How does Lady Macbeth respond to Macbeth's state of mind in Act 3 Scene 4?  

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Macbeth's state of mind is revealed by the fact that he continuously sees the newly-murdered Banquo's ghost at the banquet he is hosting (which Banquo was riding to attend when Macbeth had him murdered). He begins speaking to the apparition in front of his thanes, which concerns Lady Macbeth. She assures him that the vision is, like the one of the dagger he saw before killing Duncan, nothing but fear acting on his brain, and she chastises him for feeling this way. He is, according to Lady Macbeth, "quite unmann'd" by the vision. It becomes clear that Macbeth is consumed by guilt for his actions, and Lady Macbeth, in addition to trying to fortify his spirit (as she has done since Act I) also tries to downplay his visions and keep up appearances with his dinner guests. Eventually she dismisses them, saying her husband is overcome by some sort of malady that causes him to see things. This scene is a sort of turning point in Macbeth. After the banquet, it will be Lady Macbeth that is overcome with visions, a symptom of her own guilt, and her husband that has become a murderous, pitiless monster. But in this scene, she responds to Macbeth's guilt as she has throughout--by attempting to strengthen him by challenging his masculinity.

jkm1020 | Student

In the very beginning of the scene Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are both attempting to portray a united sense of calm and ease in their recently acquired positions of power. When they enter the banquet Macbeth says to the guests:

"Ourself will mingle with society
And play the humble host.
Our hostess keeps her state, but in best time
We will require her welcome."
 
And Lady Macbeth quickly responds:
 
"Pronounce it for me, sir, to all our friends,
For my heart speaks they are welcome."
 
However, things begin to unwind as soon as the first murderer comes to speak to Macbeth. The reader might assume Macbeth steps aside from his guests to have his conversation with the murderer and when he returns Lady Macbeth's frustration begins to simmer under the surface. She admonishes him for seemingly forgetting his duty to entertain his guests, saying "My royal lord,/ You do not give the cheer". In this moment, she appears to be reminding him to remain focused and be a good host or the guests might begin to suspect that something is wrong.
 
Once Macbeth begins to see the apparition of Banquo's ghost, Lady Macbeth responds to these fits in two differing ways. With the guests, Lady Macbeth attempts to downplay her husband's behavior. She assures them that he often behaves like this and the behavior will soon pass if they simply do not pay attention to him. However, when she pulls Macbeth aside she attempts to snap him back into reality by challenging his masculinity. She tells him his fear is not even "true fear" and is more well suited to a woman's story told around a fire. When his fits continue, she finally suggests to the guests that they leave.