Play Index & Help
Owls are screaming in the night. Macbeth has murdered his king and the ghastly consequences are immediate. He is in a cold sweat, cannot pray, and believes that he will never find rest.
Lady Macbeth is similarly condemned but doesn’t know it yet! For the moment she is confident and decisive, rebuking Macbeth for being ‘infirm’.
There is a frightful knocking at the castle entrance. Call it Hell Gate, as the Porter does.
The scene requires two players, and a very important sound effect – the sound of someone knocking on a heavy castle door (any knock will do – let your imagination do the rest). The two players are both in Highlit Text mode. They are:
Play the scene from the beginning (Lady Macbeth‘s entrance), to the end (Macbeth‘s line “Wake Duncan with your knocking, I would thou could’st”. Don’t forget the knocking!
There are two very important directions from the playwright in this scene:
The first is about ‘shared lines’. Sometimes a line of verse is split across more than one speaker. For example:
Whether they live, or die.
Who’s there? what ho?
When a line is shared like this, it is normal for the second speaker to speak their part of the line as a continuation of the first speaker’s line, so that it sounds like one line, shared across speakers.
Sometimes there is a short line, and it is normal for such a line to have a pause (approximately as long as the ‘missing’ length of line.
In the following extract from this scene there are shared lines and then two short lines together:
Did not you speak?
Did you not speak? When? Now. As I descended
would normally be played as one line bouncing between the two players.
But then follow two short lines (with a pause in each, filling in for the missing words).
If you play the whole scene with shared lines played fast with no pause, and short lines including the pauses, you’ll find that it builds the excitement of the scene, and the tension between the players.
Why don’t you try it now? You may have to do it a few times to get it to go properly.
Secondly, the knocking is a very important sound effect. It interrupts the speeches of the two players like a hellish warning of what is to come, particularly when it is a deep slow knock, as on a castle door.
Alternatively, you can read the whole scene in Standard Script by clicking on the following link: Macbeth, A2S2, ‘Macbeth has murdered sleep’ – standard script
If you want to see what we made of this scene, check out our Playreading Report on A2S2 of Macbeth.
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Play Index & Help