When Lady Macbeth questions Macbeth about his plans, he replies "Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck, / Till thou applaud the deed."  What has he just said and why?

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Macbeth makes this statement to his wife after he has hired men to murder Banquo and his son, Fleance. Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth that his mind is "full of scorpions" because Banquo and his son are still alive and a threat to him. He mentions too that Banquo and...

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Macbeth makes this statement to his wife after he has hired men to murder Banquo and his son, Fleance. Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth that his mind is "full of scorpions" because Banquo and his son are still alive and a threat to him. He mentions too that Banquo and Fleance are vulnerable to murder and that soon "a deed of dreadful note" will occur. Lady Macbeth asks him what he plans to do. It is here that he says "Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck/Till thou applaud the deed." What he means is, it's better that you don't  know what is going to happen, my dear, until after it has happened--and then, he says, you can celebrate.

Macbeth might as well have told her his plans, as it must be obvious to her that he is, one way or another, going to commit more murder. He tells her not to look startled, for evil deeds lead to more evil deeds. But by not informing her exactly how the murders are going to happen, he leaves with deniability. He also tries to protect her from his own guilt, because he knows Banquo and Fleance will be killed before she can do anything about it. At the same time, he has tipped her off so that she will know who is responsible for the deaths. The irony, of course, is, that Fleance's murder will be botched, so there won't be much to applaud. At this point, as this speech to his wife indicates, Macbeth has perhaps gotten overconfident. 

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