In Shakespeare's Macbeth, when does Macbeth kill Duncan?

Expert Answers info

Ester Baumgartner, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)

bookPh.D. from University of Miami (Fla.)

calendarEducator since 2016

write768 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Arts, and Law and Politics

The actual murder of Duncan takes place between scenes, offstage. We hear Macbeth and Lady Macbeth planning to kill Duncan in Act I, and during Act II, we hear that the deed has been done.

In Act II, Scene I, Macbeth is awake late at night and roaming the castle grounds. He meets Banquo, who asks why he is not sleeping; Macbeth tells him he has been thinking about the witches. This is true, actually, because the witches' prediction that he'd be king is what motivates him to kill Duncan. At the end of the scene, he hears a bell. Macbeth says, 

I go, and it is done. The bell invites me.
Hear it not, Duncan, for it is a knell
That summons thee to heaven or to hell. (II.i.19-21)
The bell means that Macbeth is now going to commit the murder, which is why it's Duncan's death knell. 
When we next see Macbeth in Scene II, he is no longer calm and determined but panicked. He keeps claiming to hear strange noises and is very jumpy and on edge. Lady Macbeth discovers that Macbeth still has the knife, the murder weapon. He was supposed to plant it on the guard, who they drugged so he'd be asleep during the crime. Macbeth cannot work up the nerve to go back and plant the knife, so Lady Macbeth has to do it herself. In this scene, we already see the toll the murder has taken on Macbeth. He cries, 
Methought I heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep”—the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast. (II.ii.35-40)
In addition to noticing his paranoia (hearing a voice), the audience can tell that Macbeth is feeling remorse and knows that he will never be the same. He will "sleep no more" because his conscience will never recover from this act. He will never experience the "Balm of hurt minds," sleep, since he will never feel at ease or at peace again. For Shakespeare's...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 730 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Doug Stuva eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write1,751 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write35,413 answers

starTop subjects are History, Literature, and Social Sciences

check Approved by eNotes Editorial