What is the irony of Lady Macbeth's giving Macbeth comfort in act 2?William Shakespeare's "Macbeth"

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act II Scene 2 of William Shakespeare's tragedy, "Macbeth," Macbeth returns from having murdered King Duncan so that he may be king. Upon his return, he encounters his wife, Lady Macbeth who remarks that she fears that the assassination has not been completed.  To this, Macbeth responds that he has done the deed.  Then, he asks his wife if she has not heard a noise; Lady Macbeth replies that she has heard an owl screech and thinks she has heard Macbeth speak.  Worried that his act may have been witnessed, Macbeth says "Listen!" and asks who is in the second chamber; his wife responds, "Donalbain." Anxious, Macbeth says, "This is a sorry sight!"(II,ii,28), but his wife makes light of his anxiety and tells him,

A foolish thought to say a sorry sight!....Consider it not so deeply....Be not lost so poorly/ in your thoughts... (II,ii,29,40,90,91)

The irony of this comforting remark is that Lady Macbeth is the one who becomes obsessed with the thoughts of the murder committed and, tormented by the crimes her husband has committed, goes insane. Guilt-ridden, she worries that the blood on the steps of their castle will be discovered, she obsessively wipes the "spot," repeating "Out, damn'd spot!"(V,i,35).

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the Shakespeare play, Macbeth, there are numerous ironies surrounding Lady Macbeth. She has ambiguous feelings about killing the king herself even though she belittles Macbeth for not having courage. The entire plan causes some stress for Lady Macbeth, but she maintains her focus and comforts herself with the knowledge that it will merely take some water to wash away the king's blood as she says, "[A] little water clears us of this deed." The irony lies in the fact that Lady Macbeth comes to realize that the guilt she (and Macbeth) feel cannot be so easily cast aside as is indicated through her obsessive/compulsive hand-washing during her hallucinations as she remarks, "Out, damned spot! out, I say! . . .Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?"