What is Macbeth's reaction to Duncan's murder? How does Macbeth feel after Duncan's death?

Macbeth's reaction to Duncan's murder is to feel guilt, remorse, regret, to express his guilty conscience, to refuse to enter Duncan's chamber, to struggle to compose himself and finish the deed, to experience hallucinations, and to ultimately feign innocence through a display of emotion at the murder.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Macbeth is completely overwhelmed with guilt, remorse, and regret after he commits regicide. In act 2, scene 2, Macbeth exits Duncan 's chamber and is visibly shaken by his actions. Macbeth reveals his guilty conscience and remorse by looking at his bloody hands and saying, "This is a sorry sight"...

See
This Answer Now

Start your subscription to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your Subscription

Macbeth is completely overwhelmed with guilt, remorse, and regret after he commits regicide. In act 2, scene 2, Macbeth exits Duncan's chamber and is visibly shaken by his actions. Macbeth reveals his guilty conscience and remorse by looking at his bloody hands and saying, "This is a sorry sight" (Shakespeare, 2.2.20). He continues to illustrate his guilty conscience by asking Lady Macbeth why he could not say "Amen" in Duncan's chamber and experiences auditory hallucinations when he tells his wife that he thought he heard Duncan's chamberlains saying,

Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep (Shakespeare, 2.2.36).

Lady Macbeth does her best to calm her husband's nerves by instructing him to wash his bloody hands and dismiss his unsettling thoughts. Macbeth once again reveals his horror and regret by refusing to enter Duncan's chamber to place the daggers by the deceased chamberlains. Once Macduff begins knocking on the door, Macbeth remarks that he is scared of every sound and reveals his tortured mind by saying,

Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather The multitudinous seas incarnadine, Making the green one red (Shakespeare, 2.2.60–63).

Lady Macbeth responds to her husband's comments by saying that she would be ashamed if her heart were as pale and weak as his. Macbeth's final words once again reveal his remorse when he says,

Wake Duncan with thy knocking. I would thou couldst (Shakespeare, 2.2.75).

Overall, Macbeth immediately regrets his actions and is overwhelmed with guilt and remorse for killing Duncan. He struggles to maintain his composure and even refuses to follow through with the crime. Macbeth also reveals his tortured mind by experiencing auditory hallucinations and wishes that Duncan was alive. However, Macbeth is able to compose himself in front of the thanes and gets away with Duncan's murder long enough to become king and rule Scotland as a tyrant. As the play progresses, Macbeth develops into a bloodthirsty ruler who no longer feels remorse for assassinating Duncan. He becomes a callous, brutal man who is primarily concerned with cementing his legacy as king.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Macbeth's strongest reaction to Duncan's murder does not come over him until Macduff discovers the King's dead body and raises a general alarm. Macbeth didn't want to be present when this happened, but the knocking at the gate forced him to stop playing possum and come down to see why nobody was opening the gate. Macbeth expresses his feelings in the following lines in Act 2, Scene 3:

Had I but died an hour before this chance,
I had lived a blessed time; for from this instant
There's nothing serious in mortality.
All is but toys. Renown and grace is dead.
The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees
Is left this vault to brag of.

He wishes he were dead. He is overcome with guilt and remorse. He realizes that he has made a terrible mistake and that he is going to have to live with his guilt and shame for the rest of his life. The metaphor about the wine of life suggests that all the wine has been drained from the barrel and only the bitter residue is left at the bottom. He can't see how anything he can do for the rest of his life can bring him any pleasure or satisfaction.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I completely agree with the above posts and would add that Macbeth actually has two reactions to Duncan's murder: his genuine reaction, which the above posts discussed, and also his phony reaction to the king's death, staged for the benefit of the public.  When MacDuff announces the king has been murdered, Macbeth feigns ignorance to the deed and asks confusedly, "What is't you say? the life?" (II.iii.74).  After he pretends to be shocked by the recent turn of events, Macbeth takes on the role of wounded host, deeply bitter that such a travesty would occur in his household; he claims to have killed the servants, the very ones that he intended to frame with the bloody daggers, in a fit of rage:

"Who can be wise, amazed, temperate and furious,(120)
Loyal and neutral, in a moment? No man:
The expedition of my violent love
Outrun the pauser reason" (II.iii.120-123).

