In Shakespeare's Macbeth, how would you restate Lady Macbeth's soliloquy (lines 4-7) in contempory language?Summarize what Macbeth and Lady Macbeth say to each other in Act Three, Scene 2.

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although the second scene of Act 3 in Macbeth doesn’t contain Lady Macbeth’s most famous lines, it still gives the readers important insights into her character.  It is important to record the lines here before putting them into contemporary language:

Nought’s had, all’s spent, / Where our desire is got without content:  ‘Tis safer to be that which we destroy / Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy.  (3.2.4-7)

In other words, everything is in vain if we succeed in our goals, but not gain happiness as a result.  It would be better to be at the receiving end to our violence than not to gain joy from it.  Or perhaps even more in the vernacular: “This murder is pointless!  We’re still not happy!  I wish I were dead!!!”  Ha!  Little did she know that wish would soon come true!

Lady Macbeth’s comment is a statement of truth about guilt.  Ironically, other characters in the play as well as the readers themselves knew this to be true even before Macbeth killed Duncan.  Lady Macbeth, who is often seen as a woman with no imagination, shows this lack of imagination here.  She realized the downfall far too late.

In regards to what they say to each other here, most of their conversation is ironically a reiteration of the quote in question.  Lady Macbeth listens as Macbeth wonders the exact same thing:  if it would be better to be at “peace” with the dead than in this “torture” in what they have done.  Ironically, Lady Macbeth begs him not to feel this way even though she has just come upon the same problem herself.  They decide to put on the false face of peacefulness so as to fool their fellow characters. 

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