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William Shakespeare


Act 2, Scene 1:
Easier questions to cut your teeth on!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 23 January 2014
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It is after midnight. Banquo unexpectedly meets Macbeth and gives his host rich presents from the king.

He and Macbeth briefly discuss the witches' prophecies -- but it is now clear that there is little trust between the two men.

Macbeth, left alone, has a series of sudden ghostly visions of bloody daggers pointing the way to Duncan's chamber.


Murder is never an easy thing, even for a battle-hardened man like Macbeth. When someone is superstitious, however, it is even more difficult.

The ancient peoples believed there was a direct link between nature and the goodness of one's actions. This was especially so when it came to authorities who enjoyed God's favour -- people such as kings.

Even before Macbeth went to Duncan's bedchamber to murder the king, nature was described as darkening over.

Then Macbeth saw visions. A ghostly dagger appeared, apparently leading the way. In another vision, the dagger was covered in blood.

And then the noises began: the howling of wolves, owls screeching, sounds on the stairs. Even Lady Macbeth appeared disturbed -- although she maintained an heroic front.

Macbeth shrank before the tumult. He fled the murder scene, taking the daggers with him and refusing to return. Lady Macbeth was therefore left to do the mopping up after the murder.

We see too the first signs of regret. Macbeth wished that his actions could be undone -- and he wondered whether his hands would ever again be clean.

This latter wish would also affect Lady Macbeth. Towards the end of the play, we find her sleepwalking and attempting to wash her own hands clean of Duncan's blood.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:

"And she goes down at twelve."
  • To what is Banquo referring? (2)

[Need help?]

"There's husbandry in heaven."
  • What does Banquo mean? (3)

[Need help?]

Once more in this scene we are shown how much Duncan favours Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
  • Explain how this is so. (4)

[Need help?]

Banquo mentions dreaming of the witches. Macbeth, however, denies ever thinking of them.
  • Why does he do so? (4)

[Need help?]

Why does Macbeth have visions of ghostly daggers? (5)

[Need help?]

What words tell you that the ghostly daggers are visions, and not the real thing? (5)

[Need help?]

Apart from the visions of the daggers, what other things does Macbeth mention which refer to the supernatural? (3)

[Need help?]

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