What does Lady Macbeth's sleep walking indicate about her state of mind?  

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In act 5, scene 1, the Doctor and Gentlewoman witness Lady Macbeth sleepwalking at night. Interestingly, Lady Macbeth is seen excessively rubbing her hands while speaking about the amount of blood at the scene of Duncan's murder. After Lady Macbeth exits the stage, the Doctor tells the Gentlewoman that the queen needs a priest more than she needs a physician. Before the scene ends, the Doctor instructs her to remove anything Lady Macbeth might be able to use to harm herself.

Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking indicates that she has a guilty conscience and is slowly losing her mind. The fact that she is washing imaginary blood from her hands reveals that she feels guilty for participating in King Duncan's murder. Evidently, the queen is not stable and is suffering from a tortured soul. She is filled with guilt, anxiety, and fear, which is why she cannot rest peacefully at night. Her husband is also becoming increasingly distant and tyrannical, which further isolates Lady Macbeth and has a negative impact on her mental state. Overall, her sleepwalking indicates her unstable mind and reveals her guilt. Later on in the play, the audience learns that Lady Macbeth commits suicide.

coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the play "Macbeth" by William Shakespeare, the author shows us what happens to a person's state of mind when they step over the boundaries of right and wrong in order to get what they want. We must remember here that later in the play Lady Macbeth is on her own, and more alone and isolated than she is at the beginning. So her state of mind is one of loneliness and being isolated in her feelings of guilt and axiety or terror over being found out and caught. At the beginning of the play she was acting in league with Macbeth - even directing the action. He then goes off like a loose cannon heading in wild directions where he does not want to be followed, even by his wife. He is totally disocciated from her and cold. Alone,guilty and with no-one to unburden to - she sleepwalks and takes her own life.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lady Macbeth's sleep walking, and what she does and says while she is walking in her sleep, show that she feel very guilty about all the things that she has helped to convince her husband to do.

The most obvious example of this is her compulsive hand washing.  She keeps trying to clean herself and yet the spot will not come out (since it's only in her mind anyway).  This shows that she is not able to overcome her guilt.  She feels that her guilt cannot be washed away.  This is going to lead her to kill herself later on in the play.