Macbeth (Act 2 Scene 1): ISC Class 11 workbook answers

macbeth (act 2 scene 1)
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Get notes, workbook solutions, summary, questions and answers, and pdf of the drama/play Macbeth (Act 2 Scene 1) by William Shakespeare which is part of ISC Class 11 English. However, the notes should only be treated for references and changes should be made according to the needs of the students.


Act 2 Scene 1 of Macbeth begins with Banquo and his son Fleance walking in the castle at night. Banquo is troubled by the witches’ prophecies and cannot sleep. Macbeth then enters the scene, and Banquo tells him that the king is asleep and has been in a good mood, granting many gifts to the household. Banquo also mentions his dream about the witches and their prophecies. Macbeth, who is planning to murder King Duncan, asks Banquo for his support when the time comes, to which Banquo agrees as long as he can keep his conscience clear.

After Banquo and Fleance leave, Macbeth, alone now, hallucinates a bloody dagger leading him to Duncan’s room. He talks to it, questioning whether it is a figment of his fevered brain. He is interrupted by the ringing of a bell, which is the signal from Lady Macbeth that the guards are drunk and it’s the best time to proceed with their plan to murder the king. Macbeth then exits, determined to kill Duncan, saying that the bell summons Duncan to heaven or to hell.

The scene is a crucial one as it sets the stage for the murder that will change the course of events in the play and lead to Macbeth’s eventual downfall.

Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)

Read the extracts given below and answer the questions that follow:

1. Banquo implores to God to check

Answer: a. the wicked thoughts that crowd his mind

2. Macbeth saw in front of him

Answer: a. an air drawn dagger

3. Banquo informs Macbeth that the King presented Lady Macbeth with

Answer: a. a diamond

4. The bell that rang was a

Answer: a. summon for Macbeth to go and kill the King

5. Banquo told Macbeth that the night before he had dreamt of

Answer: a. the witches

Select the correct option for each of the following questions:

Context questions

Read the extracts given below and answer the questions that follow:

1. Banquo: Hold, take my sword. There’s husbandry in heaven;
Their candles are out. Take thee that too.
A heavy summons lies like lead upon me,
And yet I would not sleep: merciful powers
Restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature
Gives way to in repose.

a. Who does Banquo ask to hold his sword?

Answer: Banquo asks Fleance, his son, to hold his sword.

b. What does the word ‘ that’ refer to? What are the ‘cursed thoughts’ that run through Banquo’s mind?

Answer: The word ‘that’ in Banquo’s speech refers to another item he hands to Fleance, likely a torch or some other object, as they are outside at night.

With’ cursed thoughts’, Banquo is referring to the prophecies of the witches. He has been dreaming about them and is troubled by the thoughts that are coming to him in his sleep. These thoughts are ‘cursed’ because they are disturbing his peace and potentially foretelling a dark future.

c. What pertinent question does Banquo ask Macbeth? What is the latter’s reply?

Answer: Banquo asks Macbeth about the witches’ prophecies, saying, “I dreamt last night of the three weird sisters: To you they have showed some truth.” 

Macbeth replies, “I think not of them. Yet, when we can entreat an hour to serve, we would spend it in some words upon that business, if you would grant the time.”

d. What does Macbeth tell Banquo which clearly implies that he wants Banquo to be an accomplice in his evil designs?

Answer: Macbeth tells Banquo, “If you shall cleave to my consent, when ’tis, It shall make honour for you,” implying that he wants Banquo to support his plans, which will bring honour to Banquo.

e. How does Banquo react to Macbeth’s suggestion?

Answer: Banquo reacts to Macbeth’s suggestion by saying that he will support Macbeth as long as he can do so with a clear conscience and without compromising his loyalty.

2. Macbeth: (to servant) Go bid thy mistress, when my drink is ready.
She strike the bell. Get thee to bed.

a. Why is Macbeth waiting for Lady Macbeth to strike the bell?

Answer: Macbeth is waiting for Lady Macbeth to strike the bell as a signal. The bell is a cue that everything is ready for him to proceed with their plan to murder King Duncan.

b. What does Macbeth see in front of him? What does the object show him?

Answer: Macbeth sees a dagger in front of him. This dagger is not a physical object but a hallucination or a “dagger of the mind” created by his fevered brain. 

The dagger appears to him as a real and tangible object, with its handle pointing towards him, as if inviting him to grab it. The dagger is also covered in blood, which was not there before, indicating the violent act that Macbeth is about to commit.

c. What are Macbeth’s thoughts regarding the object he sees?

Answer: Macbeth is both fascinated and horrified by the hallucination of the dagger. He is aware that it is a product of his fevered mind and not a real, physical object. Yet, he can’t help but be drawn to it, as it symbolizes the violent act he is about to commit. He sees the dagger as an instrument he was planning to use, leading him towards his murderous intent. The appearance of blood on the dagger, which was not there before, further intensifies his feelings of dread and anticipation.

d. Why does Macbeth feel that night is the appropriate time to commit the deed?

Answer: Macbeth feels that night is the appropriate time to commit the deed because it provides him with the cover of darkness. The night is when “half the world is asleep and being deceived by evil nightmares.” It’s a time when the natural world seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse the curtained sleep. The darkness of the night allows for the concealment of his heinous act, making it easier for him to carry out his plan without being detected.

e. If Macbeth had to perform the King’s murder in today’s world in his own house would he have been so brazen to commit the crime? Give reasons for your answer.

