There are many ways in which Shakespeare makes the scene dramatic. First of all, and probably most importantly, this is a key point in the story line. After Macbeth’s encounter with the witches, ideas are planted into to his mind. This point is where Macbeth turns philosophy into action, stops thinking about the consequences and acts. He takes a big leap from his deepest darkest desires and turns them into a reality.
The first and probably most distinctive element of drama is the shrieking owl. Lady Macbeth makes the comparison between the owl and the ‘Fatal Bellman.’ As the murder is actually occurring off stage, we do not know precisely what is happening. The shriek, although Shakespeare dictates it to be merely an owl, leaves the audience only to guess as to where or whom it came from. It is in fact, this use of audience imagination. The mysteriousness of it all. Allowing the audience to use their own fears in substitute what it really is happening, possibly is what makes the whole ordeal even more chilling.
We don’t see Macbeth murder Duncan. We start the scene with Lady Macbeth, waiting near Duncan’s room. We simply see Macbeth enter with ‘two bloody daggers’. This in fact, creates even more tension. The idea that we don’t actually know whether Duncan is dead yet. Perhaps he is merely wounded. We are (for a short period of time) only left to guess what precisely happened during the murder.
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth meet up, after the deed. At first, Lady Macbeth doesn’t realise it’s her husband. Probably because it’s too dark. Immediately after she recognises her husband, they enter into very quick, sharp, and almost agitated dialogue with one another. Macbeth firstly tells us that he has done the deed. Although Lady Macbeth thought she heard her husband speak. As he descended. Macbeth asks who is sleeping in the room next to Duncan’s. This is because he claims to have heard voices immediately after the murder.
It is disclosed that Macbeth hears others in the next room wake up, shout out ‘murder’, ‘God Bless Us. Amen.’ and go back to sleep. What is even more chilling, is that Macbeth wanted to say Amen, in response to the prayer, but was unable to. The words ‘stuck in his throat.’ This would have scared the 16th century audience senseless. It was as if, Macbeth was some kind of unholy creature. Destined to spend an eternity in Damnation.
Macbeth now thinks there could have been witnesses, who saw him with his ‘Hangman’s Hands.’ This again, is quite creepy. We do not know whether the people in the next room witnessed the murder, whether it was some paranormal apparition, or just Macbeth’s encumbered conscience. Lady Macbeth is beginning to display her tougher, more organised side. She tells him to forget about it. Macbeth seems to still be on some kind of ‘adrenaline high’, not really realising the extent of what he has done.
It is now the deed is done; Macbeth seems to start feeling a great deal of remorse. Saying it is a sorry site, and he never would be able to back into that room. Lady Macbeth almost mocks him for being such a coward, and tells him they have to make it seem like the guards murdered the king. Someone knocks on the castle gates. This really agitates Macbeth, and renews the tension. ‘Every noise appals me’ says Macbeth. He is so agitated and so deep in guilt for what he’s just done. It is now that Macbeth remembers his hands. And how they are covered in blood. Lady Macbeth returns from the scene. She tells him that her hands are covered in blood to, but she ‘shames to wear a heart so white’. This is easily said, but is sort of an omen for what happens later on the play.
They go to clean their hands. The knocking continues, renewing the tension. Macbeth is feeling so sorry for what he has done, he claims to have ‘murdered sleep’. Macbeth’s conscience is eating him alive. The knocking within increases in frequency, and probably in loudness as well. Building up the tension. The scene ends with Macbeth saying he wishes he could wake up Duncan. Macbeth obviously regrets what he has done.