Act II – Scene.i
On his way to the King’s chamber, Macbeth meets Banquo and his son Fleance.
Macbeth asks why he is up so late and Banquo responds that he has been dreaming about the witches. They arrange to meet to discuss the matter.
Macbeth is alone again and suddenly he sees an apparition.
“Is this a dagger, which I see before me?
the handle toward my hand?
Come let me clutch thee
I have thee not, and yet I can see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
to feeling, as to sight? Or art thou but
a dagger of the mind, a false creation,
proceeding from the heat oppressed brain?”
The dagger points the way to Duncan and Macbeth climbs to the sleeping King.
The bright fresh air described by Duncan on his arrival
at Macbeth’s castle in Act I has now been replaced by a brooding, ominous darkness. Amidst this, the scene opens with the innocent Banquo and his son, who is disturbed by the dream he has had about the
witches. This backdrop of doom and gloom highlights his innocence. He is unaware of the plot to kill the King, but the audience is clear what is going to happen.
The dagger speech is one of Shakespeare’s most famous soliloquies and
emphasizes the supernatural element in the play, Macbeth. It is also a study of Macbeth’s psychology for unlike the three witches, who represent fate and were seen by Banquo and the others, this dagger is a
product of Macbeth’s own mind.
There will be many more such illusions further into the play.
Macbeth has already succumbed to temptation and he is a tool of fate being
driven to murder by his scheming wife. This has put untold pressure onto Macbeth, whose sanity must be in question.
Macbeth is concerned about what will happen to him in the afterlife.
He doesn’t care whether Duncan, his victim, will go to heaven or hell.