What excuse does Lady Macbeth give for not killing Duncan herself in Shakespeare's Macbeth?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The episode you are referring to happens in Act II, Scenes 1 and 2 of Shakespeare's Macbeth.

In Act II, Scene 1, Macbeth decides that he will kill Duncan.  He hesitates a bit, giving his soliloquy about the knife and whether he really wants to go through with the murder, but when he hears the bell his wife rings he goes and kills Duncan.

Although Lady Macbeth wants Duncan dead (and although she provides the knife for Macbeth to use), she doesn't do it herself.  The excuse she gives is that Duncan, when sleeping, looks too much like her father.

I laid their daggers ready;
He could not miss 'em. Had he not resembled
My father as he slept, I had done't.

cybil's profile pic

cybil | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

Lady Macbeth certainly has the opportunity to kill Duncan when she drugs the grooms' drinks and then looks into the king's room. She says, however, that she would have killed Duncan had he not resembled her father as he slept. Her courage wilts when she sees the sleeping king who reminds her of her own father, so she leaves the job of murdering Duncan to her husband, Macbeth.

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