The court of Macbeth’s castle.
(Lady Macbeth; Macbeth)
Lady Macbeth waits for Macbeth to return; she is nervous, realizing that success gives them everything, but failure will be the end of them. Macbeth comes out of Duncan’s room, his hands covered in blood, nerve-racked and terrified. Lady Macbeth tries to steel him as he talks of how he tried to say “Amen” to the prayer of one of the grooms, but could not, and how he thought he heard a voice announcing that since he had killed the sleeping King, he himself would never sleep again. His wife tries to snap him out of it, sending him to wash his hands, and discovering that he brought the murder weapons with him. Incensed, she takes the daggers back into the murder chamber after Macbeth refuses to go in there again. There is a knocking at the gate that startles Macbeth as Lady Macbeth returns, her hands now bloody as well. She insists that all they need do is wash their hands, and all will be well. They retire to their room to get undressed so that the new arrivals will not guess that they have been up all night. (87 lines)
Enter Lady Macbeth.
That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold;
What hath quench’d them hath given me fire. Hark! Peace!
It was the owl that shriek’d, the fatal bellman,
Which gives the stern’st good-night. He is about it:
The doors are open; and the surfeited grooms
Do mock their charge with snores. I have drugg’d their possets,
That death and nature do contend about them,
Whether they live or die.
Who’s there? What ho?
Alack, I am afraid they have awak’d,
And ’tis not done; th’ attempt, and not the deed,
Confounds us. Hark! I laid their daggers ready,
He could not miss ’em. Had he not resembled
My father as he slept, I had done’t.
I have done the deed. Didst thou not hear a noise?
I heard the owl scream and the crickets cry.
Did not you speak?
As I descended?
Hark! Who lies i’ th’ second chamber?
This is a sorry sight.
Looking on his hands.
A foolish thought, to say a sorry sight.
There’s one did laugh in ’s sleep, and one cried, “Murder!”
That they did wake each other. I stood and heard them;
But they did say their prayers, and address’d them
Again to sleep.
There are two lodg’d together.
One cried, “God bless us!” and “Amen!” the other,
As they had seen me with these hangman’s hands.
List’ning their fear, I could not say “Amen,”
When they did say “God bless us!”
Consider it not so deeply.
But wherefore could not I pronounce “Amen”?
I had most need of blessing, and “Amen”
Stuck in my throat.
These deeds must not be thought
After these ways; so, it will make us mad.
Methought I heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep”—the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.
What do you mean?
Still it cried, “Sleep no more!” to all the house;
“Glamis hath murder’d sleep, and therefore Cawdor
Shall sleep no more—Macbeth shall sleep no more.”
Who was it that thus cried? Why, worthy thane,
You do unbend your noble strength, to think
So brain-sickly of things. Go get some water,
And wash this filthy witness from your hand.
Why did you bring these daggers from the place?
They must lie there. Go carry them, and smear
The sleepy grooms with blood.
I’ll go no more.
I am afraid to think what I have done;
Look on’t again I dare not.
Infirm of purpose!
Give me the daggers. The sleeping and the dead
Are but as pictures; ’tis the eye of childhood
That fears a painted devil. If he do bleed,
I’ll gild the faces of the grooms withal,
For it must seem their guilt.
Whence is that knocking?
How is’t with me, when every noise appalls me?
What hands are here? Hah! They pluck out mine eyes.
Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No; this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red.
Enter Lady Macbeth.
My hands are of your color; but I shame
To wear a heart so white.
I hear a knocking
At the south entry. Retire we to our chamber.
A little water clears us of this deed;
How easy is it then! Your constancy
Hath left you unattended.
Hark, more knocking.
Get on your night-gown, lest occasion call us
And show us to be watchers. Be not lost
So poorly in your thoughts.
To know my deed, ’twere best not know myself.
Wake Duncan with thy knocking! I would thou couldst!