What happens in Act 2, Scene 2, of Macbeth?

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Noelle Matteson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This scene begins with a short soliloquy by Lady Macbeth. She professes her courage and admits that she drugged Duncan’s guards. However, she reveals her hidden fears by starting at an owl’s cry, worrying that Macbeth has not killed Duncan, and giving an excuse for why she did not commit the crime herself: “Had he not resembled / My father as he slept, I had done't.”

Macbeth returns with bloody hands. He thinks he heard men talking in their sleep and waking up. It is unclear how much he actually heard and how much he imagined. His wife chastises him for cowardice and directs him to “Consider it not so deeply.” Macbeth forgot to leave the bloody weapons with the guards in order to frame them, so Lady Macbeth goes back and does it herself.

They both hear knocking, and Macbeth laments the blood he has just shed. While Macbeth asks, “Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood / Clean from my hand?” Lady Macbeth answers, “A little water clears us of this deed.” Of course, Macbeth is right in this case, for Lady Macbeth ritualistically attempts to wash the blood from her hands later on in the play. The couple then retires to bed.

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What happens in act 2 scene 2 in Macbeth