Act V - Scene I

[Dunsinane. Anteroom in the castle.]

Enter a Doctor of Physic, and a Waiting Gentlewoman.

DOCTOR:
I have two nights watched with you, but can perceive
no truth in your report. When was it she last walked?
GENTLEWOMAN:
Since his Majesty went into the field, I have
seen her rise from her bed, throw her nightgown upon her,
unlock her closet, take forth paper, fold it, write upon't, read(5)
it, afterwards seal it, and again return to bed; yet all this
while in a most fast sleep.
DOCTOR:
A great perturbation in nature, to receive at once the
benefit of sleep and do the effects of watching! In this slumbery
agitation, besides her walking and other actual performances,(10)
what, at any time, have you heard her say?
GENTLEWOMAN:
That, sir, which I will not report after her.
DOCTOR:
You may to me, and ’tis most meet you should.
GENTLEWOMAN:
Neither to you nor any one, having no witness
to confirm my speech.(15)

Enter Lady [Macbeth], with a taper.

Lo you, here she comes! This is her very guise, and, upon
my life, fast asleep. Observe her; stand close.
DOCTOR:
How came she by that light?
GENTLEWOMAN:
Why, it stood by her. She has light by her
continually; ’tis her command.(20)
DOCTOR:
You see, her eyes are open.
GENTLEWOMAN:
Ay, but their sense is shut.
DOCTOR:
What is it she does now? Look how she rubs her
hands.
GENTLEWOMAN:
It is an accustomed action with her, to seem(25)
thus washing her hands. I have known her continue in
this a quarter of an hour.
LADY MACBETH:
Yet here's a spot.
DOCTOR:
Hark, she speaks! I will set down what comes from
her, to satisfy my remembrance the more strongly.(30)
LADY MACBETH:
Out, damned spot! Out, I say! One–two—
why then ’tis time to do't. Hell is murky. Fie, my lord, fie!
A soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it,
when none can call our power to account? Yet who would
have thought the old man to have had so much blood in(35)
him?
DOCTOR:
Do you mark that?
LADY MACBETH:
The Thane of Fife had a wife; where is she
now? What, will these hands ne'er be clean? No more o’
that, my lord, no more o’ that. You mar all with this(40)
starting.
DOCTOR:
Go to, go to; you have known what you should not.
GENTLEWOMAN:
She has spoke what she should not, I am sure
of that. Heaven knows what she has known.
LADY MACBETH:
Here's the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes(45)
of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh,
oh!
DOCTOR:
What a sigh is there! The heart is sorely charged.
GENTLEWOMAN:
I would not have such a heart in my bosom
for the dignity of the whole body.(50)
DOCTOR:
Well, well, well—
GENTLEWOMAN:
Pray God it be, sir.
DOCTOR:
This disease is beyond my practice. Yet I have
known those which have walked in their sleep who have
died holily in their beds.(55)
LADY MACBETH:
Wash your hands, put on your nightgown;
look not so pale. I tell you yet again, Banquo's buried; he
cannot come out on's grave.
DOCTOR:
Even so?
LADY MACBETH:
To bed, to bed; there's knocking at the gate.(60)
Come, come, come, come, give me your hand. What's
done cannot be undone. To bed, to bed, to bed.

Exit Lady.

DOCTOR:
Will she go now to bed?
GENTLEWOMAN:
Directly.
DOCTOR:
Foul whisperings are abroad. Unnatural deeds(65)
Do breed unnatural troubles: infected minds
To their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets:
More needs she the divine than the physician.
God, God, forgive us all! Look after her;
Remove from her the means of all annoyance,
And still keep eyes upon her. So good night:
My mind she has mated, and amazed my sight:
I think, but dare not speak.
GENTLEWOMAN:
Good night, good doctor.

Exeunt.

Footnotes

  1. "Foul whisperings" can mean bad rumors or terrible gossip. It's possible that the Doctor has heard talk of rebellion or spies, much like in the conversation between Lennox and the Lord in Act III Scene VI. If this is the case, then Lady Macbeth's speech confirms much of what the Doctor would have heard.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. In this instance, "divine" refers to a priest rather than a god, and the doctor believes this might help Lady Macbeth more than any physical cure or remedy. However, both Lady Macbeth and her husband have forfeited the comforts of religion because they sold their souls to the devil when they killed Duncan.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. While this word in general use refers to the lands of the Arabian peninsula, in poetry it often has connotations of a mysterious place known for many exotic items, such as spices and perfumes.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Based on Macbeth keeping his plans to himself, we can reasonably believe that Lady Macbeth had not been a party of the murder of Macduff's wife and family. However, when news reached her, it is likely that she assumed Macbeth was responsible, and she has now burdened her own conscience with his crime.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. Notice how Lady Macbeth's fear of darkness contrasts with her earlier invocation that night cover the bloody deeds surrounding Duncan's murder. Where once she welcomed the darkness for what it offered, now she can't be left alone in it. Considering that light and dark often coincide with good and evil, Lady Macbeth's actions further emphasize her fear and guilt of past sins.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. While the verb "taper" means to steadily lessen or diminish something over time, as a noun it originally refers to a small wax candle that was used for devotional or penitential purposes--like prayer candles used in some churches. This small candle and what it signifies add much to how the audience relates Lady Macbeth's illness and struggles with guilt.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. In this context, "perturbation" refers to a systematic imbalance or disorder with nature, which the Doctor uses to describe Lady Macbeth's natural sleep cycle. However, recall that since the death of Duncan, an imbalance in the natural world has symbolically coincided with Macbeth's reign.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. The expression "into the field" typically refers to the field of battle. Considering what we learned about the rebellion of the Scottish nobles (alluded to in Act IV Scene iii), it is likely that Macbeth is trying to suppress the revolt against him. Macbeth has likely done this many times in the past without his wife, but it appears to have singularly affected her this time.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. This phrase reveals one of the themes in Macbeth: The difficulty of washing away a sin from the soul, of redemption. After killing Duncan, Macbeth was told by his wife to simply wash away the blood (a visual metaphor for his sin). However, this line suggests that subconsciously she knows that cleansing oneself of sin is not possible by any physical means.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. Recall how in Act III Scene ii, Lady Macbeth chides her husband for still brooding over Duncan's murder and tells him that "What's done is done." However, here her speech reveals her feelings of guilt are even stronger than she realizes. Subconsciously, she knows that such crimes cannot be so easily forgotten or moved past.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  11. This is an example Shakespeare including directions to the actors through dialogue rather than stage directions. Lady Macbeth appears to be continuously washing her hands. She does not have to have a wash basin, and she is free to move about the stage mimicking the action while talking to herself. Ironically, in Act II Scene ii, she tells her husband: "A little water clears us of this deed." Here she is months later still unable to get her hands sufficiently clean.

    — William Delaney
  12. Lady Macbeth is reliving the details surrounding Duncan's murder. The "spot" refers to Duncan's blood; "hell is murky" may reflect the certainty of her fate for the murder; "soldier, and afeard" reminds us of Lady Macbeth chastising Macbeth when he doubted killing the King. "Fear who knows it" is a reference that they need not be concerned for the consequences of this deed for it cannot be traced to them. The last line regarding "the old man" directly responds to the blood Lady Macbeth saw on Duncan's body when she returned the daggers to his room and spread his blood on his servants' clothes. All of these things prove that they have been eating away at Lady Macbeth's conscience, as she moves closer to losing her mind.

    — Jill O'Brien