Macbeth Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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In Macbeth, whom do Macbeth and his wife plan to take the blame for Duncan's murder?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Lady Macbeth plans Duncan's murder so that the suspicion will fall on his servants, the chamberlains sleeping outside his room. Macbeth is so impressed with the plan that he leaves aside his qualms and hesitations and decides to go forth with it boldly.

Lady Macbeth's plan is that she will get Duncan's servants so drunk that they pass out and leave Duncan unguarded. Duncan, she says, should be fast asleep after the exertions of his day traveling to the castle. Then, once the guards have passed out as if dead, she and Macbeth can do whatever they want to Duncan.

Lady Macbeth says:

When Duncan is asleep—
Whereto the rather shall his day’s hard journey
Soundly invite him—his two chamberlains
Will I with wine and wassail so convince
That memory, the warder of the brain,
Shall be a fume, and the receipt of reason
A limbeck only: when in swinish sleep
Their drenchèd natures lie as in a death,
What cannot you and I perform upon
The unguarded Duncan? What not put upon
His spongy officers, who shall bear the guilt
Of our great quell?
She proposes that Macbeth kill Duncan with the servants' daggers, spread Duncan's blood on their sleeping bodies, and drop the daggers beside them. This way, the servants will take the blame for the murders.
Lady Macbeth does not stop to think that the servants have no plausible reason to kill Duncan. Luckily for her, however, Duncan's sons run away when they hear of the murder, fearing that they too will be targets. They are blamed for their father's death.

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Lady Macbeth's plan to murder King Duncan--and it was she who worked out all the details--Duncan's grooms (his attendants) were to be blamed for his murder. She would drug their drinks so that they would sleep, and then she would lay out their daggers for Macbeth to use in killing the king. Macbeth was to commit the murder, smear the sleeping grooms with Duncan's blood, and leave the daggers at the scene. Thus it would appear that these men in Duncan's chamber, covered with Duncan's blood, had committed the deed.

Her plan unfolded with two exceptions. Macbeth forgot to leave the daggers behind, so Lady Macbeth had to return them. After Duncan's body was discovered, the king's sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, ran away, fearing reasonably that they, too, were in danger. Because they had fled the scene without explanation, the guilt for Duncan's murder then fell on them. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth certainly didn't argue about this misconception.

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kc4u | Student

It was Lady Macbeth who chalked the blueprint of the murder of Duncan. In act1 sc.7, she also told Macbeth how she was going to implicate the two chamberlains of Duncan in the crime. First, she would make them unconscious with 'wine and wassail'; and then the blame of the heinous act would be conspiratorially imposed upon them:'.....what not put upon/His spongy officers, who shall bear the guilt/Of our great quell?' According to her plan, Macbeth was supposed to leave the daggers of the grooms as stained with blood, and the grooms themselves as smeared with the same, so that they would be easily detected as the killers of the king. When Macbeth returned, after the murder, to Lady Macbeth, she could see those bloody weapons still with her husband. Since Macbeth refused to revisit Duncan's chamber, Lady Macbeth herself went back to do the needful. In act2 sc.3, when Duncan's sons, Malcolm and Donalbin, decided between themselves to escape to England and Ireland respectively, for their safety, the suspicion and blame came to fall on them.