The response below is an AP analysis focusing on Lady Macbeth’s changing character/nature within Act 5 Scene 1, but specifically focuses on the lines 23-47 (within this website: http://nfs.sparknotes.com/macbeth/page_180.html). Please note that these lines represent a shift (second shift) that I recognized within this Act and the gentlewoman was cut out but her lines merged with the doctor’s.
Within this shift, Lady Macbeth is desperate to cleanse herself of the bloody knives she withheld when Duncan’s murder was executed. She is demanding for the spot to rid itself off her skin but her demands are not being executed; her surety is dissipating, and she no longer has control over herself. Before the first dash, she is situated within present/current action; however, the “one, two” depicted after said dash represents a past occurrence that she is recalling as if she was in that former span of time presently. This back and forth almost alludes to the disorder that now is surrounding Lady Macbeth and the insanity she is succumbing into. This is also proved how hell is now “murky,” but before, when she called upon the darkness, she was clear upon her order for she wanted the darkness to unsex her and take away her womanly qualities. However, the hell she refers (which coincides with the darkness for she is referring to immoral supernatural ideals) to is almost convoluted and unclear; it is not something she can find a certainty within. Again, it represents a present emotion but after the dash, she is again residing within the past and there’s almost a safety net present within these set of dashes; (when she asks what need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account) it is as if Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s actions are concealed- it presents a true conviction and controlled thoughts that allowed her sanity within the past and it represents her desperation to attain it now. However, after the consecutive dash she is her focus is directed to the present and almost is acknowledging the consequence of action and the unpredictability associated with it; how she had not planned for there to be so much blood, it represents that ignorance associated with her former thoughts and how dire absoluteness in her former plans is faltering.
Through saying how the Thane of Fife had a wife, she acknowledges the death of Lady Fife and how her death was indirectly Lady Macbeth’s fault, Macbeth’s villainous actions were an outcome of her own manipulation. Through questioning desperately how her hands will never be clean she acknowledges the permanent accusation they hold through Macbeth’s many murders. After this dash, there is an apostrophe for she is talking to Macbeth although he is not there. Through saying “you mar all with this startling” (past- how Macbeth’s face needed to be concealed) it is actually alluding to herself because she is presently acting startled and her deceitful actions are being revealed to the doctor whom she is unaware that is present. She is becoming what she warned Macbeth not to embody; her former worry has seeped into her reality and her appearance can no longer hide her deceit, but rather conveys how she is plagued by the guilt associated with her actions.
Through the diction choice of the word “sweeten,” Lady Macbeth is referring to the blood upon her hands- the word almost represents how the flower that she was supposed to be is now stained with a sickly sweet scent. The smell of blood cannot be hidden but almost interferes with other smells and individuals can notice the difference. Her façade is fading; it is almost as if the blood has tainted the innocent/pure flower she was supposed to be and the serpent is revealing itself without her command, which represents a loss of control over herself. Also, it is significant to mention how she describes her hand as “little,” which leads to the loss of the masculinity she acquired before for her hand almost seems dainty and feminine in this phrase. Her pathos in this dialogue is dictating her action which forces it to become illogical and disordered, and she becomes ignorant of her surroundings because she is sleepwalking.
As the doctor recognizes how the heart is solely charged it represents how her guilt is recognized by another; there is a sympathy there she is unaware of. It is almost what she needs, but it is cruelly snatched away from her because she will never know what the doctor has witnessed for she is unaware of her current reality.
This disease that Lady Macbeth has is beyond the doctor’s practice for it is a mental illness that is attacking her. But the doctor knows people who have sleep walked but have remained innocent, as they died “holily” within their beds, which conveys a sense of tranquility that the queen however, is not capable of. It is almost as if by saying this, the doctor is pulling a facade for the queen herself. In this diction, it conveys this presumable chance of how Lady Macbeth is not guilty, yet that chance is almost foolish when it is obvious her actions have presented the opposite to the doctor.
Near the end of the shift, when she tells herself to wash her hands it is as if she’s out loud repeating a ritual and there’s a safety within this ritual for she’s almost convincing herself not to be worried. There is logical action used here. When she says “he cannot come out of his grave,” keep in mind how all of the worries she formerly assured herself would not come true have come true, so it certifies that although she did not see Banquo’s ghost, it is true that Macbeth has. “What’s done cannot be undone” represents the permanent label attached to her actions that torment her. Within the set dashes in which she is situated within the past and she is referring to Macbeth, Lady Macbeth says “come, come, come, come” it provokes the image of almost running away together with Macbeth and mastering the deceit they needed to in order to secure a satisfaction within accomplishing their plan (their plan had an outcome that did not come true, whereas the witches prophecy had an outcome or an execution we were not aware of-didn’t know the how), and that is significantly an ideal that only remained attainable within the past. After this dash, she again says “to bed, to bed, to bed!” and there is an implication of how only she alone is going to bed, which can also showcase the faltering relationship that is now occurring presently between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.