What does Macbeth say when he hears of Lady Macbeth's death?What's does his reaction to her death reveal about their relationship and his state of mind?

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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She should have died hereafter;

There would have been time for such a word.

To-morrow, to-morrow and to-morrow,

Creeps this petty pace from day to day

To the last syllable of recorded time,

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle!

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more; it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing. (5.5.17-28).

At this point, Macbeth is beginning to see life as essentially meaningless. When he says "life is but a walking shadow," or that life is like a candle, he means that life is short. He also notes that life simply creeps towards death. In other words, we live for a short time, only to head towards death and that each player is an idiot and his/her life, in the end, signifies nothing in the grand scheme of things. This is pretty bleak stuff.

Macbeth's guilt and his fear of losing his power has manifested in hallucinations and has augmented his anxiety of all things around him. His modus operandi is to try to avoid his fate as told in the witches' prophecy. In this soliloquy, he uses the world 'player,' as if he, and everyone, is some pawn in a deterministic script which he can only try to rebel against.

Macbeth is so preoccupied with his anxiety, desire to retain his power and his avoidance of prophecy that he barely reacts to the news that his wife is dead. He says there is no time for even "a word," or a prayer. Macbeth has become lost in hopelessness, yet he still is bent on fighting it out until the end. He is so lost in his own guilt, that any emotion for other human beings, even his wife, is cast aside. Now, he is only concerned with fighting his alleged faith, proclaimed by the witches' prophecies.


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