Macbeth: Act 3, Scene 2 Full Summary {Step by Step Guide}

Macbeth: Act 3, Scene 2 Full Summary {Step by Step Guide}

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Macbeth: Act 3, Scene 2 Full Summary | Macbeth: Act 3, Scene 2 Summary

Lady Macbeth asks a servant if Banquo has left the palace. He tells her that Banquo has left, but he will return that night. Lady Macbeth tells the servant to go and get Macbeth because she wants to talk to him.

After the servant leaves, Lady Macbeth speaks her thoughts aloud. She says, “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.”

Note: Lady Macbeth is saying that she and Macbeth have “spent” everything or done everything, including murder, in order to become king and queen.

She says that they have not gotten anything because they are not happy. Their “joy” is “doubtful” because it is full of worry that someone will discover that they have killed to get the throne.

She says it is better to be the murdered person than to be a murderer who can never be without the fear of being discovered.

(Remember, Lady Macbeth had talked her husband into killing King Duncan and she had returned the murder weapons to the scene of the crime when he had been afraid.)

Macbeth enters, and Lady Macbeth greets him. She asks why Macbeth is spending so much time alone. She asks why he is keeping only his worst thoughts as friends instead of letting those thoughts disappear into the past.

Lady Macbeth tries to comfort Macbeth (and herself) by saying that the worrying thoughts Macbeth has should have died when he killed King Duncan and his guards.

She says that things that do not have a “remedy” (things that cannot be fixed) should not be thought about. She says that what is done is done.

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(Macbeth cannot change the past.) Macbeth says that when they killed King Duncan, they had been like someone who had tried to kill a snake but had only cut it.

He says he thinks the snake (the line of men who might try to claim the throne of King Duncan’s sons and Banquo and his son) may heal its wound and its fangs will attack them.

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Macbeth tells his wife that “the frame of things” (the universe) can “disjoint” (fall apart) and “both worlds” (heaven and earth) can “suffer,” but no matter what happens Macbeth will do anything to stop eating his meals in fear and to stop sleeping with the “terrible dreams” that he experiences every night.

He says he had killed King Duncan to get peace (peace from his uncontrollable desire to be king), but now he would rather be dead and be with King Duncan who has found true peace in death.

(Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth agree that the dead Duncan is happier than they are, but Lady Macbeth does not reveal her true feelings.) Macbeth says his mind is tortured and his sleep is restless.

Macbeth says that King Duncan is in his grave and that life is a “fitful fever” that Duncan has left behind. Macbeth says nothing can touch Duncan now.

Lady Macbeth tells her husband to “Come on..” She tells him he must calm himself and be “bright and jovial” (happy) among his guests.

Macbeth says he will pretend to be happy, and tells his wife that she must use her eyes and tongue to compliment Banquo since he is dangerous to them (because of the witches’ prophecy that his descendants would be kings).

Macbeth says he and Lady Macbeth must use their faces like “vizards” (masks) to hide their “hearts” (their true feelings). Lady Macbeth answers only by saying that Macbeth should stop his negative talking.

Note: Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth to be especially nice to Banquo even though he expects Banquo and his son Fleance to be dead before the banquet. He does not tell her of his plan to have them killed.

His words about wearing “vizards” to hide evil thoughts remind us of the words he spoke at the end of Act 1, Scene 7 when he decided to kill King Duncan: “False face must hide what the false heart doth know.” Just as he chose evil over good then, he again is choosing evil over good now.

There is a big difference now, though. His wife talked him into killing Duncan, but he arranged for the murderers to kill Banquo and Fleance before speaking to Lady Macbeth.

Macbeth responds to his wife’s criticism by saying, “Oh,” and explaining that his “mind” (his brain) is full of “scorpions” (unpleasant thoughts) because Banquo and Fleance are alive.

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Lady Macbeth tells her husband that it would not be natural for them (Banquo and Fleance) to live forever. Macbeth says it is comforting to know that Banquo and Fleance can die and can be attacked.  Macbeth tells his wife to look happy when she is with their guests.

Then Macbeth tells his wife that before the bats leave the castle cloisters (covered walkways) to go to Hecate (the goddess of witches) and before the beetle makes its nighttime noise and flies off carried on scaly wings, a “deed of dreadful note” will be done.”

Lady Macbeth asks what will be done. Macbeth calls her his “dearest” and says she should “be innocent” and not know what will happen until she is able to applaud after the deed is done.

Then Macbeth calls out to the night that is coming. He asks Night to seel (to the blind by sewing shut) the eye of a pleasant day.

Macbeth tells Night that after blinding and darkening the kindness of Day. The night should use its “bloody and invisible hand” to “tear to pieces” the “bond” (Banquo’s hold on life).

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Macbeth thinks Banquo’s death is necessary because the thought of Banquo’s descendants taking Macbeth’s place as the king has been keeping Macbeth pale with fear.

Macbeth says that it is getting darker and that the crow is returning to the woods. He says that the “good things of the day” (good animals and people) are beginning to get tired and sleepy while the “black agents” (animals and people who hunt) are getting ready to find and kill their prey.

Macbeth tells his wife that she looks surprised by his words, but he asks her to not question him. He tells her that when people do bad things, the only way they can fix their problems is to do more ill (more bad things). He asks her to please go with him. The Macbeths leave the room.

Note: Act 3, Scene 2 shows that although the Macbeths now have the crowns and power they wanted, they are not happy, nor are they a unified couple. Macbeth is becoming the more evil of the two.

He turns to Hecate (the leader of all Witches (pronounced Hec et by Shakespeare instead of the more traditional Hec a tee) and to the
darkness now taking over his body, mind, and soul.

Macbeth truly believes that since he murdered King Duncan to get power and riches, the only way he can keep his position is by more murders: the murders of Banquo and Fleance

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