damned spot; out, I say. One, two,—why, then ’tis time to do’t.
Hell is murky. Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier and afeard? What need
we fear who knows it when none can call our power to account? Yet
who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in
These words are spoken by Lady Macbeth
in Act 5, scene 1, lines 30–34,
as she sleepwalks through Macbeth’s castle on the eve of his battle
against Macduff and Malcolm. Earlier in the play, she possessed a
stronger resolve and sense of purpose than her husband and was the
driving force behind their plot to kill Duncan. When Macbeth believed
his hand was irreversibly bloodstained earlier in the play, Lady
Macbeth had told him, “A little water clears us of this deed” (2.2.65).
Now, however, she too sees blood. She is completely undone by guilt
and descends into madness. It may be a reflection of her mental
and emotional state that she is not speaking in verse; this is one
of the few moments in the play when a major character—save for the
witches, who speak in four-foot couplets—strays from iambic pentameter. Her
inability to sleep was foreshadowed in the voice that her husband
thought he heard while killing the king—a voice crying out that
Macbeth was murdering sleep. And her delusion that there is a bloodstain
on her hand furthers the play’s use of blood as a symbol of guilt.
“What need we fear who knows it when none can call our power to
account?” she asks, asserting that as long as her and her husband’s
power is secure, the murders they committed cannot harm them. But
her guilt-racked state and her mounting madness show how hollow
her words are. So, too, does the army outside her castle. “Hell
is murky,” she says, implying that she already knows that darkness
intimately. The pair, in their destructive power, have created their own
hell, where they are tormented by guilt and insanity.