How would you describe Macbeth's state of mind as he makes his way to Duncan's chambers in Act 2, Scene 1 in Macbeth?

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teachertaylor's profile pic

teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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As Macbeth makes his way to Duncan's chamber in Act 2 Scene 1 of Macbeth, he feels anxious about going through with the murder.  He imagines that he sees a dagger, and he knows that the image is simply a hallucination caused by his own fear, guilt, desire, and ambition.  He says that the dagger is a result of his "heat oppressed brain," and here the audience understands that Macbeth is experiencing extreme anxiety.  He is still a bit unsure of whether or not he should actually go through with the murder, and he considers that if he allows Duncan to live, then his dreams of becoming the king will not come true.  When he hears the bell that has been rung by Lady Macbeth, he puts his fears and doubts aside and goes ahead with the murder.

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dule05 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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In Act 2, Scene 1, Macbeth displays signs of his guilt-ridden conscience when he seems to observe a dagger which hovers in front of him. The vision of the invisible dagger is the result of his fears and doubts regarding his plan to murder his relative and his king, Duncan. Although he must murder Duncan in order to fulfill his ambition of taking the throne, he is plagued by his inner demons. He knows that killing Duncan is an act of atrocity and once done, it cannot be undone. Macbeth is aware that the dagger is the product of his guilty conscience:

Art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?

The reason why we are able to see Macbeth's inner chaos is because, at this point, he is still torn between the forces of good and the forces of evil. There is still goodness inside him. However, towards the end of the play he fully embraces evil and is devoid of humanity.

Despite this vision which puzzles Macbeth, he decides to follow through with his plan, so he murders Duncan and forfeits his soul for the sake of attaining temporal power.


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