How to act lady Macbeth

QUESTION:

I am doing this lady Macbeth monologue on Friday for a school competition and was wondering if anyone could give me any tips about how to say certain lines or words and what some of it means.

Also should I stand still or move/sit??? I was thinking of sitting on floor after saying "I had done't" then getting up at "infirm of purpose" please give me any advice you can, I want to stand out!

Also what does "hark! Peace!" mean?

Thank you!    

Here's the monologue:

That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold;
What hath quench'd them hath given me fire.
Hark! Peace!
It was the owl that shriek'd, the fatal bellman,
Which gives the stern'st good-night. He is about it:
The doors are open; and the surfeited grooms
Do mock their charge with snores: I have drugg'd
their possets,
That death and nature do contend about them,
Whether they live or die.

Alack, I am afraid they have awaked,
And 'tis not done. The attempt and not the deed Confounds us. Hark! I laid their daggers ready;
He could not miss 'em. Had he not resembled
My father as he slept, I had done't.

Long exchange...

Who was it that thus cried? Why, worthy thane,
You do unbend your noble strength, to think
So brainsickly of things. Go get some water,
And wash this filthy witness from your hand.
Why did you bring these daggers from the place?
The sleepy grooms with blood.

Infirm of purpose!
Give me the daggers: the sleeping and the dead
Are but as pictures: 'tis the eye of childhood
That fears a painted devil. If he do bleed,
I'll gild the faces of the grooms withal;
For it must seem their guilt.

ANSWER:

This is a hard one because you are patching together text by taking out Lady Macbeth's interactions with her husband.

I haven't read this Shakespeare play in a long time, but I think this is what's going on...

Lady Macbeth has drugged the soldiers and is waiting for Macbeth to kill the sleeping king.

" That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold;
What hath quench'd them hath given me fire.
Hark! Peace!
It was the owl that shriek'd, the fatal bellman,
Which gives the stern'st good-night. He is about it:
The doors are open; and the surfeited grooms
Do mock their charge with snores: I have drugg'd
their possets,
That death and nature do contend about them,
Whether they live or die."


A noise scares her, "Hark!" (means "listen"), but she calms herself down "Peace", noting that it is just the owl and that the men are fast asleep.

Then Macbeth speaks, but she doesn't see him. She thinks it is the men waking up and that Macbeth missed his chance to act.

"Alack, I am afraid they have awaked,
And 'tis not done. The attempt and not the deed Confounds us. Hark! I laid their daggers ready;
He could not miss 'em. Had he not resembled
My father as he slept, I had done't."


Macbeth then comes and tells her he has killed the king. He shares his torment and guilt but she replies they are not worthy of him. He is still holding the bloody daggers and she tells him he has to put them in the hands of the soldiers and cover them in blood so it looks like they are the murderers.

" Who was it that thus cried? Why, worthy thane,
You do unbend your noble strength, to think
So brainsickly of things. Go get some water,
And wash this filthy witness from your hand.
Why did you bring these daggers from the place?
They must lie there. Go, carry them, and smear
The sleepy grooms with blood."


When Macbeth, paralyzed by guilt, refuses to go back, Lady Macbeth takes the daggers from him to do it herself, accusing him of being useless and of saying his fears are childish.

"Infirm of purpose!
Give me the daggers: the sleeping and the dead
Are but as pictures: 'tis the eye of childhood
That fears a painted devil. If he do bleed,
I'll gild the faces of the grooms withal;
For it must seem their guilt. "


As you see, tensions run high in this monologue. Lady Macbeth is alert to every sound and pressed for time, so the choice to sit down doesn't seem quite right, unless you find a good reason as an actor to do so.

Try to find the urgency in the scene. You can use an "as if" if you don't feel connected to the situation. For example, imagine you are very late for an important audition and someone is getting in your way of getting ready.

Of course, that's a trivial example compared to the situation here, but try to think of situations when you did something you know you shouldn't and didn't want to be found out and build from there.

You can find more Shakespeare acting help here.

I hope other actors and acting teachers help out with their comments.

Break a leg!

Comments for How to act lady Macbeth

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Mar 24, 2011
Reply
by: Sophie

Thank you so much but I have decided to now do hero much ado about nothing, I sent you another question about that monologue but am worried it won't be confirmed in time, please please can you reply with an answer to that before 12 pm tomorrow afternoon!!!! Sorry!!! Thanks :)

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