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Lady Macbeth returned to her chamber carrying the tray and decanter from which she had served King Duncan’s guards wine.

“The wine that has made them drunk has made me brave. The wine that quenched their fires has inflamed mine.”

She paused.

“Listen. An owl, the bell-ringer of doom, so strong are its goodnights. My husband is doing it now. The doors of the King’s chamber are open and the guards mock their responsibilities with drunken snores. I drugged them so much nature and death are squabbling if they should live or die.”

“Who’s there? What? Hey!”

It was Macbeth. His confused yelling travelled down the stairway. Lady Macbeth became nervous.

“No, they’re up and the deed isn’t done! We’ve blown it! Everything will be lost. I laid their daggers out, ready for him. He could not miss them. If the King hadn’t resembled my father as he slept I would have done it there and then myself.”

Then Macbeth arrived in his bedroom. His hands and arms were soaked in blood. The blood dripped from the daggers he still clutched as if they were attached to him.

“My husband!” Lady Macbeth said, glowing.

“I’ve done it. Did you hear anything?”

“I heard the owl scream and some crickets cry. Didn’t you speak?”

“When?”

“Now.”

“As I came down?”

“Yes.”

“Listen!”

They stood silently waiting for the slightest movement. They could barely look at each other. Both knew they were on the brink of success, or failure.

“Who’s in the second bedroom?” asked Macbeth.

“Donalbain.”

Macbeth the suddenly became aware of his damp hands.

“This is a sorry sight,” he said.

“A foolish thought to say it’s a sorry sight.”

“One of the guards laughed in his sleep and one cried, Murder. That’s how they woke each other. I stood and heard them. But they muttered their prayers and drifted back to sleep.”

“Malcolm is in that bedroom with Donalbain.”

“One cried, God, bless us , and the other, Amen, as if they knew I was the executioner. Hearing their fear I couldn’t say Amen when they said God, bless us.”

“Stop talking about it.”

“Why couldn’t I say Amen? I needed that blessing most and Amen stuck in my throat.”

“These deeds must not be dwelt upon. We’ll end up mad,” Lady Macbeth said forcefully.

“I thought I heard a voice say, Sleep no more! Macbeth has murdered sleep! Innocent sleep. Sleep that clothes us in care. Sleep that ends each day. A bath for exhausted workers. A balm for troubled minds. Nature’s second wind. The nourishment of life.”

Lady Macbeth was irritated by her husband’s rambling.

“What do you mean?”

“The voice said Sleep no more to the entire house. Glamis has murdered sleep. Therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more: Macbeth shall sleep no more.”

“Who said these things? Why, my worthy Thane, you’ll exhaust yourself thinking about these things so intensely. Go, get some water to wash the filthy evidence from yours hands. Why didn’t you leave the daggers? They must be found there! Take them back and smear the drunken servants with the blood.”

“I can’t go back there. I’m afraid to think about let alone see what I’ve done.”

“Coward!” Lady Macbeth spat.

She stared at him for a moment, but to him it seemed like an eternity. Macbeth was already a prisoner of his own crime.

“Give me the daggers!” Lady Macbeth snarled. “The sleeping and the dead are just like pictures. Only a child would fear a picture of the devil! I’ll smear their faces. I’ll make them look guilty.”

When Lady Macbeth had left him alone Macbeth began to hear knocking and once again found himself descending into paranoia.

“Where’s that knocking coming from? Every noise terrifies me. I’m going mad.”

He looked again at his stained hands.

“Whose hands are these? They’re plucking my eyes out. There’s not enough water in all of Neptune’s oceans to cleanse me of these stains. My hands would make the green seas red.”

When Lady Macbeth returned from Duncan’s chamber her entrance made her husband jump. She shot him a scathing look.

“Look, my hands are the same colour as yours, but I’d be ashamed to have a heart so white! Who’s knocking? I hear someone knocking at the south gate. We must retire to our bedroom. A little water will wash away all remnants of this deed. Then it will be easy- if you haven’t lost your nerve. Listen, more impatient knocking. Get your night-clothes on in case we are disturbed, we can’t be seen to be up already. And don’t let your thoughts lead you astray.”

As they left for their quarters, Macbeth continued to mope.

“I know what I’ve done but now it would be best if I didn’t know myself. Wake Duncan with mere knocking! If only I could!”