2Before the Turning Point How Lady Macbeth and Macbeth behave in private
3Say to the king, I would attend his leisure We see this change in the Macbeths' relationship almost immediately at the start of the scene, when Lady Macbeth has to almost ask permission to see her own husband:Say to the king, I would attend his leisureFor a few words.This is a good indicator of the growing split in their relationship. Compare this to how close they were before, during and just after the murder of Duncan.
4...our desire is got without content After the servant leaves, Shakespeare gives Lady Macbeth a brief soliloquy which shows she understands the uselessness of their new position of power:Nought's had, all's spentShe contemplates how they have given everything and got nothing, because:...our desire is got without contentShe realises that power has not brought them happiness.
5She then goes on to make a powerful statement: 'Tis safer to be that which we destroyThan by destruction dwell in doubtful joyIn other words, she says that it is better to be dead - and therefore at peace - like those they have killed, than to live waiting for destruction, always looking over your shoulder in uncertainty and paranoia.This is a very private side to Lady Macbeth, which only a soliloquy would reveal. She would never admit this to anyone. We see here a woman gradually sinking into depression and mental illness; also, though, we seea woman who understandsthat she was wrong.
6Things without all remedy Yet, her incredible strength and power of mind are shown yet again when Macbeth enters. She does not confide in him and instead insists that he should not worry about things which cannot be fixed:Things without all remedyShould be without regard: what's done is done.The irony here is that the audience has just heard her expressing her own doubts and worries about things which can't be fixed. She sounded almost suicidal in her soliloquy but now she is urging her husband not to worry. Despite all the previous manipulation, she clearly loves him.
7Macbeth confides in her about his feelings: We have scorch'd the snake, not kill'd itThe biblical allusion to Satan is clear. Macbeth is comparing Banquo and Fleance to a snake, a dangerous, evil animal.However, Macbeth, ironically, doesn't realise that he is the snake, the evil one, and that the only way he will find true peace will be to die. Shakespeare uses the snake to represent Macbeth's own unsettled, paranoid mind, but the character of Macbeth means that the snake is the next threat to his position: Banquo and Fleance.
8However, crucially, Macbeth hides the murder plot from Lady Macbeth However, crucially, Macbeth hides the murder plot from Lady Macbeth. He has just spoken to and hired three murderers to kill Banquo and Fleance that very night.Think back to Duncan's murder, when they were in it together. They confided in each other, relied on each other and supported each other. Now, he is acting of his own accord, cutting her out of his plans. He needs her to support him less and less.Ironically, he is becoming the kind of man Lady Macbeth wanted him to be at the start, and is no longer full of the milk of human kindness. However, as he changes, their relationship changes also. He does not need her and, when she dies, he barely acknowledges her. This is not something Lady Macbeth would have anticipated or wanted.
9We begin to see how Macbeth is breaking down in this same speech We begin to see how Macbeth is breaking down in this same speech. He acknowledges that they:eat their meal in fear and sleep / in the affliction of terrible dreamsIn other words, his guilty conscience means he suffers nightmares when he sleeps and during the day he is paranoid about the next threat to his crown. He also acknowledges that Duncan is truly at peace and happy, but where LM reflected that they would better off dead, Macbeth is taking action by plotting more murder. Note how their roles have changed from the start of the play.
10Gentle my lord, sleek o'er your rugged looks; The theme of appearance vs. reality is further developed here through Lady Macbeth's cheerful act. As we have previously seen, she is feeling the strain mentally, however she appears to be in control of herself in public:Come on;Gentle my lord, sleek o'er your rugged looks;Be bright and jovial among your guests tonight.
11Macbeth hints to his wife about the plot to murder Banquo, and her response is a direct and simple command:You must leave this.Compare how Macbeth previously regarded his wife. He listened and was won over by her. She clearly expects him to listen to her. However, he reiterates that his mind is full of scorpions because Banquo and Fleance live. Lady Macbeth points out that they will not live forever.
12Yet he does not tell her: Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck Macbeth does take some comfort that Banquo and Fleance are mortal and can be killed. He is about to tell his wife about the murder plot and then stops himself. Lady Macbeth asks him directly:What's to be done?Yet he does not tell her:Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuckWhy?
