Seniors – Lady Macbeth’s nightmares

Seniors,

Tonight, read the short 5.1 where a doctor and nurse visit Lady Macbeth while she sleeps. In the comments below, what is going on in her head? Explain why she’s acting so strangely – think back to Freud and the physical manifestation of internal desires. How do we see the real world – meaning events we’ve seen happen in the play — blend in with what’s going on in her head? As always, cite the text.

 

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27 thoughts on “Seniors – Lady Macbeth’s nightmares

  1. Weeks ago and prior to this post, there was an article about Lady Macbeth that illustrated her true character. Although I do not remember the title enough to cite the article, I do remember that it spoke about Lady Macbeth’s false persona that she assumes when she is with Macbeth. Secretly however, she was actually scared and guilty about the decision to kill Macbeth. Lady Macbeth felt that she was Macbeth’s mother because she had orchestrated the whole murder, whereas Macbeth couldn’t even kill Duncan right. What we can take most from that article is that Lady Macbeth is not who she appears to be; she isn’t the cold hearted witch that she depicts herself as.
    In this scene, Lady Macbeth is shown talking and walking in her sleep, “Since his majesty went into the field, I have seen her rise from her bed” (Macbeth, Scene 5, Act 1). She rambles on about the blood stained smell and look upon her hands that she cannot get rid of, “Here’s the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand” (Macbeth, Scene 5, Act 1). This occurrence can only be applied to Lady Macbeth and Macbeth as they are the only ones who can be linked to the murder of King Duncan and Banquo. This connection is clarified further when Lady Macbeth is appeared to be talking to her co- conspirator, “Wash your hands…look not so pale! I tell you again, Banquo’s buried. He cannot come out on’s grave” (Macbeth, Scene 5, Act 1). After the mentioning of Banquo, it can only be assumed that Lady Macbeth is talking to Macbeth. The two are trying to clean their hands from the blood shed that they’ve caused. Similar to the time where Macbeth saw Banquo at his banquet, this is another instance where the characters of “Macbeth” are experiencing guilt.

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  2. Lady Macbeth has one thing going on in her head at all times and it’s the desire for power. Her desire for power along with her husband’s has gotten out of hand and I think she is getting paranoid that they’ll get caught soon. Sigmund Freud’s theory is that when people are dreaming (in this case sleep walking) there subconcious desires come out. Her desire presently in just to stay in power. In scene 5.1 she reveals that she is trying so hard to help Macbeth get a grip but in a bad way. Instead of helping him through the guilt he feels for being a murderer she confuses him by telling him that what he is doing is for good. Macbeth somewhere deep down knows it’s not okay but then on the surface Lady Macbeth is trying to cover up his conscience with her own desires. ” Wash your hands. Put on your nightgown. Look not so pale.–I tell you yet again, Banquo’s buried”, in this quote you can clearly see that Macbeth is trying to feel guilty but Lady Macbeth is the pebble preventing the dam from breaking. That pebble should not be there in the first place. So in her sleep she is revealing her paraniod state of mind that everything is going to go crashing down soon and it probably will.

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    • I like your analysis, Tina, and the pebble metaphor but I just want to be clear that you know she’s only talking to Macbeth in her sleep – he’s not in the room with her. Back to the Freudian reading, I think even more than her desire for power this shows her guilt over matters. As Macbeth has become colder and more tyrannical, Lady Macbeth is the one showing guilt and remorse, even if just in her sleep.

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  3. its unsettling at the fact that lady Macbeth feels guilty at all knowing her passed words of, how should i put it? “craziness” lady macbeth never really seemed to be a very caring person if at all she seemed emotionally detached as she spoke of breaking a baby’s head in to make her husband king. yet so even with this statement, she now seems to see the error in what she has been doing. Her quest for power and strength reflect well in these few pages at how mind pulling it all is. her guilt eats away at her slowly “here’s the smell of blood still. all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh.”(Macbeth, act 5, scene 1) it’s the fact that her ego, super ego, and id are at work here, displaying that she is in fact in the wrong. no matter how much she craves this power, it is not barbaric actions that bring about power in their world but rather lineage, something that even “fate” has no power over. lady macbeth feels the guilt flow through her, although being strong willed and scolding her husband for his public displays of weak mindedness, she displays her’s through her words and actions of her sleep. she’s paranoid, losing her self ever more as the days go on, and the people continue to suspect. lady macbeth may very well end up much more crazier than to begin with.

