When does Lady Macbeth go mad?

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Kelvin Brakus eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In the text, there is no specific moment in which Lady Macbeth goes mad. However, she is clearly of unsound mind by act 5, scene 1. In this famous sleepwalking scene, Lady Macbeth is haunted by the memory of her crime and is seen trying to wash invisible blood from her hands.

What is interesting about her madness is that it appears to come on gradually. In act 3, scene 2, for example, we see the very beginning of her torment and anxiety in the following quote:

Naught’s had, all’s spent,
Where our desire is got without content.
'Tis safer to be that which we destroy
Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy.

What she's saying here is that killing Duncan wasn't worth it. Although she is queen, she is tormented by feelings of anxiety and remorse. Arguably, this is where her madness begins, with these very early feelings of guilt. Although she is able to keep these feelings under control in public, as we see in the banquet scene, her madness is inescapable by act 5, scene 1.

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Jennings Williamson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Lady Macbeth goes mad...

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