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In Macbeth, Lady Macbeth says, "A little water clears us of this deed." Is this an...

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t521863 | Student, Grade 10 | Valedictorian

Posted December 10, 2011 at 10:40 AM via web

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In Macbeth, Lady Macbeth says, "A little water clears us of this deed." Is this an accurate statement?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 13, 2011 at 1:12 AM (Answer #1)

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Let us remember that Lady Macbeth says this to her husband in Act II scene 2, after he has just killed Duncan and she has smeared the grooms with Duncan's blood to frame them for the deed. Lady Macbeth is exasperated with her husband's weakness and the way that he is stricken with remorse for his deed. Her words in this quote thus attempt to show Macbeth how quickly and easily the remnants of such a grisly deed can be washed away. From what she says, a quick rinse in water is all that is needed to wash away the evidence.

However, as Macbeth is beginning to realise, our conscience as humans will not let such deeds vanish so easily. Macbeth himself remains haunted by his actions, and there is a particular irony in the way that it is Lady Macbeth who later on in the play goes on to demonstrate that in spite of her defiant words to her husband, it is she who is unable to wash her self from this deed and cleanse her conscience, as the famous sleepwalking scene in Act V clearly demonstrates.

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cruzcontrol | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted December 10, 2011 at 11:13 PM (Answer #2)

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When asked to analyze a quote, ask yourself the following questions:  What does the quote say?  What does the quote mean?  Why does the quote matter? 

The quote essentially says:  Water will wash away the blood/murders off our hands.   

The quote means:  Lady Macbeth believes that something as basic as "a little water" will cleanse their conscience. 

The quote matters:  Here, Shakespeare reveals Lady Macbeth's psyche.  From the reader's/audience's perspective it is naive to think that washing up is the same as forgetting what has been done; however, Lady Macbeth thinks that this is possible for both her and Macbeth.       

Lady Macbeth's statement is not accurate.  Although the evidence has been cleared, the clearing of one's conscience requires more than just a splash of water.    

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