What do you learn about Macbeth from his response to the murder of King Duncan in Act II, scene ii?

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pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Macbeth's response to the King's murder in Act II, Sc II shows the guilt that he will be haunted by from now on, he is beginning to unravel emotionally. 

"When Macbeth returns he is distraught and regrets the murder he has committed. Macbeth reports to Lady Macbeth that as he stepped past Duncan’s guards, he heard a voice cry,"

Macbeth is upset, disturbed by what he has done, he begins to experience a sense of torment that will increase in intensity as the play continues. 

"Methought I heard a voice cry 'Sleep
no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep,' the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second
course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast,—" (Act II, Sc II) 

This scene clearly illustrates that Macbeth was not a killer. He has remorse for his actions.  Too late he has allowed his conscience to inform his actions.  Too late for Macbeth to walk away from the treachery of murdering a good and righful king. 

Macbeth has condemned himself to a living hell by his actions, and he knows it.  He is truly sorry, but it is too late.

Read the study guide:
Macbeth

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