Out, damned spot
What is it she does now? Look how she rubs her hands.
It is an accustom'd action with her, to seem thus
washing her hands. I have known her continue in this a quarter
Yet here's a spot.
Hark, she speaks. I will set down what comes from her, to
satisfy my remembrance the more strongly.
Out, damn'd spot! out, I say!—One; two: why, then
'tis time to do't.—Hell is murky.—Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier,
afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call
pow'r to accompt?—Yet who would have thought the old man to
have had so much blood in him?
Lady Macbeth, as has become her wont, sleepwalks through the
royal castle. As her waiting-woman and her doctor listen in, she
mutters fragments of an imaginary conversation that recalls the
night she and her husband conspired to murder King Duncan
[see A SORRY SIGHT]. The hour is two o'clock; she upbraids
her husband for his bad conscience; she insists that there will be
nothing to fear once they've grabbed the crown; she marvels at how
much blood Duncan had to shed. As Lady Macbeth replays this scene
for the eavesdroppers, she not only incriminates herself, but also
reveals the pangs of conscience she had ridiculed in her
"Out, damn'd spot" is a prime example of "Instant Bard,"
tailor-made for ironic jokes and marketing schemes. But the "spot"
isn't a coffee stain, it's blood. One motif of Macbeth is how tough it is to wash, scrub, or
soak out nasty bloodstains. Macbeth had said that even the ocean
couldn't wash his hands clean of Duncan's blood; Lady Macbeth, who
scorned him then, now finds the blood dyed into her conscience. The
king and queen persist in imagining that physical actions can root
out psychological demons, but the play is an exposition of how
wrong they are.