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  4. As seen in previous scenes, Lady Macbeth is portrayed as someone who is very controlling and deceptive towards Macbeth. She has been trying to take all the guilt out of him by telling him that this is what they both wanted, that he is meant to be king and sharing a desire for power. This causes them to make decisions that are not morally correct. In 5.1, Lady Macbeth is seeing a scene of King Duncan’s murder and is constantly rambling on to the Doctor and Gentlewoman about how nobody is going to find out and how much power they will have. She also brings up a part about how Banquo is already buried and that there is nothing to worry about. This is when she is talking to Macbeth in her dreams because Macbeth is paranoid about Banquo’s fate that was told by the three witches. This is an obstacle that is in his way. It seems as those these dreams are becoming a constant routine every night for her because the Gentlewoman tells the Doctor, “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.” (Shakespeare 5.1, 241, 25-27). She is washing the blood off her hands that belonged to the now dead king and people are beginning to take note of her strange actions. She is sleep walking and talking which all comes from a Freudian idea of being paranoid and insane. All of her past thoughts and actions are now haunting her and fate is beginning to turn against her and Macbeth.

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    • Jenny, you’re close her. I don’t know if I’d say paranoia and insanity are Freudian ideas (though they certainly apply) but it is Freudian that her internal issues are coming out in physical manners (the sleepwalking and sleep talking).

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  5. Lady Macbeth acts strangely as she is sleeping because her subconsciousness is expressed. She notices that Macbeth is feeling some type of guilt and fear from the murdering of King Duncan. To cover up the guilt, she is trying to convince him through her sleep or trying to tell him that there is nothing to worry about. Since this is coming out of her subconscious, she is thinking of it but cannot express this weakness. In scene 5.1, the gentlewoman describes her repetitive actions, “It is an accustomed action with her, to seem thus washing her hands: I have known her continue in this quarter of an hour.” (5.1, 82, 32-37). This is a gesture of Lady Macbeth washing the bloods off her hands but knows she can’t because it has already been done, and the same statement is being used to justify that there is nothing to worry about. The guilt is haunting Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, shown as the less sensitive character, Lady Macbeth faces these sleepwalks and personally convincing herself they will remain power. She says, “Wash your hands; put on your nightgown; look not so pale! I tell you yet again. Banquo’s buried. He cannot come out on ‘s grave.”(5.1, 83, 65-68) This is a sign that Macbeth’s and Lady Macbeth’s powers are coming to an end. Eventually, their fate will catch up to them, and the guilt and fear will eat them up. Lady Macbeth cannot keep trying to take over Macbeth’s conscience.

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    • Brian, you’ve got a lot going on here. Why do you think it’s significant that the maid says Lady Mac’s actions are “nothing to worry about”? Also, I like your last idea. Are we seeing this because she’s even doing it in her dreams?

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  6. When Lady Macbeth is asleep her internal desires appear, she acts out those desires when she think no one is aware not even herself. While she’s asleep she goes over the deaths her and Macbeth have caused. I don’t think she dreams these scenarios out of guilt but out excitement of the power it gives her and Macbeth. These are not Lady Macbeth nightmares rather they are her loveliest dreams of her journey to power. She is aware that her power could be coming to an end so she relives these “happy” moments before they are completely gone.

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  7. From the beginning of the story it has been more than apparent that Lady MacBeth (who for the remainder of this response will be addressed as LMB) has held a firm grip on her ambitions and emotions. She has craved power and fame, both of which she has attained through her position as queen, and her indirect sovereignty by being able to manipulate MacBeth. Ultimately, however, she is experiencing the fruits of her impulse to power. Unlike MacBeth, LMB is not plagued by guilt, but by fear, specifically fear that her actions will catch up to her and reveal the truth she has attempted to conceal the duration of the play. There is evidence when she states “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!—One, two. Why, then, ’tis time to do ’t. Hell is murky!” (Act 5 sc.1). Here LMB is trying to watch out the blood from the murder of Banquo. She wants to remove any evidence that she was responsible and thus vehemently scrubs her hands. There is, though, no blood on her hands, rather this is a figment of her conscious during sleep. Sleep is often associated with vulnerability, especially psychologically. And since this is happening in her sleep we can label this as a true manifestation of her inner psych, giving much more insight into her character, and credibility to those claims. In this case, LMB’s conscious manifests her desire to circumvent blame. She also states “Nonsense, my lord, nonsense! You are a soldier, and yet you are afraid? Why should we be scared, when no one can lay the guilt upon us?” (Act 5 sc.1). LMB now seeks to quell her own fear by repeating claims she stated to MacBeth on how no one would be able “lay guilt” upon them. Reiterating my previous point, she is not plagued by guilt rather the possibility guilt and judgement will be laid and passed upon her respectively. Traumatic or important events have dominated her mind such that she is reliving them in her sleep. LBM is aware that she is culpable, and her conscious is projecting events and manifesting her sequestered emotions or her id. Much of what is unspoken by her is an expression of her ego, but in her sleep when she is most vulnerable and unconscious of her actions she is in the hands of her own, revealing and untamed id.

