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William Shakespeare


Act 5, Scene 1:
Some questions to test you!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 23 January 2014
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We have not heard anything of Lady Macbeth since the ghost of Banquo scene.

Now we are suddenly confronted with a woman on the verge of despair, whose conscience is so overwrought that she sleepwalks every evening, attempting vainly to wash the blood of Duncan from her hands and soul.


Blood is one of the major themes of Macbeth. How many times can you find the mention of blood?

"What bloody man is that?" asks King Duncan when the captain comes to tell of Macbeth's heroics.

Macbeth's sword "smoked with bloody execution", the captain tells the king. Then the captain tells them that Macbeth caused the enemy to "bathe in reeking wounds" so as to "memorize another Golgotha".

Macbeth sees a ghostly dagger leading him to Duncan's chamber, its blade covered with "gouts of blood".

After the murder, Macbeth asks in anguish whether "all great Neptune's ocean [could] wash this blood clean from [his] hand".

Lady Macbeth returns the bloody daggers and states that, "if he do bleed [she would] gild the faces of the grooms withal".

She returns "with hands of your colour" but she is "ashamed to wear a heart so white".

After Banquo's murder, Macbeth comments that he was "in blood stepped in so far, that, should [he] wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o'er".

And then the ever-strong Lady Macbeth is overcome by the memories of Duncan's blood. She walks in her sleep and is forever looking for water to wash her hands.

Even then the smell of blood remains strong on them.

How many other examples can you find where blood is mentioned in the play? Note them. Count them.

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

"Why, it stood by her: she has light by her
continually; 'tis her command."
  • What does Lady Macbeth's inability to sleep without a light tell us about her state of mind? (2)

[Need help?]

"It is an accustomed action with her, to seem thus
washing her hands: I have known her continue in
this a quarter of an hour."
  • Why does Lady Macbeth appear to be washing her hands continually? (4)

[Need help?]

"The thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now?"
  • Indeed, where is the Thane of Fife's wife? (2)

[Need help?]

In her sleepy chatter, Lady Macbeth confesses to knowledge of three murders.
  • Which three murders? (3)

[Need help?]

The doctor speaks about "a great perturbation in nature".
  • To what is he referring? (4)

[Need help?]

In the previous scene we witnessed the healing powers of the king of England. This scene dramatically introduces us to Lady Macbeth's mental illness.
  • Comment on this contrast. (4)

[Need help?]

Why does the gentlewoman refuse to tell the doctor what she has seen and heard, but insists that he see it for himself? (4)

[Need help?]

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