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Interpretation and Agreement with Lady Macbeth's Statement on Unfulfilled Desires in Macbeth


Lady Macbeth's statement on unfulfilled desires in Macbeth highlights the theme of ambition and the psychological toll of striving for power. She reflects on how achieving one's desires does not always bring satisfaction, suggesting that the pursuit of power can lead to emptiness and discontent. This underscores the play's exploration of the destructive nature of unchecked ambition.

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What does Lady Macbeth's phrase "Naught's had, all's spent, / Where our desire is got without content" mean in Macbeth, Act 3, Scene 2?

In Macbeth, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are intent on realizing the witches' prophesies, wherein Macbeth will be king. The witches maintain: "All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!" (I.iii.50) Macbeth has been unable to think of little else and has been contemplating, what he calls "that suggestion Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair."(135) He gives a brief thought to the possibility of becoming king "without my stir," (143) but, once Lady Macbeth's determination persuades him that he must go ahead with Duncan's murder or else, "live a coward in thine own esteem," (I.vii.43) he takes matters much further than he or Lady Macbeth ever contemplated or conceived. 

At first, Lady Macbeth, determined to be the wife of the king, even calls on the spirits to "unsex me here" (I.v.38) to ensure that she remains resolute in her intentions. She believes that killing Duncan will suffice and that her plan will be perfect as other men - Duncan's "spongy officers," (I.vii.71)- will be blamed and she and Macbeth will be free to enjoy their ill-gotten reward, any guilt simply washed away because, as she says: "A little water clears us of this deed."(II.ii.67)

Matters do not proceed as Lady Macbeth may have hoped and she is aware of the change in Macbeth. Her happiness is marred by his preoccupation and "Naught's had, all's spent, Where our desire is got without content," (III.ii.4-5) indicates how, although they have achieved their "desire," and there is nothing more that they can do to ensure their happiness, they are not happy. She reminds Macbeth that, "What's done is done," (12) and urges him to let it go but he is worried that his position is not secure as the witches also promised that Banquo's sons would be king, making him believe that, "We have scotch'd the snake, not killed it."(13) Lady Macbeth's words then foreshadow what will follow as she will ultimately be driven mad by her guilt as Macbeth takes matters into his own hands and proceeds to kill anyone that he perceives to be a threat.    

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What does Lady Macbeth's phrase "Naught's had, all's spent, / Where our desire is got without content" mean in Macbeth, Act 3, Scene 2?

Lady Macbeth is beginning to experience guilt for the murderous actions that have taken place. She is saying that they (she and Macbeth) have spent all they have on making their desires come true, but at the cost of their happiness.

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Would Macbeth agree with Lady Macbeth's statement "Naught's had, all's spent / Where our desire is got without content" in Act 3, Scene 2?

"Naught's had, all's spent / Where our desire is got without content" (Act 3, Scene 2).

In Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth, by the time Act III arrives a great deal has taken place. Most importantly Macbeth has murdered Duncan (his king, his cousin and his friend). 

After Duncan's murder, Lady Macbeth expected that she and Macbeth would be able to enjoy what they gained—especially after they had invested everything. They even sold their souls, for the Elizabethans believed it was a mortal sin to commit regicide. Now that they have sacrificed their loyalty, honor and integrity to become king and queen of Scotland, Lady Macbeth wants to enjoy this new life and all that comes with it. However, Macbeth is not only dissatisfied, but also extremely paranoid that it will all be for nothing if he does not tie off every loose end. 

It quickly becomes evident that Macbeth will murder anyone who might stand in his way. By Act III, scene i, Banquo has become Macbeth's next target because he was present when the witches prophesied that Macbeth would become king. Macbeth is certain—with good reason (as witnessed in Act III, scene i)—that his friend might be suspicious that Macbeth has become the new ruler of Scotland especially because Duncan was murdered at Macbeth's castle. Banquo is so honest a man that Macbeth believes he will never rest until Duncan's murder is avenged and Macbeth is brought to justice. 

Lady Macbeth want to know why—when they have achieved their desired results—they cannot simply put Duncan's death behind them and move on.

Nought's had, all's spent,

Where our desire is got without content. (III.ii.4-5)

In other words, she and Macbeth have invested everything to get to the throne. But it is meaningless if they have achieved the ends towards which they worked so hard, but cannot be happy and satisfied. Lady Macbeth is prepared to forget everything else and enjoy their new life together.

Macbeth is not satisfied, but believes that working out some important details will make everything right. In the previous scene, Macbeth is willing to fight fate to get what he wants:

Come fate into the list,

And champion me to th’utterance! (III.i.72-73)

Macbeth has even now taken steps to insure Banquo's murder, so that Macbeth can completely guarantee his position. 

Lady Macbeth does not understand Macbeth's frenzied perceptions. On the other hand, at this point in the play, Macbeth feels that he has everything under control. For the first time since their plotting began, Macbeth does not share with his wife his plan to kill Banquo—thus cutting her out of his confidence. He tells her not to worry about it, and that it will all work out.

Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck,

Till thou applaud the deed. (50-51)

Macbeth believes that in killing Banquo, everything will fall into place. I do not believe that Macbeth would agree with Lady Macbeth's concerns in Act III, scene ii. He intends that with Banquo's death, all will be well.

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