As soon as the King’s chamberlains passed out Lady Macbeth rang the bell then went into the dark courtyard to wait for her husband. She was excited: she had drunk some wine and it had filled her with fire.
What was that!
No it was nothing: only an owl.
The sound of snoring came to her. It meant the doors were open! He had done it! The doors were open and their snores were pouring down the stairs from the bed chambers.
Her husband’s voice! They had woken up and he hadn’t done it! They had been caught in the attempt, not the deed itself! How could he have missed the daggers? She had lain them out, ready. It was so easy: if Duncan hadn’t looked so much like her father as he slept she would have done it herself.
There was a stumbling noise in the doorway and she rushed towards it.
‘It’s done! Didn’t you hear a noise?’
‘I heard the owl scream and the crickets cry. Didn’t you say something?’
‘As I came downstairs?’
‘Listen. Who’s sleeping in the room next to his?’
Macbeth dropped the daggers and peered at his hands in the dim light of his wife’s torch. ‘This is a sorry sight.’
‘A foolish thought to say a sorry sight!’
‘Someone laughed in his sleep and another cried ‘Murder! ‘ And they woke each other. I stood listening. But they said their prayers and went back to sleep.’
‘Two of them are sharing a room,’ said Lady Macbeth.
‘One of them cried ‘God bless us!’ and the other ‘Amen’ . As though they had seen me with these hangman’s hands. Listening to their fear I couldn’t say Amen when they cried ‘God bless us!’‘
‘Don’t think about it,’ she said.
‘But why couldn’t I say Amen? I needed a blessing and Amen stuck in my throat.’
‘We musn’t think about it: it will drive us mad.’
‘I thought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more! Macbeth has murdered sleep.’’ Macbeth put his head on her breast and she cradled him. ‘The innocent sleep’ he muttered – ‘sleep that removes our worries, the death at the end of each careworn day, the balm of hard work, ointment of painful minds, chief nourisher in life’s feast -‘
She pushed him away. ‘What are you talking about?’
‘And it kept crying ‘Sleep no more’ so that I thought it would wake the whole house up. ‘Glamis has murdered sleep and so Cawdor will sleep no more! Macbeth will sleep no more!’
Lady Macbeth stamped her foot. ‘Who was it that cried like that? Come on, Thane. You make a mockery of your manhood, behaving so foolishly. Go and get some water and wash this filthy witness from your hands.’
When he came back from the well with the bucket she was holding the daggers. ‘Why on earth did you bring them out? They have to stay there. Take them back and smear the grooms with blood.’
Macbeth drew back and looked at her in terror. ‘I’m not going back there. I’m afraid to think about what I’ve done let alone look at it.’
‘Weakling!’ she said. ‘Give me the daggers.!’ She snatched them from him. ‘The dead look no different from sleeping people. Fearing the dead is like a child fearing a painted devil. If he’s bleeding I’ll put some of it on the groom’s faces because it must look as though they’ve done it.’
Macbeth was left alone. He couldn’t believe what he’d done. Suddenly there was a booming noise. Someone was knocking at the gate. Who was it? Why was it that every noise appalled him? He looked down at his hands and started. Could all the water in the ocean wash this blood off? It was more likely that his hands would turn all the earth’s seas red!
‘My hands are the same colour as yours, ‘ said his wife as she joined him. ‘Although I’m sorry to say I don’t feel any guilt. There’s someone knocking at the south entry. Let’s go to our room.’
She took his hands and guided them to the bucket. ‘A little water clears us of this deed. See how easy it is? Listen: more knocking. Go and put your nightgown on: it must seem as though we’ve been to bed.’
He wasn’t listening. She shook him. ‘Don’t be so lost in your thoughts.’
‘It’s better not to think,’ he said.
As he walked away, still in a state of shock, helped by his wife, the knocking came again. He wished whoever it was would wake Duncan.
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