'Out, Damned Spot': Meaning & Overview

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  • 0:00 Introduction to Macbeth
  • 0:55 Meaning of Out, Damned…
  • 1:45 Importance of Out,…
  • 3:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Michelle Herrin

Michelle has taught high school and college English and has master's degrees in eduation and liberal studies.

Learn about the meaning and literary importance of Lady Macbeth's famous 'Out, damned spot' speech from Act 5, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's tragic play, 'Macbeth.'

Introduction to Macbeth

Macbeth is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare sometime between 1603 and 1607. The play is about a Scottish lord, Macbeth, and his ambitious wife, Lady Macbeth. The main plot centers around their intense desire for power and how far they are willing to go to attain this power.

The 'Out, damned spot' speech occurs in Act 5, Scene 1 of Macbeth and reveals Lady Macbeth's subconscious feelings and helps to illustrate some of the themes, motifs, and symbols of the play. In this scene, we find Lady Macbeth sleepwalking through the castle, hallucinating and rubbing her hands together as if she is washing them.

She says:

Out, damned spot! out, I say! - One: two: why, then, 'tis time to do't. - Hell is murky! - Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account? - Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?

Meaning of 'Out, Damned Spot' Speech

So, what does this mean? Let's dissect it together.

The 'spot' she is talking about is the imaginary blood she sees on her hands from the murders and other crimes she and her husband have been involved in. She then says that 'hell is murky,' which means that she already is in 'hell' or something like it, and she knows it is gloomy, or murky.

When she says 'What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account,' she is saying that she and her husband don't need to be afraid of others knowing about their crimes as long as they retain power. In the end, however, she asks, 'Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him,' which lets us know that she feels guilty.

Importance of 'Out, Damned Spot' Speech

This is a famous and important speech because it highlights the psychological themes, motifs, and symbols of the play.

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