How does Lady Macbeth fully react to the death of King Duncan?I am writing empathetic writing for Lady Macbeth, and i am finding it difficult to find much information about her feelings fully...

How does Lady Macbeth fully react to the death of King Duncan?

I am writing empathetic writing for Lady Macbeth, and i am finding it difficult to find much information about her feelings fully straight after the event and long term.

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my opinion, it would be difficult to sympathize much with Lady Macbeth immediately after Duncan's murder. Remember that she has prayed to be "fill[ed] . . . from the crown to the toe top-full / Of direst cruelty" (1.5.49-50). She either feels that her prayers have worked, or she is trying to will her hopes into existence, because she is very cold and unfeeling once she learns that Macbeth has done the deed. She tells him to "consider it not so deeply" when he panics about not being able to say the word "Amen" (2.2.41). His anxiety persists, and when she discovers that Macbeth did not leave the bloody murder weapons with Duncan's chamberlains, she berates him. After she returns from replacing the daggers, she tells him, "My hands are of your color, but I shame / To wear a heart so white" (2.2.82-83). She means that her hands are white, but she would be ashamed to have a heart as white as Macbeth's, by which she means that he is a coward.

Despite the fact that she tells her husband that "a little water clears us of this deed. / How easy it is, then" (2.2.86-87), by Act Five, Lady Macbeth is singing quite a different—quite a bit more sympathetic—tune. Now, she cannot sleep soundly, and she feels that "all / the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little / hand" (5.1.52-54). She cries aloud, and even the Doctor and Gentlewoman sympathize with her as a result of her apparent guilt. She asks, in her fitful slumber, "What, will these hands ne'er be clean?" (5.1.45)  

Lady Macbeth seems to be aware, by now, that her husband is responsible for the deaths of Banquo and Macduff's innocent wife and children, as she references each of them in this scene too, and she may know she's helped to create a monster out of Macbeth. It appears that the woman has a heart, after all, and this might allow us to sympathize with her inability to see where her machinations might lead.  

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lady Macbeth shows very little reaction immediately after her husband tells her he has committed the murder they both had planned. She is either repressing her feelings of guilt or pity or does not have any. In Act 2, Scene 2, she is only concerned that Macbeth will kill the King and get away safely. She has drugged the two grooms, but she is afraid they may have been awakened by her husband entry. She says: "I laid their daggers ready; / He could not miss 'em. Had he not resembled / My father as he slept, I had done 't." When Duncan finds the body and wakes the whole household with his outcries and ringing the alarm bell, she puts in an appearance in her nightgown and puts on a great show of surprise and alarm, all of which is obviously faked. Then she cries, "Help me hence, ho!" in order to distract attention from her nervous husband, and she "is assisted to leave" (Act 2, Scene 3). The only time in the play that she reveals feelings of guilt and remorse is in the famous sleep-walking scene (Act 5, Scene 1). She seems haunted by all the crimes she and her husband have committed. It is hard to understand why she has seemed so cold and cruel throughout the play and then so devastated with normal feelings of fear, guilt, and revulsion at the end; but any paper about her feelings would have to focus on what she does and says in Act 5, Scene 1, because she has shown no sympathetic feelings toward Duncan until that point. It is as if she has repressed all her real feelings except greed and ambition throughout the play and only breaks down under the strain of hiding her natural feelings at the end.