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William Shakespeare


Act 3, Scene 3:
Some questions to test you!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 23 January 2014
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Macbeth and his wife meet later in the night. We notice Lady Macbeth's first misgivings at their deed. It seems that the woman does have some form of a conscience after all.

Macbeth too is showing signs of a troubled mind but he realises that the murder of Duncan must now necessitate another -- and perhaps many more.


Murder is never an easy thing, even for a battle-hardened man like Macbeth. When you are 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 wondered whether his hands would ever again be clean.

Even the steely Lady Macbeth would eventually crumble. She would start to sleepwalk, during which time she would attempt to wash the blood off her own hands.

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

Lady Macbeth asks the servant, "Is Banquo gone from court?" to which the servant answers, "Ay, madam, but returns tonight."
  • What is Dramatic Irony? Comment on the dramatic irony of the servant's response. (4)

[Need help?]

What does Macbeth mean when he says, "We have scorched the snake, not killed it"? (4)

[Need help?]

Lady Macbeth advises her husband,
"Come on,
Gentle my lord, sleek o'er your rugged looks,
Be bright and jovial among your guests tonight."
  • Based on these words, what instructions regarding facial expression would you give the actor taking the role of Macbeth? (4)

[Need help?]

Does Macbeth give any hint to his wife that he is having Banquo murdered that very evening? (5)

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What does Macbeth mean when he says "O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!" (4)

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"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."
  • Explain Lady Macbeth's fears as she expresses them here. (6)

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"How now, my lord, why do you keep alone?
Of sorriest fancies your companions making,
Using those thoughts which should indeed have died
With them they think on? Things without all remedy
Should be without regard. What's done, is done
  • What does Lady Macbeth mean when she says, "Things without all remedy should be without regard"? (4)

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  • Is Lady Macbeth correct when she says, "What's done, is done"? (4)

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It is very clear that Macbeth is suffering severe mental trauma as a result of his actions.
  • Explain this trauma in your own words. (6)

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"Come, seeling night,
Scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day;
And with thy bloody and invisible hand
Cancel and tear to pieces that great bond
Which keeps me pale!"
  • Explain Macbeth's final prayer. (4)

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