In Macbeth, do you believe Lady Macbeth's faint in Act II scene 3 is real or feigned? Explain in depth please.

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karaejacobi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lady Macbeth's action of fainting in Act II scene iii is definitely feigned. At the end of Act I, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth have conspired to kill King Duncan while he sleeps in their castle, so that Macbeth can become King of Scotland in his place. Between Act II scenes i and ii, Macbeth commits the murder, but he is extremely agitated and paranoid. Lady Macbeth takes control of the situation, goes back to plant the daggers on the guards (as Macbeth was supposed to do), and tries to calm her husband. In scene iii, Macduff arrives at the castle wanting to see Duncan. When he enters the king's chambers, he finds his dead body. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth must, of course, pretend to be shocked and to know nothing of the murder. Macduff even makes the comment that he should not discuss what he has just seen in front of a woman. Lady Macbeth plays into his expectations through her reaction, but in truth, she was the mastermind behind the crime and the stronger party between her and her husband when it came to executing the murder. Lady Macbeth is absolutely pretending to be dramatically affected by the news of Duncan's death to avert suspicion from her and her husband.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is very important to be fully aware of what has just happened in this important scene. Macbeth has just confessed that he killed the two henchman. This of course is a very dangerous thing to have done, as they could have been questioned regarding their "involvement" in Duncan's murder. However, Macbeth has silenced them for good, obviously to conceal his own guilt and to safely enable him to place the blame on them. This causes Maduff to ask suspiciously "Wherefore did you so?" In response, Macbeth gives a somewhat unconvincing explanation, citing his love of his liege and his automatic anger at seeing the "murderers" who were "unmannerly breech'd with gore." Macbeth is obviously flailing around for an excuse here, and Lady Macbeth clearly feels that he is not doing a very good job and so chooses to create a distraction by fainting, drawing attention away from Macbeth and his deed.

Therefore, most definitely this is a feigned, calculated move on the part of Lady Macbeth. She is seeking to help out her husband by distracting the suspicions of Macduff.