Discussion Topic

The doctor's and the gentlewoman's observations and reactions to Lady Macbeth's behavior

Summary:

The doctor and the gentlewoman observe Lady Macbeth sleepwalking and talking about the murders, revealing her deep guilt and mental unraveling. The doctor is concerned about her mental state and suggests she needs divine, not medical, intervention. The gentlewoman is shocked and fearful, recognizing the severity of Lady Macbeth's guilt and the repercussions of her actions.

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What actions of Lady Macbeth do the doctor and gentlewoman observe and how do they react?

In act 5, scene 1, the Gentlewoman instructs the Doctor to witness Lady Macbeth sleepwalking and listen to what she says as she roams the halls. The Gentlewoman and Doctor then hide as Lady Macbeth enters the scene holding a candle. Lady Macbeth is clearly sleepwalking and proceeds to feverishly rub her hands together as if she is attempting to clean them. As Lady Macbeth rubs her hands and hallucinates, she says, "Out, damned spot!" before commenting on King Duncan's blood and her husband's mannerisms following the murder. Lady Macbeth then comments on Lady Macduff's murder, which astonishes the Doctor and Gentlewoman. She continues to wash the imaginary blood from her hands and says,

Here’s the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, Oh, Oh! (Shakespeare, 5.1.30–32)

Before Lady Macbeth exits the scene, she instructs her husband to remain composed and hurry to bed after she hears a knocking at the gate. The Doctor instructs the Gentlewoman to keep a close eye on Lady Macbeth and remove anything that she can use to harm herself, because the queen is clearly suicidal. Despite the revealing information regarding the king's assassination and Macbeth's involvement in Lady Macduff's death, the Doctor and the Gentlewoman are careful not to say anything about what they witnessed.

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What actions of Lady Macbeth do the doctor and gentlewoman observe and how do they react?

They see her sleepwalking, and acting out her guilt. Lady Macbeth gets up, goes to the closet, reads a note, writes, and goes back to bed.  She also "washes" her hands- trying to remove the blood that has stained them.

The doctor tells the woman that he cannot help her, that she needs help from God. He realizes she has a guilty conscience. The doctor goes to tell Macbeth.

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Why are the doctor and the gentlewoman observing Lady Macbeth?

In the last scene in which Lady Macbeth appears in person, she has seemingly gone mad with guilt. It is a jarring juxtaposition between her previous state of being--unflinchingly cruel, powerful, ambitious, and ruthless--and her now vulnerable madness. Her emotions have gotten the better of her. 

Lady Macbeth's servant, the gentlewoman/lady-in-waiting, convinces the palace doctor to watch Lady Macbeth as she sleepwalks. In her sleep, she makes crazed references to the murder of King Duncan. The gentlewoman does not want to repeat the words she says out loud, because she is afraid she might be charged with treason if she utters what Lady Macbeth is saying. Thus, she urges the doctor to hear the words for himself. As he observes her madness, he tells the gentlewoman that there is nothing he can do for a malady of the mind. He becomes very worried about her health and safety, but thinks that only God can help her. He instructs the gentlewoman to watch Lady Macbeth closely. 

This scene shows the ending of Lady Macbeth. The tragedies that have happened will have preyed on everyone involved, especially the cunning and conniving Lady Macbeth. Even though she got angry with Macbeth for showing signs of remorse and weakness, she succumbs to these things in the end. 

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Why are the doctor and the gentlewoman observing Lady Macbeth?

This happens in Act V, Scene 1.  The reason that they are observing Lady Macbeth is that she has been walking in her sleep for some time now and the gentlewoman (like Lady Macbeth's lady in waiting) is worried about her.

In this scene, we find out that Lady Macbeth is feeling very guilty about all the murders that her husband has committed.  She feels like the blood from those murders in on her hands and will not come out.  So this scene is important because it shows us how her emotional state is deteriorating.

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