Macbeth's Imaginary DaggerI got this question for my homework: Explain Macbeth's thinking shortly before he kills Duncan. This question is directed to Act 2, Scene 1. I have no idea how to answer...

Macbeth's Imaginary Dagger

I got this question for my homework: Explain Macbeth's thinking shortly before he kills Duncan. This question is directed to Act 2, Scene 1. I have no idea how to answer this. Think you can help me? This is what my answer is. Please help me add points or edit it. I really need help in my Literature!


As the time is gets near, the strong desire to kill Duncan must be growing stronger. Perhaps he might have doubts of completing his task smoothly but the bigger influence of becoming King has made him confident and mighty. He does not feel guilty anymore.

Expert Answers
tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Macbeth had just been emasculated by his wife, remember. She tore him down by telling him that she would be able to kill anyone, even her own child if she had one.  The dagger is the tool of death by which he must kill his friend in order to redeem himself in the eyes of his wife.  So, not only is he tempted by his own ambition, but his masculinity has been questioned; therefore, the dagger could also symbolize manhood. In fact, he did say that he could do anything that is required by any man.  According to his wife, a man is defined as one who can take out another man in order to obtain his goals. I wonder if the dagger is even a phalic symbol representing whether or not he will use that masculine power to dominate and take whatever he wants because he is male. Hmmm...

lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The floating dagger would be effective if it were a scene in a horrifying movie. With the right sound effects (terrifying music) and the right images, it would prove to be a frightening hallucination. In Macbeth, it proves to be his imagination. However, it leads him to commit the murder that he was hesitant to commit in previous scenes. No doubt, Macbeth is caught up in his own terrifying experience as he witnesses the floating dagger. I'm not sure how Shakespeare would have carried out such a scene, but with modern techniques and frightening devices, it would be an effective scene. 

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are different ways to look at the dagger.  You can think of it as a manifestation of his guilt, and the reasons he does not want to kill Duncan.  After he sees the dagger, he does kill Duncan though.  So you can think of it as a manifestation of his resolve, gathering the courage and strength to kill Duncan.  You can also just look at it as part of Macbeth's descent into madness, the madness he needs to kill Duncan.  Or it could just be the witches messing with him!

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The incident is best understood as one of a series of apparitions Macbeth observes during the course of the play. Later on, these apparitions are clearly a manifestation of his guilt (e.g. the ghost of Banquo.) In this case, however, I think post 5 has it exactly right- it's a visual symbol of his ambition and masculinity, and its pointing to the way in which both might be fulfilled.

kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The dagger can be seen as his subconscious preparing him from the deed, and taking the responsibiblty away from him as he is compelled by the apparition to carry out the murder. He knows it is 'a dagger of the mind' so is aware that he has conjured it himself from his murderous thoughts.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would tend to say that the dagger "appeared" in order to show Macbeth what needed to be done. The dagger though can represent many different things: his guilt, his weakness, his ambition, and foreshadow the tool he will use to murder Duncan.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You could say that, yes.  You could say that the dagger gave him courage, or that he is simply going mad and that is why he sees the dagger.

skampani | Student

Macbeth was greatly influenced by Lady Macbeth and this ultimately leads to his demise.When he questions his conscience , Lady Macbeth questions his manhood and urges him to commit the heinous deed.In this manner , she fans his ambition .Macbeth doesn't fully understand the consequences of his crime and regrets it immediately "Wake Duncan,with thy knocking."

waimoe | Student

So how can you direct that question into your answer? Because the question is asking for Macbeth's feelings so I do not know how to answer in the dagger way. Should I put it in a way like He got the 'courage' from the dagger?

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