Macbeth: Act 3, Scene 2 – Summary & Analysis

Macbeth: Act 3, Scene 2 – Summary & Analysis

Lady Macbeth, located somewhere else in the castle, is troubled and sends a servant to get her husband. Macbeth enters and admits he too is unsettled, as his mind is ‘full of scorpions’ as the issue of act of regicide cannot be escaped due to impending threats to his throne; he has thus spent every waking moment fearful and every moment in sleep confronted by nightmares, leading him to be envious of Duncan who contrastingly sleeps peacefully in death. He reveals that as a result he must commit ‘a deed of dreadful note’ concerning Banquo and Fleance; he instructs her to act in a caring manner towards Banquo at the evening feast so as to for him to assume all is normal and fall into a false sense of security.

Analysis

Macbeth’s admittance that his mind is ‘full of scorpions’ ensures that he will remain tragic in some form. While he has done wrong, his being someway affected and troubled by this reminds us that some pity should be shown as this has been brought about by influences beyond his control. Meanwhile, it almost appears as though the marriage of the Macbeths is like a seesaw, having to remained balanced at all times; Macbeth has become more brazen (although it must be noted that he has doubts and thus resembles Lady Macbeth who urged him on earlier but would not commit the act herself due to Duncan representing her father), and his wife has lessened in this department. Her comment that ‘Naught’s had; all’s spent’ echoes Macbeth’s words immediately after the murder when he realized the irreconcilable nature of his act; Lady Macbeth now realizes that any association with his act will be equally punishable, symbolized by her constant torment over this. It is somewhat poignant when she remarks ‘What’s done is done’; this echoes Macbeth’s earlier desire when speaking of the act of regicide: ‘If it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well/ It were done quickly’. Much like Macbeth just wanted the murder over with and to deal with consequences later, Lady Macbeth now realizes that this did not work out the way they planned, and they are only left with the consequences which cannot be escaped from.

Points of note

Lady Macbeth resembles Macbeth of earlier, needing to be convinced. She worries over the consequences of their actions, realizing ‘Nought’s had, all’s spent/ Where our desire is got without content./ ‘Tis safer to be that which we destroy/ Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy… Things without remedy/ should be without regard; what’s done is done.’ Interestingly, while Macbeth seeks to calm her by mentioning his plan for Banquo he does not divulge the full details of this; there is a distance forming between the two and it appears as though Macbeth is cutting Lady Macbeth out. It will be interesting to see how she reacts to this later.

Macbeth can be criticized in this scene. He is supremely cold, talking ill of the dead, displaying how the act of regicide no longer affects him and just how far he has descended into immorality; he speaks of Duncan, remarking ‘Treason has done his worst… nothing/ can touch him further’. He plans to strengthen his wrongfully attained position with further immorality, declaring ‘Things had begun,/ make strong themselves by ill’ which shows how irreconcilable his position is; he does not consider redemption and can only embrace more wrongdoing to strengthen his newfound position, as this is his sole consideration now.

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About the Author

John Ryan

John has a Masters in Modern English Literature and is the founder of RyJoLC, an educational consultancy based in Dublin that provides English language and curriculum resources to educational institutions worldwide.
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