How do Macbeth and Lady Macbeth react to the murder in Act 2 scenes 1 and 2?

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troutmiller eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To begin, Macbeth is uneasy about killing Duncan.  He doesn't really want to kill him because he has been loyal to him all along.  Lady Macbeth is so overcome with ambition that she doesn't care how he feels.  She tells him to "man-up" and get the job done.

After he kills the king, Macbeth is a little jumpy, as is Lady Macbeth.  As he approaches he says, "Who's there? what, ho!"  He is a little uneasy wondering who is still up while the rest of his job hasn't been finished yet.   Here Macbeth has the daggers with him.  He can't bear to go and place the bloody knives up with the guards who are to be framed. 

As he enters the second scene, Lady Macbeth is just as jumpy.  Lots of different sounds are making her nervous. she uses words like "Hark!" to show that she's jumpy. 

"I heard the owl scream and the crickets cry.
Did not you speak?"

Macbeth is so bothered by this evil deed that he knows he will not be able to sleep.  He even hears someone say those words to him.

"Still it cried 'Sleep no more!' to all the house:
'Glamis hath murder'd sleep, and therefore Cawdor
Shall sleep no more; Macbeth shall sleep no more.'"

He says he could not pronounce the word "Amen" when he heard Duncan's sons speak. 

"But wherefore could not I pronounce 'Amen'?
I had most need of blessing, and 'Amen'
Stuck in my throat"

This bothers him a lot, and Lady Macbeth tells him that he needs to not think of such things or he'll go mad.

"These deeds must not be thought
After these ways; so, it will make us mad."

marygronan | Student

The manner in which Macbeth and Lady Macbeth react to the murder varies from the strained dialogue Macbeth has with Banquo before the murder to where he verges on hysteria during his conversation with his wife in scene 2

In between we witness the steely resolve he has acquired and his determination to carry out the murder. In the soliloquy where he imagines he sees a dagger he asks:

....oh art thou but

   A dagger of the mimd, a false creation,

   Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain                     Act 2 Sc1 37-39

Macbeth realises that he is in a state of anxiety. He wrestles with this and convinces himself that this mental vision of the dagger is a sign for him to go forward.This boosts his ambition to proceed with his plan. He allies himself with witchcraft,tyranny and secrecy. He likens himself to Tarquin,the Roman tyrant,who used the night for his bad deeds. Macbeth sees himself striding towards his prey in a similar way. He asks the earth to turn a blind eye

    ...for fear

   Thy very stones prate of my whereabout

Act2 Sc1 59


He has made up his mind . He says:

         I go, and itis done: the bell invites me.

         Hear it not, Duncan, for it is a knell

         That summons thee to heaven or to hell.

Act2 SC! l 63-65

After the murder in scene 2 he says to his wife :

      I've done the deed.

Act2 SC2 l 21

From now on Macbeth is showing signs of hysteria.This is reflected in his short nervous replies often only one word. He complains about the knocking sound they hear. He still has the daggers and refused to take them back to the scene. By the end oof the scene Macbeth is showing serious regret as he realises the seriousness of what he has done. Regarding his personal feelings he says:

        Macbeth does murder sleep.....

       Balm of hurt minds,great nature's second course

       Chief nourisher in life's feast

Act2 Sc2 l35 38 30

He tells her he will never be the same again and needs a new identity.He says:

     To know my deed, twere best not know myself

Act2 Sc2 73

His final words in the scene demonstrate his reget and fear. He says

       Wake Duncan with thy knocking: I would thou couldst

Act2 sc2 73 74

Lady Macbeth in her reaction shows great support for her husband. She takes the daggers back to the sleepy grooms and smears them with blood. She tells Macbeth to wash his hands. Regarding what took place during the murder she advises him with the words:

     Consider it not so deeply

Act2 sc2 l30


      These deeds must not be thought

     After these ways :so, it will make us mad 

Act2 Sc2 l 32-33

Lady Macbeth like her husband is driven by the ambition for power and for him to be king. She suppresses any feelings that could chane her mind. However we do witness signs of human feelings in her .In one instance she tells Macbeth about Duncan:

    ...had he not resembled

    My father as he slept, I had done't

Act2 sc2 l22-23

Also after the murder she said to him :

      My hands are of you color,:but I shame

      To wear a heart so white

Act2 Sc2 l63-64

She continues to be supportive and refers to his noble strength. She is the strong person now. However, she is shown to be a very callous woman when it comes to any feelings for the king or his attendants. It is all about Macbeth and herself.