Act V – Scene.v
Macbeth is now dressed in his armor, preparing to meet the advancing army.
A shriek is heard offstage, which marks the death of the Queen. It is
not clear whether she has committed suicide or not.
This puts Macbeth into a contemplative state for perhaps he views the death
of his wife as also the death of ambition and purpose.
Just as he recovers from the blow of the loss of his wife, he receives a
message that Birnam Wood appears to have uprooted itself and is marching to Dunsinane.
Although this saps Macbeth’s confidence, it shows that the prophecies were true, and he is still invincible for he cannot be killed by anyone born of woman.
The start of this scene opens with Macbeth encouraging
his forces to go confidently against the enemy.
He is in full flow when the shriek is heard and news reaches him of Lady Macbeth’s death. The stage instruction is that the scream should be heart stopping. Again Shakespeare uses noises to emphasize particular actions e.g. Lady Macbeth heard an owl shriek when Duncan was murdered. Macbeth also heard a voice saying that he shall sleep no more, and there was also the knocking at the door at the end of Act II – Scene.ii.
Macbeth’s response to his wife’s death is perhaps strange, and he becomes
thoughtful and poetic with perhaps one of the best speeches of this play, and perhaps comparable to any written by Shakespeare.
This piece of genius, much overlooked, is as follows: -
“She should have died hereafter;
there would have been a time for such a word:
tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
to the last syllable of recorded time:
and all our yesterdays, have lighted fools the way to dusty death.
Out, out, brief candle, life’s but a walking shadow,
A poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more
It is a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury
How can this character be capable of such poetry and yet act the way he
does? Is he a victim and a tool of fate? He was tempted to murder King Duncan, but the catalyst for this deed was his wife and her ambition, and this one fateful act led to a string of evil deeds, which
has gained momentum throughout the play.
Just after his wife’s death, Macbeth is faced with another shocking
revelation concerning Birnam Wood.
Of course the wood itself is not marching to Dunsinane, but the fact that the messenger states “I look’d toward Birnam, and anon me thought the wood began to move”. The prophecy has come true through the words of the messenger, albeit they are inaccurate.
Macbeth shows some desperation now and he calls on the supernatural world,
and the natural elements to assist him by saying, “There is no flying hence, nor tarrying here. Ring the alarm bell, blow wind, come wrack, at least we’ll die with harness on our back.”
Macbeth rushes to meet his fate.