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Several important events occur in Act II of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Scene 1: Banquo and Fleance have insomnia. Banquo tells Macbeth he dreamed about the evil witches and is worried, but Macbeth dismisses his worries. Macbeth has a vision of a dagger covered with blood. Macbeth enters Duncan’s room.
Scene 2: Lady Macbeth hears an owl. Macbeth returns to her, daggers in hand, after killing Duncan. Lady Macbeth places daggers near Duncan. They return to bed.
Scene 3: Porter greets Lennox and Macduff. Murder of Duncan is discovered.
Scene 4: Ross reports prodigies concerning Duncan’s horses, birds and weather. It’s announced that Macbeth will be king. Macduff leaves.
In Macbeth, Macbeth, with much persuasion from Lady Macbeth, has resolved to murder Duncan. This has come about after Macbeth, returning victorious from battle, receives information from the three witches that not only will he be rewarded for his efforts by being made Thane of Cawdor but he will also be king. It seems that he and Lady Macbeth must plot to ensure their future, although Macbeth, at the beginning of Act II, is still deeply troubled by the events he anticipates will follow.
The scene with the daggers (scene i), is most important because it speaks to Macbeth's state of mind. He is aware that the dagger is a vision. It encourages him with its "handle toward my hand" (34); it excites him, as he is eager to "clutch thee," and it overwhelms him as he suffers from "the heat-oppressed brain" (39). It also serves as a premonition because he sees the blood dripping from it and it also goads him to perform the wicked deed such as Tarquin, the tyrannical ruler, would have done. Lastly, it scares him but also strengthens his resolve as he says, "I go, and it is done; the bell invites me" (62).
In scene ii, Lady Macbeth's concerns for Macbeth reveals her resolve. She is still not convinced that Macbeth is capable and her remark that, "Had he not resembled My father as he slept, I had done't" (12), is significant in revealing a potential weakness in her otherwise unwavering disposition. The most important event is the actual murder and Macbeth's confusion; he believes that he "does murder sleep" (36). In this confusion he still has the daggers in his hand and Lady Macbeth has to step in and return them to Duncan's chamber and still convince Macbeth that "A little water clears us of this deed" (67), meaning that blood can be washed from their hands. Neither of them are prepared for the psychological torment and irrational decisions that will follow.
The most significant event in scene iv, is the meeting between Ross, the old man, and Macduff, when Macbeth's "sovereignty," in the absence of Donalbain and Malcolm, is discussed. The old man's comment, in the form of almost a blessing and a means to hopefully protect them, is important as it drives the plot of Macbeth when we have "good of bad, and friends of foes" (41).
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