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    • Lucas, so many good thoughts to unpack here. (Though a quick clarification: Lady Mac is most likely referring to the murder of Duncan when she does the “damn spot” line though I’m all ears if you can prove otherwise.) you make an interesting point about sleep and it’s association with vulnerability and how while Macbeth feels guilt, Lady Mac feels/shows fear. Now that we’ve finished the book do you still believe this last point to be true?

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  8. Lady Macbeth is trapped in her own mind; she’s making herself go crazy. She is not aware of what she’s doing. Sometimes the guilt/feelings you are trying to put off are the reason you’re not able to sleep like a human should be sleeping, if that makes any type of sense. Her Super ego is controlling her every move since she can’t seem to do it herself. In Act 5, scene 1 is Lady Macbeth comparing herself to the Thane of Fife because she is washing her hands? It says, “The Thane of Fife, had a wife-where is she now? What, will these hands ne’re be clean? No more o’ that my Lord, no more o’ that- you mar all with this starting,” (page 5.1, lines 40-44). Lady Macbeth also mentioned knocking at the gate, she’s loosing grip of what she did, she didn’t want to show you the blood on her hands but little did she know it stained her palms.
    The Doctor was fairly curious on what was happening to Lady Macbeth. He was listening to what the gentlewoman was stretching, yet it all seemed pretty true. He’s telling the gentlewoman to keep an eye on her, she might be capable of more things while she’s asleep than awake. Come to think of it, her super ego, as freud said was conscious is full blown now, and she could easily end up killing herself and her husband. In L. Macbeth’s head all these perceptions of who she is supposed to be are catching up to her, and what she has done is killing her… emotionally. In the real world, Macbeth is going crazy, as more and more people are being dead at his command and he is not the official King, yet. They’re world is turning upside down fast. Her greed is unhealthy, her ambition is appalling but she cannot seem to stop her self from falling deeper in the well of unconsciousness of one’s own actions.

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  9. Lady Macbeth is known for being this ruthless power hungry women who would let nothing get in her way from getting what she wants. In the scene 5 act 1, Lady Macbeth is sleeping walking and the gentlewoman and the doctor is observing.
    “Yet here’s a spot”, now she is refering to the death on the one she drew. She want the blood off her hands. when she says “…when non can call our power to account?- Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him”.
    Lady Macbeth is saying that she wanted power but if she knew how bad the outcome would be, she would never have done so. We all know the crazy bat when she is conscience but when she is unconscience she is actually aware of her mistakes and thinks about what she has done. She has came to conclusion that “What is done can not be undone” now she needs to live with the burden and keep on living with that regret.

    The thing that is going on in her head is that she is completely crazy and is dealing with the things that she has done. She is regretting and the harmful things that she has done is haunting her and she wishes she can take back the moment and that the power wasn’t worth it because she is suffering with that deed.

    Enjoy this link guys, this is the sleepwalking scene in different versions :

    Watch at your own risk, and the last version in the video was explicit. And the room was very cold… lol I’m sorry (those who watch will understand)

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  10. Lady Macbeth has officially lost it. She’s feeling guilty to what she and Macbeth have done with Banquo. Her mind its playing tricks with her and making her sleep walk and talk about what she and Macbeth have done. In the beginning she made her self seem so poise and controlling. But once her ugly side came out she became a brute and transform her husband into a brute as well. But all the bad being of a being a brute is catching up to her where she doesn’t even notice it or can’t control it and the only people who are there to witness it is the gentlewoman and the doctor. But her conscious is making her feel guilty and go crazy in he sleep. When she says “Out damned spot–out I say. …blood in him”(pg 194-195) I’m wondering why she’s saying this if she wasn’t the one the put the dagger in Banquo it was her husband, But I guess she’s feeling guilty because she was the one who peer pressured Macbeth to do it and she feeling like if she did it. Then when she says “wash your hands. ..on’s grave”(pg 195), she’s telling her self to not make it obvious that something is killing her inside to act normal, but then again she’s worrying if Banquo comes back to life, but then she has to remind her self that he’s buried and he won’t come back to life. What they have done is coming back to them and its making them go crazy both of them because Macbeth at the dinner had his moment when he saw the ghost as well. I guess they didn’t know about Karma.

