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Identify and analyze the soliloquy of Lady Macbeth, in Act Five, scene one, of...

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koktal | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted May 29, 2011 at 11:55 PM via web

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Identify and analyze the soliloquy of Lady Macbeth, in Act Five, scene one, of Shakespeare's Macbeth.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 31, 2011 at 6:39 AM (Answer #1)

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In Shakespeare's Macbeth, Lady Macbeth's soliloquy in Act Five, scene one, is broken up with talk between the Doctor and the Gentlewoman. During her speech, Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking, unaware of what she says. It is easy to understand why the doctor feels this information should remain a secret, for to know what things Lady Macbeth is talking about could mean death at the King's hands.

While a soliloquy is usually addressed to the character him- or herself, or to the audience (which is not the case here), what is most important is that it shares the character's hidden feelings or thoughts.

It is most commonly used to reveal the innermost concerns or thoughts of the speaker...

In this scene, the doctor is there to help Lady Macbeth. Though she seemed guiltless when they murdered Duncan, that is no longer the case. In fact, it so preys on her mind that she walks in her sleep and relives several murders—even the murders she had no part in, haunt her dreams, as she also refers to the deaths of Banquo and Macduff's family.

The first section of Lady Macbeth's dialogue is as famous for her character as Macbeth's "dagger" and "Tomorrow" speeches. In this part of the play, the Queen is reliving the murder of Duncan. She had originally told Macbeth that a little water would cleanse them of any guilt in Duncan's murder, speaking as casually as if she were asking about the weather.

A little water clears us of this deed:
How easy is it then! (II.ii.85-86)

However, we now hear her words as she tries to remove a spot, most likely symbolic of removing the stain of guilt they bear rather than a stain on clothing. She refers also to counting—the tolling of the bell to signal the time to move, Macbeth's cowardice even though he is a soldier, how no one would dare accuse them of murder, and the amount of blood in Duncan.

LADY MACBETH:

Out, damned spot! Out, I say! One–two—

why then ’tis time to do't. Hell is murky. Fie, my lord, fie!

A soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it,

when none can call our power to account? Yet who would

have thought the old man to have had so much blood in

him? (V.i.31-36)

Next Lady Macbeth refers to the murder of Macduff's wife and children (the "Thane of Fife"); she frets over the fact that the blood (guilt) will not be washed away, and also chides Macbeth for his fear during the murder of Duncan—that his behavior will give them away:

LADY MACBETH:

The Thane of Fife had a wife; where is she

now? What, will these hands ne'er be clean? No more o’

that, my lord, no more o’ that. You mar all with this

starting. (38-41)

Then the Queen speaks directly to her sense of remorse, wondering if there is no perfume that can remove ("sweeten") the depth of her guilt.

LADY MACBETH:

Here's the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes

of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh,

oh! (45-47)

The Doctor observes the depth of his patient's sorrow, and the Gentlewoman says she would not change places with Lady Macbeth, even to be queen. Here the sleeping woman refers to the death of Banquo—comforting Macbeth not to worry, for Banquo cannot return, but also confusing this death with Duncan's when there was knocking at the door and they needed dress like they had been asleep. (Lady Macbeth was unaware of the plans for Banquo's murder.)

LADY MACBETH:

Wash your hands, put on your nightgown;

look not so pale. I tell you yet again, Banquo's buried; he

cannot come out on's grave. (56-58)

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