In a room at the castle of Dunsinane , the court doctor and a lady in waiting were spending the night crouched in a corner hiding from, or, rather, observing, the Queen, Lady Macbeth.

“I’ve spent two nights now watching with you and can still find no evidence to substantiate your report. When was it she last walked?” asked the doctor.

“Since His Majesty went to war, I have seen her rise from her bed, throw on her dressing gown, unlock her strongbox, take out some paper, write upon it, read it, then seal it in the box, and return to bed again. Yet she does all this while fast asleep.”

“It’s against nature to enjoy the benefits of sleep while doing the tasks of the working day. In her agitated slumber, other than her walking and actions, what, at any time, have you heard her say?”

“That, sir, which I will not repeat to you.”

“You may to me. Indeed, it is appropriate that you do.”

“Neither to you nor to anyone, having no witness to confirm what I heard.”

The lady-in-waiting paused anxiously: “Look, here she comes!”

Lady Macbeth swept past them. They cowered as her candle lit their faces, but she was oblivious to their presence.

“This is how she usually does it, and upon my life she’s fast asleep. Watch her but stay hidden.”

“How did she manage to light a candle?” asked the doctor.

“Why, she keeps it on her night stand. She has lit by her continuously. It is her order.”

“You see, her eyes are open!” the doctor said.

“Yes, but they don’t see.”

“What is she doing now? Look how she rubs her hands.”

“She does this all the time, pretending to wash her hands. I’ve known her to do this for a quarter of an hour.”

“Yet, there’s still a spot!” Lady Macbeth said desperately.

“Listen!” said the doctor, “she’s speaking. I better write down what she is saying, just to satisfy my memory.”

“Out, damned spot! Out, I say!”

Lady Macbeth mimed scenes from her guilty past as the doctor and lady looked on bewildered and puzzled, unable to decipher anything in Lady Macbeth’s torment.

“One. Two. Now is the time to do it! Hell is murky! Control yourself, my lord! A soldier, and frightened? Why should we fear those who know when none can call us to account? Yet who would have thought the old man would have so much blood in him?”

“Did you hear that?” the doctor asked.

“The Thane of Fife had a wife. Where is she now? What, will these hands never be clean? No more of that, my lord, no more of that! You spoil the feast with your panicking!”

“Come now,” said the doctor, “you know what you shouldn’t know.”

“She has spoken what she shouldn’t, I’m sure of that. Heaven knows what she knows.”

“The smell of blood is still there.” Lady Macbeth began again. “All the perfumes in Arabia couldn’t sweeten this little hand. Oh! Oh! Oh!”

“What a sigh! Her heart has more than its share of burdens,” the doctor said.

“I wouldn’t have such a heart in my bosom for all her titles and riches.”

“Well, well, well…” the doctor said.

“Pray God, it be well, sir!”

“This disease is beyond my ability. Yet I’ve known those who walked in their sleep who died holily in their beds.”

“Wash your hands” Lady Macbeth began again. “Put on your dressing gown. Don’t look so pale. I tell you again, Banquo’s buried. He cannot come out of his grave.”

The doctor now knew what haunted Lady Macbeth: “They’ve mur…”

“To bed, to bed. There’s someone knocking at the gate. Come, come, come, come, give me your hand. What’s done cannot be undone. To bed, to bed, to bed.”

As though obeying her own instruction Lady Macbeth retired to her chamber. As she passed they saw her face had been contorted by grisly memories and guilt.

“Will she go to bed now?”


“Foul rumours are doing the rounds. Unnatural deeds do breed unnatural troubles. Infected minds say thing only deaf pillows are intended to hear. Her needs lie with the divine not with the physician. God, God forgive us all! Look at her. Remove anything dangerous from her and keep an eye on her. So, goodnight. She has stunned my mind and amazed my sight. But I’ll keep my thoughts to myself.”

“Goodnight, doctor,” said the lady-in-waiting.