Macbeth study notes

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Act V Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What does the Doctor say to Macbeth about Lady Macbeth’s condition? What is
Macbeth’s reaction?
2. What is the Doctor referring to when he says, “Therein the patient Must minister to
himself?”
3. What does the Messenger tell Macbeth he sees coming toward Dunsinane? How does
Macbeth respond?
4. What does Macduff vow to do to Macbeth and why? Cite an example from Act V.
5. What difference can you cite between Macbeth’s army and Malcolm’s army?
6. Whom does Macbeth kill in Act V? Do you feel that is important? State your reasons.
7. What does Macbeth say to Macduff about his mortality? What is Macduff’s response?
How does Macbeth
react?
8. What does Ross tell Siward about Siward’s son?
9. What does Malcolm say about Macbeth and Lady Macbeth?
10. What title has never been used before in Scotland that Malcolm plans to use on his
Thanes and kinsman?
Answers
1. The Doctor says Lady Macbeth is very ill and he cannot cure her himself. Macbeth is
angry and does not
want to be bothered with this information.
2. The Doctor is saying that Macbeth is trying to tell the doctor how to cure his patient,
Lady Macbeth. When
in fact Macbeth is the patient himself.
3. The Messenger tells Macbeth that trees are moving toward the castle. Macbeth does
not believe him at first;
then, sounds the alarm for battle.
4. Macduff vows to have revenge on Macbeth because of the death of his family.
5. Malcolm’s army if committed to the cause of saving Scotland. Macbeth’s army is
fighting for him out of
fear they will be killed themselves.
6. Macbeth kills Young Siward. Answers may vary on the response to the second part of
the question. The
importance of the murder is seen in Macbeth’s response after the murder. He states he
cannot be killed by a
man born of woman. He feels he cannot be harmed.
7. Macbeth tells Macduff that he cannot be harmed by man born of woman. Macduff tells
Macbeth that he
was ripped from his mother’s womb. Macbeth realizes that the Witches have tricked him.
8. Ross tells Siward that his son was killed in battle.
9. Malcolm says that Macbeth is a “butcher” and Lady Macbeth was a “fiend-like queen”.
He also says that
Lady Macbeth took her own life.
Act V Questions and Answers
47
The waking world of reality and the unnatural world of evil intermingle in the paranoid
hallucinations and,
most markedly, in the insomnia of Macbeth and of Lady Macbeth. After Duncan's
murder, Macbeth hears that
internal voice which commands him to "sleep no more" (II.ii.37). Restive to the end,
Macbeth's insomnia is
noted by his wife. She attempts to explain the more vivid and horrifying experiences that
he undergoes, such
as seeing Banquo's spectral effigy at the feast, by referring to natural causes, telling her
husband that his
vision stems from the fact that he lacks sleep. But then Lady Macbeth herself falls victim
to a deep, somatic
disorder. As the doctor who treats her insomnia is told, Lady Macbeth only begins to
sleepwalk and to
compulsively wash her hands when Macbeth is no longer present, the tyrant having taken
to the field to stop
Malcolm, Macduff, and their fellows from overturning his reign. In the end, Lady
Macbeth enters into a limbo
state of madness, sleepwalking between a horrible reality and a vision of the hell it
portends.
The deterioration of Macbeth and of Lady Macbeth as individuals is closely paralleled by
the collapse of their
marital relationship. Oddly, among all of Shakespeare's married couples, the Macbeths of
Act I and Act II
show the highest degree of bonding and cooperative spirit. The very first time that we see
Lady Macbeth, she
is reading a letter from Macbeth prefaced by the fond salutation, "Dearest Partner of
Greatnesse." There is in
the first two acts of the play a mutual admiration between the two, a dual respect based
on their shared
conviction that the manly Macbeth is fit to be king, while the commanding Lady Macbeth
is his natural
consort. When Lady Macbeth is first told that Macbeth has executed their plan and killed
the king, she cries
out "My husband."
But a change occurs in the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in Act II of
Shakespeare's play.
Once Duncan has been dispatched, Lady Macbeth becomes increasingly unimportant to
her husband. After the
murder of the King, Macbeth begins to withdraw from his marriage to Lady Macbeth. It
is significant that
Macbeth does not convey the graphic details of the King's death to his wife and that he
departs (wisely, in
fact) from his instructions to leave the daggers of the king's guards behind. Moreover, he
keeps his plot
against Banquo and Fleance from his wife, and she has no role at all in the killing of
Macduff's family.
Indeed, following her ineffectual efforts to control Macbeth when he sees Banquo's ghost
at the banquet, Lady
Macbeth virtually disappears from the plot. Not only is Lady Macbeth no longer directing
the action in the
natural domain of the play, she is now excluded by her husband from partaking in either
the natural or the
supernatural progression ahead.
