Lady Macbeth — Then and Now

In today’s exercise, I’m asking students to look at two different columns of quotes from Macbeth.  In the left-hand column, there are nine short quotes from Lady Macbeth.  These are all things that she has said in acts I-III.  In the right hand column, there are quotes from Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene in Act V. 

I am hopeful that students will see and be able to explain a connection between the line from early in the play and the line from Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking. 

Here are two samples:

Come, thick night,

And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell


When Lady Macbeth says this line in Act I, she is asking the spirits to come and make her heartless.  She wants the dark smoke of “hell” to hide her deeds from her.

“Hell is murky”

Then, in act V, she says, “Hell is murky” suggesting that maybe she is afraid of what hell might have in store for her.  Could it be that while sleepwalking, she is more fearful than whe was before?

Get on your nightgown, lest occasion call us

And show us to be watchers


When Lady Macbeth says this line in Act II, she has just taken control.  She has returned the daggers that Macbeth used to murder King Duncan to the crime scene, and she has smeared the King’s blood all over the guards.  Now she is getting Macbeth together so that he can face the people who are coming into the castle.

In act five, her tone changes.  While sleepwalking she relives the same event, but she’s not speaking in iambic pentameter anymore, and her sentences, like “Put on your nightgown” are shorter, choppier, and more desperate-sounding. 

“Wash your hands.  Put on your nightgown.  Look not so pale.”

About englishparsons

A happy English teacher with massive potential for growth. Trying to share the best I have to offer with the teaching world.
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