Macbeth constructs an elaborate show of emotion for his guests, hoping that his elaborate ruse will avert their suspicion. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When Macbeth kills Duncan, he gets very anxious.  He imagines that he hears the guards talking in their sleep.

There's one did laugh in's sleep, and one cried,(30)

“Murder!”

That they did wake each other: I stood and heard them:

But they did say their prayers and address'd them

Again to sleep. (Act 2, Scene II)

He gets even more upset when he thinks he hears them say “amen” and feels the words get caught in his throat.  He wonders why he cannot say it back.  It makes him feel that what he has done must have been sinful.  He gets so confused that he forgets to leave the daggers to frame them.

It does not take long for Macbeth to get over his guilt though.  He is soon killing people left and right to protect his throne.  It demonstrates the transience of guilt in the play.  For Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, it comes and goes.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Immediately after murdering Duncan, Macbeth experiences a combination of remorse and panic. He says that he has heard a voice saying "Sleep no more! Macbeth doth murder sleep." He is so out of sorts that he has left the bloody dagger he used to kill the king at the scene of the murder, and he refuses to return to pick up the murder weapons. His wife accuses him of being "infirm of purpose," and does it herself. Macbeth's reaction, particularly the spectral visions and voices that he experiences, foreshadow his response to murdering Banquo, and his wife's sleepwalking visions immediately before her suicide. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are essentially two questions here. The first concerns Macbeth's reaction to Duncan's death. His immediate reaction—his public reaction, at any rate—is one of horror. He expresses shock at such a heinous, bloody crime.

But it's all a gigantic pretense, of course, because Macbeth himself carried out the murder. And he has to maintain this facade of fake concern to make it seem that someone else killed Duncan.

As to how Macbeth feels, it's safe to say that he doesn't feel too good about what he's just done. This is hardly surprising given that, prior to the murder, Macbeth was in two minds whether to go ahead and commit the dastardly deed and had to be cajoled into doing it by his wife.

Macbeth's feelings of unease are compounded by a deep sense of guilt. He knows what he's done is wrong, knows that, in murdering the man to whom he owed so much, he's committed a very grievous sin.

Macbeth's guilt will manifest itself in his brief monologue in act 2, scene 3, where he expresses the wish that he'd died an hour before Duncan's death; that way, he would've lived a blessed life. For Macbeth, everything in life is now nothing more than a sick joke.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I completely agree with the above posts and would add that Macbeth actually has two reactions to Duncan's murder: his genuine reaction, which the above posts discussed, and also his phony reaction to the king's death, staged for the benefit of the public.  When MacDuff announces the king has been murdered, Macbeth feigns ignorance to the deed and asks confusedly, "What is't you say? the life?" (II.iii.74).  After he pretends to be shocked by the recent turn of events, Macbeth takes on the role of wounded host, deeply bitter that such a travesty would occur in his household; he claims to have killed the servants, the very ones that he intended to frame with the bloody daggers, in a fit of rage:

"Who can be wise, amazed, temperate and furious,(120)
Loyal and neutral, in a moment? No man:
The expedition of my violent love
Outrun the pauser reason" (II.iii.120-123).

Macbeth constructs an elaborate show of emotion for his guests, hoping that his elaborate ruse will avert their suspicion. 

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When Macbeth kills Duncan, he gets very anxious.  He imagines that he hears the guards talking in their sleep.

There's one did laugh in's sleep, and one cried,(30)

“Murder!”

That they did wake each other: I stood and heard them:

But they did say their prayers and address'd them

Again to sleep. (Act 2, Scene II)

He gets even more upset when he thinks he hears them say “amen” and feels the words get caught in his throat.  He wonders why he cannot say it back.  It makes him feel that what he has done must have been sinful.  He gets so confused that he forgets to leave the daggers to frame them.

It does not take long for Macbeth to get over his guilt though.  He is soon killing people left and right to protect his throne.  It demonstrates the transience of guilt in the play.  For Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, it comes and goes.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on