13Notice, also, that he tells his wife to go with him: Macbeth calls on the night, which is personified, to give him courage. This recalls Lady Macbeth's previous speech in the first Act, where she called on the night to give her darkness, so she could perform dreadful deeds. He is taking over her previous role in the relationship.He ends by stating that committing evil will make him stronger, again sounding very like Lady Macbeth in the opening scenes.Notice, also, that he tells his wife to go with him:So, prithee, go with meThe balance in their relationship has shifted: he is now in charge. This, we can glean, is not something Lady Macbeth foresaw when she called on him to be more 'manly'
14Act 3, Scene 4 The Banquet Scene The Turning Point
15This is a key scene for a number of reasons: Firstly, Macbeth loses it and everybody sees that he has murdered Duncan. This scene is the turning-point in Macbeth's career. Up to this time, with all his hesitation and wild fancies and gloomy suspicions, he has had strength of mind and self-control enough to push forward to his objects and to hide from public view the bloody means by which he has obtained them. In this scene, however, we see a fatal collapse of his powers.Secondly, his relationship with Lady Macbeth begins to deteriorate. He passes altogether beyond his wife's control. She had been able to brace him up to the murder of Duncan and to control and direct him in the outburst of excitement which followed. In this scene, however, she is utterly unable to restrain him, and is forced to listen helplessly to the ravings that betray his guilty secret.Lastly, the play changes direction from here. From this scene onwards, it is only downhill for Macbeth as he begins to lose everything.
16This scene is in complete contrast to the Act 3, Scene 2 This scene is in complete contrast to the Act 3, Scene 2. The Banquet Scene is the public face of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, hiding their deceit and hypocrisy with a public show of dignity, loyalty and friendly rule.Macbeth is keen to show that he is willing to 'mingle' and be 'humble', to prove he is normal, rather than a cold, aloof, figure of authority.Yet Macbeth cannot sit still and one of the murderers appears at the door to make the secret entrance. Macbeth asks his wife to make a toast, using her as a distraction.
17But because he is alive, he feels: Macbeth speaks to the murderer urgently, telling him he has blood on his face but goes on to say that it is better Banquo's blood is on the murderer than inside Banquo. So panicked as he feels, it is not a panic that comes of remorse.The news that Fleance is not dead results in Macbeth's panicked state of mind. Had Fleance died, he would have been:Whole as marble, founded as the rock / As broad and general as the casing airBut because he is alive, he feels:...cabin'd, cribb'd, confined, bound in / To saucy doubts and fears
18My royal lord, / You do not give the cheer Macbeth's guests, in the meantime, are waiting for him to make the toast. This is the first hint to them that he is distracted.Lady Macbeth takes control of the situation, even though we know that mentally she is struggling to remain in control herself:My royal lord, / You do not give the cheerHere, I think, we can admire Lady Macbeth's incredible strength and will-power. Even in the face of such mental strain, she gears herself up and forces herself to take control.
19Thou canst not say I did it: never shake It is ironic that as Macbeth is criticising Banquo for not being there, his ghost enters and sits on Macbeth's seat. Rosse invites Macbeth to sit, but Macbeth sees no spare seats because the ghost is there.A series of repeated questions serve to add tension here, as the guests show Macbeth the seat and he cannot see it. This dramatic tension is enhanced by the fact that the guests can't see the ghost.Macbeth begins speaking to the ghost, which undoubtedly would have unnerved his guests, and aroused suspicion:Thou canst not say I did it: never shakeThy gory locks at me
20She shows incredible quick thinking. Again, Lady Macbeth tries to take control: she covers for him by saying he suffers from a mental illness and that it will soon pass.She shows incredible quick thinking.She tells the guests not to pay him too much attention as it will only offend him. However, the damage is done.
21Lady Macbeth speaks directly to Macbeth now: Are you a man?She has said this several times throughout the play and each time it has affected Macbeth and caused him to do as she said. However, it no longer works. The roles in their relationship are changing.Macbeth replies that the sight of Banquo is so terrible it would disgust the devil, so any man, and not only him, would be frightened to look at it.
