Macbeth Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Macbeth book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What does Macbeth's reaction to Lady Macbeth's death reveal about their relationship and his state of mind in Act 5?

Expert Answers info

D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write11,298 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

When Macbeth hears news of his wife's death he sounds indifferent, saying:
She should have died hereafter [at some point anyway].
He then launches into his famous "tomorrow and tomorrow" soliloquy about being weary of life. This shows that Macbeth is depressed, miserable, and consumed with self pity. He has changed drastically from the hopeful man with a conscience that he was in Act I.
He was a man who believed that becoming king would make all his dreams come true. Instead, becoming king has made his life a living nightmare. It has led him down a very bloody path, killed the humanity inside of him, and caused him to realize he is not fit for the crown. As Angus says of Macbeth at the beginning of Act V, scene 2
Now does he feel his title
Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe
Upon a dwarfish thief
It must feel terrible to get the position you have long coveted and realize you are incompetent in it. Macbeth, his dreams dashed, can only hope, at this point, that against all odds, he can stave...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 678 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write10,304 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2006

write2,050 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

jmmoeller | Student

In the "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow..." soliloquy, Macbeth articulates his profound despair at the news of Lady Macbeth's death. Leading up to this moment, Macbeth has been defined by his decisive and volatile action towards those who stood between him and the throne of Scotland. He comitted murder and treason against his closest allies at the behest of Lady Macbeth, who constantly encouraged him to garner more power.

Macbeth's shift into contemplative language following the news of his wife's death illustrates how hollow his personal desire for power is and has been throughout the play. Once Lady Macbeth dies, Macbeth immediately loses his lust for complete political dominance, replacing what was clear political intention with forlorn self-reflection:

"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing" (Shakespeare, 5.5.19–28).

In addition to illustrating his resignation from the Machiavellian thirst for political power that defined his machinations up to this point, the text also signifies Macbeth's return to the same introspection he employed in the first and second acts. Macbeth has become more craven with the play's progression, and seemed completely lost to it until this moment. He suddenly comprehends the futility of human existence in the face of inevitable death. With Lady Macbeth no longer at his side, Macbeth has no desire to continue his quest for power, but, recognizing that he's come too far, decides he must push forward and face his own demise.

lobo102 | Student

When told of his wife's death, Macbeth had many things on his mind like 10,000 English soldiers.

katie442 | Student

im sorry i just had to completely disagree with missmcrae i do not think Macbeth totally does not love his wife but his mental state is degenerating and his mind is so poisoned with guilt that he can not think of anything but staying alive and fulfilling his wifes wishes of him being king!

thanks xxx

missmacrae | Student

Macbeths reaction to Lady macbeths death clearly states that he does not love her. At all. He is to wrapped up in his own twisted life and his battles to care.