Macbeth: Act 2, Scene 1 Full Summary {Step by Step Guide} » ✔️
Macbeth Act 2 Scene 1 Full Summary

Macbeth: Act 2, Scene 1 Full Summary {Step by Step Guide}

Macbeth: Act 2, Scene 1 Full Summary {Step by Step Guide}

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Macbeth: Act 2, Scene 1 Full Summary | Macbeth: Act 2, Scene 1 Summary

Inside the courtyard of Macbeth’s castle, Banquo asks his son, “How goes the night, boy?” (He is asking what time it is.) Fleance tells his father that the moon has gone down, and he has not heard the clock sound out the hour.

Banquo tells his son that the moon goes down at twelve (midnight), but Fleance says he thinks it is later than twelve. He calls his father, “Sir.” Banquo tells his son to take his sword because Banquo is tired. The boy does.

Banquo tells his son (whose age is between 10-16 years old) that heaven is conserving energy because the candles (stars) are not lit. Banquo says something is making him feel heavy, but he does not want to sleep because he is afraid of dark thoughts and bad dreams.

Banquo hears something and has his son give him back his sword. Banquo calls out, “Who’s there?”

Macbeth answers, “A friend.” Macbeth is with a servant. Banquo says he is surprised Macbeth is not in bed. Banquo tells Macbeth the king is now in bed and that Duncan had been in a very good mood. He had many gifts for Macbeth and Macbeth’s people.

Banquo holds out his hand and says King Duncan wants Macbeth’s wife to have “this diamond” for being a “most kind hostess.” Macbeth takes the diamond, pretends to be modest, and says he and Lady Macbeth had not been prepared for the king’s visit or they would have been even better hosts.

Banquo tells Macbeth, “All’s well.” Then Banquo says he has been dreaming about the three witches who had told Macbeth “some truth.”

Macbeth lies and says he has not thought of the witches. (Of course, readers know that Macbeth constantly has been thinking of how to make the witches’ prophecy that he will be king come true.)

Macbeth tells Banquo that if Banquo would like to talk about the witches, Macbeth would like to talk about them, too.. when he can get an hour free. Banquo says he will talk with Macbeth when Macbeth has time.

Macbeth tells Banquo that if he stays loyal to Macbeth, then when the time is right, Macbeth will give honors to Banquo.

Banquo says that if he can lose no honor by trying to get more honor, then he will be loyal. Banquo says if he does not have to do anything that will make him feel guilty, then he will listen to Macbeth’s advice.

Macbeth tells Banquo to rest well until they can speak more. Banquo tells Macbeth to do the same.

Banquo and Fleance leave to go to bed, and Macbeth’s servant leaves to tell Lady Macbeth that her husband wants her to ring a bell when his bedtime drink is ready.

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(Macbeth does not really want a drink; he wants a signal for when the time is right to kill King Duncan.) Then, when Macbeth is alone, he looks up and sees a ghostly dagger floating in the air.

Macbeth says, “Is this a dagger which I see before me, / The handle toward my hand?” He talks to the dagger, asking it to let him hold it. Macbeth tries to get the dagger, but he cannot touch anything except air.

Macbeth says he does not have the dagger, but he can see it. He asks the dagger if it can only be seen but not touched. Macbeth then asks, “art thou but/ A dagger of the mind, a false creation,/Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?”

Macbeth speaks to the dagger, “I see thee yet.” He tells the dagger it looks as touchable as the one he has just put into his hand. He tells the dagger it is showing him the way he was going (the path to murder). Macbeth says he was planning to use the same “instrument” (a dagger).

As Macbeth stares at the dagger floating in the air, wondering if is real or if his brain is just under too much strain from planning Duncan’s murder, he wonders if his eyesight is not working correctly and his other senses are okay or if his eyesight is the only sense that is working. Why can’t he touch the dagger that he sees?

Macbeth says, “I see thee still, And on thy blade and dudgeon [handle] gouts [drops] of blood, Which was not so before.”

Macbeth tells himself there is no dagger. The dagger is just imaginary. He says his brain is thinking about murdering Duncan and it has created an imaginary dagger. His brain is giving false information to his eyes.

Macbeth says that now to one-half of the world, “Nature seems dead” (because people are sleeping). Their sleep is like the dropping of curtains that cover their eyes so that they do not see the world. They see only “wicked dreams” which come to “abuse” them.

Note: Some scholars think Shakespeare’s “curtained sleep” refers to the curtains around a bed.

Macbeth says that while people sleep, witches, including the Queen of the Witches pale Hecate, create offerings. Murder walks quietly with his wolf which has called him by howling.

Murder will sneak up on his next victim just like the famous Prince Tarquin, the Roman who raped a married woman. Now Murder waits for Macbeth to walk quietly toward Duncan.

Macbeth tells the ground under his feet to not listen to his footsteps or the direction they go. He tells the ground he is afraid the stones will tell everyone that he is going to kill King Duncan. He asks that the ground be quiet and let the horror of the night remain (let the murder of Duncan happen).

Macbeth says that while he is speaking threatening words, Duncan still lives. He says deeds (actions) need heat, and his words are cooling down his interest in murder.

Macbeth hears Lady Macbeth ring a bell, letting him know that she has drugged the two men protecting Duncan. Macbeth says, “The bell invites me.” He says Duncan should not listen to the bell because it is calling him “to heaven or to hell.” Macbeth walks towards Duncan’s room.

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