2.1) Act II Scene 1 – Macbeth sees the dagger

Summary 1) On his way to bed, Banquo has a premonition something is wrong and then encounters Macbeth. 2) Banquo presents him with a gift from the king; a diamond for Lady Macbeth3) Banquo tells Macbeth that he dreamt of the witches. Macbeth says he does not think of them, but asks that he and Banquo speak about the matter another time. 4) Macbeth is left alone and imagines he sees a dagger in front of him – a dagger that guides him towards his goal of killing Duncan.5) As the bell rings, he determines to go ahead and murder the king
Why is this scene important? 1) Shakespeare intensifies the atmosphere of darkness and evil. 2) The contrast of Macbeth’s thoughts with Banquo’s integrity is made clear.3) Shakespeare shows us the lasting effect the witches have on Banquo; they disturb his dreams. 4) Macbeth’s disloyalty is highlighted by the king’s gift, while his struggle with his conscience is decisively resolved
Key setting: darkness 1) Shakespeare depicts the scene as dark; torches are necessary to light the way2) Banquo senses something is wrong. He notes that the stars’ ‘candles are all out’ – a metaphor suggesting that the physical darkness is also a moral darkness3) He uses a simile to describe the effect on him: ‘A heavy summons lies like lead upon me’. This adds to the weight of the atmosphere4) Later, when Macbeth is on his own, he sees a dagger in the dark. He is unsure whether this is real or a ‘false creation/Proceeding from the heat oppressèd brain’ 5) The witches were real enough, but now Macbeth has embarked on evil he begins to see things that others cannot. Shakespeare shows that this image terrifies Macbeth, and this intensifies the atmosphere of evil
Structure 1) The entrances, exits and the audience’s knowledge of Macbeth’s plan in this scene are part of the plays structure. Together they create a sense of dramatic irony2) The equal distribution of Macbeth and Banquo’s lines on the page could imply the tension between them; something that is not as obvious as the language alone
Banquo 1) An honourable man and protective father – uses kind and honest words in his report of Duncan, wishes to stay free of guilt and remain loyal 2) He asks for his sword when Macbeth appears
Macbeth The deceiver
‘The moon is down’ -Fleance’Their candles are all out’ -Banquo 1) Shakespeare depicts this scene as dark and threatening – torches are necessary to light the way – a form of foreboding 2) Banquo senses something is wrong and uses a metaphor suggesting that the physical darkness is also a moral darkness 3) Lexis of darkness4) Fleance is a reminder to the audience about the witches’ prophecy that Banquo’s sons will be kings 5) The darkness symbolises the evil that Macbeth is about to do – the starless sky echoes Duncan’s speech in a1 s4 about stars shining on the deserving – Macbeth is undeserving
‘A heavy summons lies like lead upon me,/And yet I would not sleep. Merciful powers,/Restrain in me the cursèd thoughts that nature/Gives way to in repose’ -Banquo to Fleance 1) The witches have affected Banquo but only by invading his dreams; Macbeth has surrendered his will to them – contrast – Banquo is more moral than Macbeth2) Banquo uses a simile to describe the effect of the darkness on him which adds to the weight of the atmosphere 3) Banquo is asking to be saved from his nightmares
‘[Duncan] hath been in unusual pleasure’ -Banquo to Macbeth 1) Ironic – the king has been unusually happy but he will be killed before the night is over 2) Gives added poignance given what Macbeth is going to do
‘This diamond [Duncan] greets your wife withal,/By the name of the most kind hostess’ -Banquo to Macbeth 1) The gift shows how Duncan is generous 2) Ironic as Duncan is unaware that Lady Macbeth is hiding her treacherous intentions behind false shows of kindness
‘My bosom franchised and allegiance clear’ -Banquo to Macbeth 1) He wishes to stay free of guilt and remain loyal to Duncan, even though Macbeth promises to ‘make honour for [him]2) Duncan’s answer which insists upon maintaining integrity is hardly likely to please Macbeth 3) Shakespeare shows Banquo cannot be bought 4) Contrasts with the corrupt nature of Macbeth
Soliloquy 1) Goes from Macbeth lying to his best friend to telling his innermost thoughts – he cannot lie in a soliloquy, it is only the speaker saying what they believe is true 2) He seems more worried at the end and gradually gains his confidence until he is certain that he will kill Duncan when a bell signals for him to do it3) Images of witches, wolves and murder – his mind is disturbed
Order of his soliloquy 1) Questions the dagger2) Questions his own senses3) Talks about the gore that is going to ensue 4) Nighttime and sleep5) Quietness6) His newfound determination to do it
‘Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand?’ -Macbeth (soliloquy) 1) Macbeth is hallucinating; the dagger is the product of Macbeth’s disturbed mind – this would’ve made the audience superstitious about what is making Macbeth have these hallucinations; his mind, witches or the devil 2) The dagger points towards him as if it is asking him to use it – this symbolises Macbeth’s dark intentions 3) It is not clear if the dagger is leading him to commit murder or warning him against it4) Rhetorical question 5) Apparition (ghost form of objects)
‘A dagger of the mind, a false creation,/Proceeding from the heat-oppressèd brain?’ -Macbeth (soliloquy) 1) Suggests the danger and treachery of imagination itself 2) He is unsure whether the dagger is something created by his unreliable senses 3) The witches were deal enough but Macbeth has now embarked on evil he begins to see things that others cannot 4) Macbeth is terrified of this image which intensifies the atmosphere of evil5) His mind is under stress and he can’t think straight
‘On thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood’ -Macbeth (soliloquy) 1) Macbeth can already see the stains of blood on the dagger which represents his guilt2) Motif of blood 3) Foreshadows bloody hands later on in the play
‘withered murder…With Tarquin’s ravishingly strides, towards his design/Moves like a ghost’ -Macbeth (soliloquy) 1) Macbeth is like a predator who steals away innocence – he is a sinister character2) Contrasts with Duncan’s pure and cherubic nature 3) Tarquin was the last legendary king of Ancient Rome who led an extremely violent and detestable rule4) ‘ghost’ symbolises Macbeth’s haunting guilt and fear
‘Thou sure and firm-set earth,/Hear not my steps’ -Macbeth (soliloquy) 1) He asks that the ground doesn’t hear or echo the sound of his steps2) Macbeth fears being caught; lexis of darkness, being hidden3) Growing paranoia
‘witchcraft’ ; ‘Hecate’s offerings’ ; ‘a ghost’ -Macbeth (soliloquy) 1) Links Macbeth to the witches and shows how he is affected by their predictions 2) Theme of supernatural
‘Hear [the bell] not, Duncan, for it is a knell/That summons thee to heaven or to hell’ -Macbeth (soliloquy) 1) Macbeth’s ambition has won him over – he wants to kill Duncan and doesn’t care where he goes in the afterlife 2) The bell signifies Duncan’s death and foreshadows the shift in Scotland from a state of natural order to unnatural chaos – eerie; there is nothing he can do to avoid murdering Duncan – prophesy/fate3) Dark humour to what he’s saying 4) Language is simple – he is clear on what he needs to do

You Might Also Like