (watched) with you for the last two nights, but so far there’s no evidence to back up your report. When did she last sleepwalk?

Since his majesty went into the field, I have seen / her rise from her bed . . .

Since Macbeth went away to prepare for the coming attack, I’ve seen her get out of bed, put on her nightgown, etc., and yet be most soundly asleep (most fast sleep) the entire time.

A great perturbation in nature, to receive at once / the benefit of sleep, and do the effects of / watching!

It’s against nature to get the benefit of sleep while still being able to do what you can do while awake.

In this slumbery agitation, besides her / walking and other actual performances . . .

While she has been sleepwalking, other than the walking and other physical actions, have you heard her say anything?

That, sir, which I will not report after her.

She has spoken, but what she has said, I will not repeat.

You may to me: and ’tis most meet you should.

You may safely tell me, and it’s appropriate (meet) that you do so.

Neither to you nor any one . . .

The Gentlewoman won’t repeat what she’s heard, even to a doctor, because she knows no one will believe it without a witness, or seeing it personally.

taper

Candle.

Lo you, here she comes! This is her very guise; / and, upon my life, fast asleep. Observe her; stand close.

Look, here she comes! This is exactly how she has appeared before (her very guise), and I swear on my life, she’s sound asleep. Look, and stand closer.

How came she by that light?

Where did she get a candle from? Wouldn’t a normal sleepwalker just get up and start walking? What’s she doing with a candle?

Why, it stood by her: she has light by her / continually; ’tis her command.

It was right next to her bed. She always has a light by her, at all hours of the day and night. She has commanded it to be this way.

We may wonder why Lady Macbeth has ordered light near her at all times. Why does she fear the dark?

Ay, but their sense is shut.

Yes, but she still cannot see.

What is it she does now? Look, how she rubs her hands.

What’s this? She’s rubbing her hands together, over and over.

It is an accustomed action with her . . .

The Gentlewoman says that Lady Macbeth often washes her hands, or acts as if she’s washing her hands (to seem thus), and has sometimes done so for fifteen minutes straight (continue in / this a quarter of an hour).

Hand-washing is a common symptom of neurotics who feel guilt too great to bear. Some victims wash their hands so frequently and so long that they must wear gloves and use special creams to avoid damaging their skin through excessive wear.

Yet here’s a spot.

Lady Macbeth speaks, appearing to discover yet more blood (the spot) to be washed off her hands.

Hark! she speaks . . .

Listen! She’s speaking. I’ll write down what she says, so I’ll remember it more clearly later.

Out, damned spot! out, I say! . . .

Lady Macbeth still cannot get her hands clean, and yells at the spot of blood she thinks she sees, to get out, to go away. This is one of the most famous lines of the play.

It’s unclear exactly what Lady Macbeth means by “One: two: why, / then, ’tis time to do’t.”

Hell is murky! — Lady Macbeth has visions of hell, and imagines herself condemned. Here, she sees how dark (murky) and terrifying a place hell is.

Fie, my / lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard?

Lady Macbeth addresses herself to Macbeth, scorning him for being afraid. You’re a soldier, she says, but you’re afraid? What need do we have to fear anyone who knows we did it, when no one can force us to pay for it (call our power to account)?

Yet who would have thought the old man / to have had so much blood in him.

But I never expected Duncan (the old man) to have had so much blood. I never expected the guilt over his murder to possess me for so long.

Do you mark that?

Did you hear that?

The thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now?

The thane of Fife is Macduff, who did have a wife, before Macbeth killed her.

What, will these hands ne’er be clean?

Lady Macbeth cannot get her hands clean, in her mind. She still obsesses over the imagined bloodstains.

No more o’ / that, my lord, no more o’ that: you mar all with / this starting.

Here Lady Macbeth is speaking to Macbeth again — Don’t act that way, no more of that: you’ll destroy all (mar all) with this fearfulness (starting, constantly being startled). Lady Macbeth says that if he can’t act more normally, he’ll give it all away.

Go to, go to; you have known what you should not.

Go now; you have learned something you should not have known.

She has spoke what she should not . . .

Lady Macbeth has spoken things she should not have spoken, that’s for sure. God alone knows what torments her.

Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the / perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little / hand.

Lady Macbeth still cannot rid herself of her guilt. All the perfumes of Arabia wouldn’t get rid of the smell of blood on her hands. Her guilt is too great to bear.

The heart is sorely charged.

The Doctor can see how great Lady Macbeth’s anguish is.

I would not have such a heart in my bosom . . .

I wouldn’t have such a heart in my breast, not even if the rest of my body enjoyed perfect health.

This disease is beyond my practise . . .

I cannot cure her, but I have known other sleepwalkers who nevertheless were virtuous people. Not everyone who sleepwalks is dealing with unbearable guilt.

Wash your hands, put on your nightgown . . .

Lady Macbeth speaks to Macbeth again, asking him to wash his hands and dress, and not look so pale. Banquo, she says, is dead and buried, and cannot come out of his grave.

To bed, to bed! there’s knocking at the gate . . .

Lady Macbeth now goes back to bed, saying she hears knocking at the gate — just as there was the night they killed Duncan. She says again that what’s done is done, but there’s no indication that she has dealt with her overwhelming feelings of guilt.

Foul whisperings are abroad: unnatural deeds / Do breed unnatural troubles . . .

The Doctor mentions that there are many rumors flying (probably some of them involve Macbeth and how he came to power), and says that unnatural deeds (like the murder of Duncan) bring about unnatural problems. Diseased minds, like Lady Macbeth’s, sometimes confess their secrets in their sleep (To their deaf pillows), but she needs a priest more than she needs a doctor (she needs to confess more than she needs medicine). May God forgive all of us for our sins!

Look after her; / Remove from her the means of all annoyance . . .

Take care of her, get rid of anything that might make her uncomfortable (the means of all annoyance), and keep watching her.

My mind she has mated, and amazed my sight . . .

She has astonished me (my mind she has mated), and amazed me. I must think about all this, before I’m ready to talk about it.

Aside

In an aside, the character speaks privately to himself for a moment, or directly to the audience, or privately to some (but not all) of the other characters present.

As a matter of convention, an aside is always a true statement of what the character thinks. A character speaking in an aside may be mistaken, but may not be dishonest.

An aside (again as a matter of convention) cannot be heard by those not spoken to.

Exit Lady Macduff

Lady Macduff runs off the stage, pursued by the murderers, yelling “Murder!” She is killed, offstage, as the conventions of the day would require — killing a woman onstage would have been considered too brutal. But make no mistake — Lady Macbeth is killed by the murderers.

Exeunt Murderers.

Latin, literally “they leave.” The Murderers leave the stage.

Pronounced EX-ee-uhnt.

Exeunt all but Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

Latin, literally “they leave.” Most of the players leave the stage, leaving Macbeth alone with Lady Macbeth.

Pronounced EX-ee-uhnt.

Exeunt

Latin, literally “they leave.” Everyone leaves the stage.

Pronounced EX-ee-uhnt.