Macbeth is informed that his wife has died
The setting of Act 5, Scene 5 in Macbeth is one of chaos. Outside Macbeth’s castle, the army led by Malcolm is about to attack, and inside the castle, Macbeth receives the news that Lady Macbeth is dead.
Macbeth goes through a psychological change in this scene. He starts out eager to fight the disloyal thanes who abandoned him for Malcolm. He hopes to cheat fate by preventing the witches’ second prophecy from coming true. That prophecy included three predictions: That he should be wary of Macduff; that no man born of woman can kill Macbeth; and that it will not happen until Birnam Wood moves.
Suddenly, cries of women - probably Lady Macbeth’s maids - are heard. Macbeth is then informed: “The queen, my lord, is dead.” (5.5.18). Later on in the play, we learn that she took her own life. Macbeth’s reply to his wife’s death is strange: “She should have died hereafter; / There would have been a time for such a word.” (5.5.19-20). This is an ambiguous reply. One possible interpretation is that Macbeth coldly remarks that his wife chose a very inconvenient time to die because he is busy with the attacking army. This would underline how the couple has drifted apart in the second half of the play.
Another - slightly more positive - interpretation of Macbeth’s remark could be that he is simply pointing out that Lady Macbeth would have died eventually. Their castle is under attack, and dying by your own hand is perhaps preferable to being taunted and executed by your enem...