What does this passage from Macbeth mean? Out, damned spot! out, I say!--One: two: why,then, 'tis time to do't.--Hell is murky!--Fie, mylord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need wefear who knows...

What does this passage from Macbeth mean?

Out, damned spot! out, I say!--One: two: why,
then, 'tis time to do't.--Hell is murky!--Fie, my
lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we
fear who knows it, when none can call our power to
account?--Yet who would have thought the old man
to have had so much blood in him

Expert Answers
rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This passage is from the first scene of Act V in Macbeth. The Doctor and a Gentlewoman are discussing Lady Macbeth's bizarre habit of sleepwalking, and speculating just what might be bothering her. As they are talking, Lady Macbeth enters the scene rubbing her hands as if she is washing them. The Gentlewoman reports that she has witnessed this behavior many times. As she rubs her hands, she speaks, and we learn that she is trying to clean off an imaginary spot of blood. This is what she means when she says "Out, damned spot!" The rest of the passage quoted in the question refers to her plot with Macbeth to murder King Duncan while he slept in their castle. "It is time to do't," she says, meaning the murder itself. Then she recalls (unconsciously, of course) how she challenged her husband's masculinity as he hesitated, saying, in effect, "you're a soldier, and you're afraid?" She claims that after the deed is done, they will become so powerful that nobody will be able to say anything about the way they rose to power: "What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?" But then she says, in effect, "who would have thought the King would bleed so much?" Overall, this speech reveals a woman wracked by guilt, driven to the point of madness by the weight of the evil deeds she has helped her husband carry out. 

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Macbeth

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