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    • Ada, a good word to know is “psychosomatic” – a physical illness or ailment caused by internal conflict or stress. Lady Macbeth’s sleep walking, as you point out, is psychosomatic, not so much because of Banquo (though I’m sure that’s part of it) but because of Duncan. The blood on her hands that she’s trying to wash off specifically belongs to Duncan (remember, she got his blood on her hands).

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  11. In Act 5 scene 1, Lady Macbeth has been getting serious nerves and is basically fighting with herself and the events/actions she has created. Her nerves are overwhelmed by the guilt and paranoia that she has inside over the actions she have committed, led to sleepwalking and a delusional belief that her hands are stained with blood. This is because in line 33-34 she stated “Out, damned spot, Who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him,” (Shakespeare, 5.1). This reflects on the crime/murder that she has committed on the king and her influences on Macbeth as well. She is full of regret and in her is full of emotions/ confusion that is making her act in a paranoid way as of what should do what might happen. I thought this claim was so important because this connects back to what Macbeth said in Act 2 scene about how “a little water clears us of this deed,” (Shakespeare, 2.2). This demonstrates that Lady Macbeth is confused and in a state of shock since the blood on her hands that she imagines are not washing off and are permanent showing what she had done. Showing how Lady Macbeth is reflecting back on what she has done in her sleep trying to demonstrate what she has committed in reality was a bad deed.

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  12. Lady Macbeth acts strangely on behalf of the suppressed feelings she has. Those feeling are her guilt when it comes down to all that has happen to the deaths and Macbeth’s character changing. Deep down she understands that these events are partially, if not, mainly her fault. I understand that this is Lady Macbeth’s reasoning for her acting strange in her sleep because of what she tries to do when she’s “awake” in front of the Doctor and Gentlewomen, “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!” (Act 5.1, Line 38) and then continues with “Here’s the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!” (Act 5.1, Line 53-55). Using the context clues Lady Macbeth is trying to wash away the blood that is on her hands, blood referring to the death she pushes Macbeth to commit. These deaths has now psychologically put her in a weak state. That being said does that mean Lady Macbeth’s internal desires is to feel not guilty? Suppressed by society she earns for power early on in the play but that image or dream is the product of her environment and does not equate to her personal beliefs and desires.

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  13. In Act 5, Scene 1, we start to unravel how Lady MacBeth begins to have descended into madness, because of the things she has pressured MacBeth to do, thinking that they would not have to pay for the evil actions they committed by murdering Duncan, Lady Macduff, and Banquo. She now begins to regret having pushed MacBeth this far to obtain the kingship, since she said in the beginning, “a little water clears us of this deed” (2.2.66), meaning that the two could never have to pay for the crimes they committed, thinking that everything would just be swept under the rug. Lady MacBeth has these terrible voices talking in her head, reminding her of all the evil that MacBeth and herself have committed for a selfish ambition of power for themselves, and since MacBeth does not have any fear about what he is doing as king, Lady MacBeth is now paying for the both of their crimes. It seems that she can’t handle her subconscious coming back to bite her own ass, hearing voices of Duncan and Banquo, as well as trying to wash the blood from her hands, when in reality, her hands have no blood, Lady MacBeth is the only one who can see it because she was the one who murdered Duncan. As she tries to wash away at what she has done, Lady MacBeth keeps saying, “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!—One, two. Why, then, ’tis time to do ’t. Hell is murky!” (Act 5 sc.1) meaning that she wants no record of anyone seeing the blood on her hands, when in reality, Lady MacBeth is the only person who sees them, because it is her own brain resurfacing the old memories that she does not want to remember. She can’t continue on with her subconscious attacking her, so it looks as though Lady MacBeth will kill herself, because she can’t deal with all the wrongs she has done to her husband and to herself, meaning that we have to be careful in how we make our decisions and how much it will cost us.

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  14. I think the pressure from all of the responsibility she has to take over Macbeth in this certain situation shows how she has taken a motherly role in his life, without her he would never follow through. It reminds me of how wives talk about how their husbands are like another child. The blood on her hands is symbolic to having “blood on her hands” but in reality there is no blood there. She is guilty, she’s starting to forget why shes doing this.

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