22O, these flaws and starts, Imposters to true fear, would well become She pours scorn on him again, referencing when he 'saw' the dagger before killing Duncan. She compares him to a woman, again equating fear and hesitancy with femininity (despite the fact that she herself is a woman, and is neither hesitant nor fearful):O, these flaws and starts,Imposters to true fear, would well becomeA woman's story at a winter's fireShe is basically telling him he's weak and should be ashamed of himself, because he is only looking at an empty chair.
23Yet again Macbeth ignores his wife Yet again Macbeth ignores his wife. Her scorn and accusations of cowardice and femininity do not seem to work any more.Macbeth tries speaking to the ghost, but it vanishes (just like the witches) just as he wants to find out more.Does the ghost represent Macbeth's guilty conscience getting the better of him? Is this why no one else can see it?
24What, quite unmann'd in folly? Again, Lady Macbeth attempts her tried and tested tactic of calling him a coward:What, quite unmann'd in folly?It does not work. The hold that she used to have on her husband has weakened even more.
25Now, this is where Macbeth loses it completely: With the ghost gone, Macbeth tries to regain some control over the situation, saying he is ill and proposing a toast to Banquo, but the ghost returns.Now, this is where Macbeth loses it completely:Avaunt! And quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee!He is now shouting at the ghost, in the middle of a dinner party of lords, his coronation feast, which he is hosting! From the point of view of the guests and audience, he is shouting at the air and must appear to be completely insane.
26It is all downhill from here. A king has to inspire confidence by appearing confident and in control. His guests must be thinking: if he cannot control himself, how can he control Scotland?This is a turning point in the play, not only because it marks a growing distance between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth but also a growing distance between Macbeth and his subjects.It is all downhill from here.
27The guests start to leave and Lady Macbeth appears to act in a very natural way. She has been left very much alone to sort this mess out whilst her husband rants and raves.
28After the guests leave, Macbeth states that: It will have blood; they say, blood will have bloodWe get the sense that perhaps he is beginning to realise that murder will only lead to more murder, or that he will get his comeuppance.He lines Macduff up as the next person considered too much of a threat to live. He has paid informers in Macduff's house and decides to see the witches again to find out some more news. He is now actively seeking evil out. Before, the witches came to him. Now they don't need to. He is steeped in evil now.More importantly, though, he clearly no longer needs his wife. He doesn't turn to her or ask her what he should doas he did before.
29Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more, Macbeth admits he has come too far to try and change for the better. He seems to have accepted in a world- weary way the fact that he is a murderer:I am in bloodStepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more,Returning were as tedious as go o'erThere is no turning back.
30This scene ends on a quite pathetic note when we compare them at the start of the scene. They are reduced here to two rather pathetic figures just desperate to get a good night's sleep.
31The scene is a key TURNING POINT for Macbeth as it marks the start of his decline. At the beginning of the banquet Macbeth has achieved the full limit and splendour of the power he has and is ever going to achieve: at this point, Macduff excepted, the Thanes of Scotland are disposed to accept him. But the murder of Banquo produces catastrophic results, including the immediate usurpation of his chair by the ghost. It is following this evening that Macbeth decides to revisit the witches and from here onwards his decline begins.
32We have seen the rise of Macbeth and now we see the fall We have seen the rise of Macbeth and now we see the fall. This reflects the idea of crime and consequence: what Macbeth does in the first half of the play comes back to haunt him in the second.Before Banquo's murder it is Lady Macbeth who exults in evil and her husband who is fearful of the consequences; after the assassination of Banquo these positions are reversed.
33Confronted by the spectre of his murdered victim he loses all self-control, and before the assembled nobility breaks out into speeches which must inevitably betray his guilt.It is interesting to compare his behaviour immediately after the discovery of the murder of Duncan with his actions in the presence of Banquo's ghost. In the former case he retained all his presence of mind; his speeches, though perhaps somewhat exaggerated, conveyed the impression of wild grief for the king's death, and his act of putting the bewildered grooms to instant death was, perhaps, the most practical thing that he could have done at such a time. In the banquet scene, after one feeble effort to play his part, he loses consciousness of the witnesses and speaks to the ghost as if they were alone together.
34Equally noticeable is the fact that in this scene he passes altogether beyond his wife's control. She had been able to brace him up to the murder of Duncan and to control and direct him in the outburst of excitement which followed. In this scene, however, she is utterly unable to restrain him, and is forced to listen helplessly to the ravings that betray his guilty secret.