When we see her again, Lady Macbeth is virtually unrecognizable, a shaken shell of her
former self. As noted
above, critical opinion about Lady Macbeth has moved in the direction of seeing her as
either a pathetic
character or as redeemed by her own suicide, in the sense that it demonstrates her
underlying humanity. What
is truly pathetic, as opposed to monstrous, about Lady Macbeth of Act V is that she no
longer has any role in
her partnership with Macbeth. She has voluntarily relinquished her natural role as
Macbeth's wife to mobilize
him into action, and in the unnatural world into which she has entered, she is no match
for the witches who
have assumed the function that she once performed on behalf of her partnership with
Macbeth. Pathetically,
Lady Macbeth yearns for the natural union that she had with her husband, for the role of
nurturer and
comforter, and that is no longer available to her. Lady Macbeth's last words are not
expressions of guilt, but
tender solicitous of care from her husband: "give me your hand ... to bed, to bed, to bed"
(V.i.66-68).
Macbeth: Character Analysis
Banquo (Character Analysis)
Banquo is a Scottish general in the king's army and Macbeth's friend. With Macbeth,
Banquo helps Duncan's
forces claim victory over the king of Norway and the thane of Cawdor. Following the
battle, Banquo and
Macbeth encounter the witches, who make several prophesies about Macbeth. They then
speak to Banquo
about his own future, saying that Banquo's descendants will be kings. Unlike Macbeth,
who appears to be
Macbeth: Character Analysis
55
fascinated by the weird sisters, Banquo expresses doubts about the witches and their
prophesies. He comments
to Macbeth, for example, that ''oftentimes, to win us to our harm, / The instruments of
darkness tell us truths, /
Win us with honest trifles, to betray [us]" (I.iii.123-25).
This unwillingness to subscribe wholeheartedly to the visions of the witches, in addition
to Banquo's
demonstrated valor in battle, contribute to the view that Banquo is a virtuous man. Yet
Banquo's virtue is an
area of some controversy. A common view is that Shakespeare intended Banquo to be
seen as a virtuous
character who was not responsible in any way for Macbeth's murderous actions, despite
the fact that the
source material from which Shakespeare drew depicts Banquo as a co-conspirator in
Duncan's death. This line
of thinking is supported by the popular belief that
Macbeth
was performed (perhaps even written) for King
James I in 1606. Historically, Banquo was an ancestor of King James, and some critics
argue that because of
this, Shakespeare would not portray him in an unfavorable way. Other observers argue
that Banquo's inaction
makes him in part morally responsible for the king's murder. These critics cite Banquo's
soliloquy following
Duncan's death as evidence of his knowledge of (and therefore at least partial
responsibility for) Macbeth's
actions. In this speech Banquo acknowledges to himself his suspicions about Macbeth's
actions: "Thou hast it
now: King, Cawdor, Glamis, all, / As the weird women promis'd, and I fear / Thou
play'dst most foully for't"
(III.i.1- 3).
Shortly after Macbeth kills Duncan, he remembers the witches' prophesy regarding
Banquo: that Banquo's
descendants would be kings. Macbeth then arranges to have Banquo and his son Fleance
murdered. Fleance
escapes the attack; Banquo does not.
Macbeth (Character Analysis)
Macbeth is nobleman and a Scottish general in the king's army. At the beginning of the
play, he has gained
recognition for himself through his defeat of the king of Norway and the rebellious
Macdonwald. Shortly after
the battle, Macbeth and another of the king's general's, Banquo, encounter three witches
(or weird sisters) who
greet Macbeth as thane of Glamis, thane of Cawdor, and future king. Macbeth, unaware
that King Duncan has
bestowed upon him the title thane of Cawdor, appears to be startled by these prophesies.
As soon as the
witches finish addressing Macbeth, Banquo asks him, "why do you start, and seem to fear
/ Things that do
sound so fair?" (I.iii.51-52). The witches vanish after telling Banquo that he will father
kings. Shortly
thereafter, Rosse and Angus arrive to tell Macbeth that the title of thane of Cawdor has
been transferred to
him. Upon hearing this, he says to himself that the greatest title, that of king, is yet to
come. When Duncan
announces that his son Malcolm will be next in line for the throne, Macbeth
acknowledges the prince as an
obstacle which will either trip him up or one which he must overcome.
After Macbeth sends words to his wife about the witches prophesies, Lady Macbeth hears
that the king will be
coming to stay at the castle. She then decides that the king will die there. When Macbeth
arrives at Inverness,
Lady Macbeth discusses with her husband her intentions. Soon after, he reviews in his
own mind the reasons
for not killing the king. He has many, including his obligations to the king as a kinsman,
a loyal subject, and a
host. Other reasons listed by Macbeth include the goodness of the king and the general
lack of any reason
other than ambition. However, when his wife argues with him, attacking his manhood,
Macbeth resolves to
follow through with the murder.
The extent of Lady Macbeth's power over her husband is debated. Some critics blame
Lady Macbeth for
precipitating Macbeth's moral decline and ultimate downfall. Others argue that, while
Lady Macbeth appears
to be increasingly guilt-ridden as the play progresses as evidenced by her sleepwalking
episodes, Macbeth
becomes increasingly murderous.
Banquo (Character Analysis)
56
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