How does the night as described by Lennox compare with the night as experienced by the Macbeths in the previous scene, in Shakespeare's Macbeth?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Shakespeare's Macbeth, comparing Act Two, scene two and theMacbeths' experiences, and Act Two, scene three and Lennox'sobservations, it is safe to say that both evenings seem to be controlled by chaos and death.

It is, of course, in Act Two, scene two, that Mabeth and his wife carry out the murder of King Duncan. Macbeth is greatly disturbed by what he has done: sounds nearby distress him enormously. He returns from the scene of Duncan's death, and his warrior's courage has deserted him—perhaps because he has not acted honorably and bravely for his King, but is a dishonorable, frightened murderer of his King.

As soon as the King has been killed, nature reflects an imbalance within the world: Elizabethans believed that once Duncan was killed, the world was out of sorts. They felt that God ordained who came to the throne, not men. In this case, however, Macbeth has taken the God-chosen King from the throne, disrupting the Great Chain of Being. (Until the throne is once again in the hands of the rightful heir to the throne, this imbalance will not end.)

It is important to note that in line fifteen of this scene, as Macbeth returns and wonders fearfully what sound he has heard, Lady Macbeth responds that she heard an owl's scream (a harbinger of death) as well as the sound of crickets "crying." Macbeth then recounts what happened as he carried out the deed: while the guards spoke in their sleep, calling out, "Amen," Macbeth was unable to do so. He seems unaware that murdering his King mightseparate him from the will of God, and that his creator might be far-distanced from the man who has killed His chosen ruler of Scotland.

Macbeth has also, to his wife's horror, brought the murder weapons back with him. He refuses to put them back:

I'll go no more:

I am afraid to think what I have done;

Look on't again I dare not. (50-52)

In the following scene (three), Lennox comments on the behavior of nature and its creatures the night before, saying that the night was "unruly." Lennox describes a terrible wind that knocked down a chimney. Others reported that they heard "wailing" (lamenting) and "strange screams of death," and even an earthquake. The term "confused events" translates to "disorder," which reflects thedisruption of order that Macbeth's actions have caused. And again, the screams of the owl are heard.

While this might foreshadow the discovery of Duncan's murder, it also parallels what was occurring immediately after Macbeth killed the King.

Interestingly, Macbeth in scene two is in much the same condition as the guards when they are "discovered." When Macbeth returns to his chambers, he is covered with Duncan's blood—looking fearful. His wife tells him: "Go get some water, / And wash this filthy witness from your hand." We can imagine that he is distracted as well: he is hearing noises and rambles on about prayers he can't say and voices he hears (in his head?) that whisper "Macbeth does murder sleep..." He is frantic, and even refuses to return the murder weapons to Duncan's room.

When the guards wake in the morning to the ravings and clamoringaround them, they are much the way Macbeth was the previous night: they are confused, covered in blood, and giving the appearance of being dangerous...

They stared and were distracted, no man's life

Was to be trusted with them. (114)

Ironically, these descriptions of Macbeth the night before and the guards the next day are very similar, as are the sounds heard during the night.

 

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