Answer: If Macbeth had to perform the King’s murder in today’s world in his own house, it’s unlikely he would have been so brazen to commit the crime. This is due to several reasons:

Modern forensic science: In today’s world, forensic science has advanced significantly. DNA evidence, fingerprints, and other forms of evidence could easily link Macbeth to the crime scene.

Surveillance: Modern homes often have security systems, including cameras, alarms, and other monitoring devices. These could potentially capture evidence of the crime.

Social and legal consequences: In today’s society, the legal consequences of such a crime are severe and well-known. Macbeth would likely be aware of these consequences, which could deter him from committing the crime.

Ethical considerations: While Macbeth was certainly conflicted about the murder in the play, societal attitudes towards such actions are much more defined and universally negative today. This could add to his hesitation.

3. Macbeth: It is the bloody business which informs
Thus to mine eyes. Now o’er the one half world
Nature seems dead,and wicked dreams abuse the curtain’d sleep;

a. What is the bloody business to be performed by Macbeth? How does it affect his mind?

Answer: The ‘bloody business’ to be performed by Macbeth is the murder of King Duncan. This act is heavily weighing on his mind, causing him to hallucinate and see a bloody dagger before him. His mind is filled with apprehension and guilt even before the act, indicating the psychological turmoil he is going through.

b. What has Macbeth imagined or just seen? Describe the object.

Answer: Macbeth has just seen or imagined a dagger before him. This is not a real dagger but a hallucination, a “dagger of the mind” that is a product of his fevered and guilt-ridden state of mind. The dagger appears to be leading him towards Duncan’s chamber and is covered in gouts of blood, symbolizing the violent act he is about to commit.

c. Describe the atmosphere prevailing when the bloody business is performed.

Answer: The atmosphere prevailing when the ‘bloody business’ is performed is one of darkness and quiet, with half the world asleep. The night is filled with wicked dreams and the natural world seems dead. This eerie and ominous atmosphere reflects the unnatural and horrific act that Macbeth is about to commit.

d. Who is mentioned right after the extract? What is being offered to the person?

Answer: Right after the extract, Macbeth is mentioned. He is waiting for a signal (the ringing of a bell) from Lady Macbeth, which is being offered to him to indicate that the coast is clear for him to proceed with the murder.

e. What does Macbeth hear at the end of the scene? Why does Macbeth not wish for Duncan to hear’ it’?

Answer: At the end of the scene, Macbeth hears a bell ring. This bell is a signal from Lady Macbeth that the coast is clear for him to go ahead with the murder of King Duncan. Macbeth does not wish for Duncan to hear the bell because it is a death knell for him, signifying his impending death. The bell, in this context, is a symbolic representation of Duncan’s summons to his afterlife, either to heaven or to hell.

4. Macbeth: Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear
The very stones prate of my whereabout.
And take the present horror from the time.

a. Who does Macbeth not want to hear his steps? What does Macbeth fear the stones may do?

Answer: Macbeth does not want the earth to hear his steps. He fears that the stones may echo his location, revealing his whereabouts.

b. What sound is Macbeth waiting to hear? What is its significance?

Answer: Macbeth is waiting to hear the sound of a bell. Its significance is that it is a signal for him to go and commit the murder of King Duncan.

c. Who is the murderer? What kind of steps will the murderer take? To whom are his steps compared to?

Answer: Macbeth is the murderer. He will take stealthy, quiet steps, compared to the silent strides of Tarquin, a legendary Roman prince who is infamous for his rape of Lucretia.

d. How is the murderer supposed to move? Why?

Answer: The murderer, Macbeth, is supposed to move stealthily, like a ghost. This is to avoid detection as he goes to commit the murder.

e. Where will the sound summon Duncan to? Who rouses the murderer to commit the deed of murder?

Answer: The sound will summon Duncan to either heaven or hell, indicating his impending death. Lady Macbeth rouses the murderer, Macbeth, to commit the deed of murder.

Essay type questions

Q. State the ‘compunctious visitings of nature’ which make Macbeth shrink from murdering the King.

Answer: The phrase ‘compunctious visitings of nature’ is from a speech by Lady Macbeth. In this speech, she asks the forces of evil to remove any kindness from her heart and to prevent any feelings of guilt or remorse from entering it. ‘Compunctious visitings of nature’ refers to the natural feelings of guilt and remorse that Macbeth experiences when he thinks about the consequences of his planned actions.

The act of murder will bring him many problems, such as unrest, rebellion, and potential retaliation. If there were no consequences on earth, he might not worry about the afterlife. But, the punishment for a murderer is often found in this world; he sets an example for others to follow, and thus, he is punished by his own actions.

Next, ‘compunctious visitings of nature’ also refers to his considerations of honor as a nobleman. Duncan, his relative, is in his house as a guest and as his king, which places Macbeth in a position of trust. Furthermore, Duncan has been a gentle and kind king, free from guilt. His virtues will make his murder even more damning, and the world will mourn his death.

Therefore, Macbeth will not be able to hide his guilt from the people, and he will inevitably face punishment for his actions.

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