Summarize Macbeth's long soliloquy in Act II scene 1 of Macbeth.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This very important soliloquy occurs just before Macbeth goes to kill Duncan. As he dismisses Banquo and Fleance, and then his servant, Macbeth is left alone with his murderous thoughts as he contemplates what he is about to do. The soliloquy could be summarised as follows.

Macbeth is startled to see a dagger before him with its handle pointing towards his hand. He grasps at it but is unable to touch it. Macbeth wonders whether this dagger is real or just a product of his imagination, and comments that it acts as a sign to spur him on to kill Duncan. As he continues to contemplate the dagger he sees that it becomes covered in blood. Macbeth comments that this is the time of night when evil is rampant. He then implores the earth to not hear his steps in case it announces what he is doing. However, he comments that whilst he is talking, Duncan still lives and he is procrastinating. As Macbeth hears the bell tolling, Macbeth sees it as an invitation and as a sound that summons Duncan to the afterlife and whatever might greet him there.


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