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Theme Analysis In Shakespeare's Macbeth

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1112 words Published: 11th May 2017

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The Scottish play, Macbeth, by William Shakespeare demonstrates that a person can bury the guilt deep inside him/her, but their conscience will keep reminding them what they have done. In the play guilt is the driving force behind Macbeth and Lady Macbeths downfall. However, in the beginning lady Macbeth appears to be very strong and outspoken in front of Macbeth, just to give him courage. But deep inside, guilt is killing lady Macbeth. As the plot moves on Lady Macbeth’s conscience starts reminding her of what she has done, resulting in her sleepwalking, and committing suicide.

Macbeth starts demonstrating when he was on his way to kill King Duncan, he starts hallucinating and says:

Is this a dagger which I see before me, / The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee. / I have thee not, and yet I see thee still. / Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible/ To feeling as to sight? Or art thou but/ A dagger of the mind, a false creation…Which was not so before. There’s no such thing: / It is the bloody business which informs /Thus to mine eyes.


Even before killing the king Macbeth starts feeling guilty, resulting in hallucination. Macbeth sees a dagger pointing in the direction of King Duncan’s room. Secondly, after killing the king when Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth to plant the evidence on king’s servants, Macbeth says, “I’ll go no more: / I am afraid to think what I have done;/ Look on ‘t again I dare not” (2.ii.65-67). Macbeth is afraid to even think about what he has done. It is Macbeth’s guilt that is preventing him to go back in the room and look at what he has done and blame it on the king’s servants. As Macbeth is losing his senses lady Macbeth acts very calm and strong, she tells Macbeth, “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” (2.ii.68-73). Lady Macbeth acts like she has no regrets for what they have done. She calls Macbeth coward and tells him that only children are scared of dead people. She also tells Macbeth that she will cover the faces of servants with Duncan’s blood to make them look guilty. After everything settles down and Macbeth becomes the new king, Lady Macbeth starts feeling a little guilty, and says, ” Naught’s had, all’s spent,/ Where our desire is got without content./ ‘Tis safer to be that which we destroy/ Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy” (3.ii.6-9). Lady Macbeth thinks that nothing is gained, everything is lost, and instead of being happy both she and Macbeth are unhappy. Therefore, because of guilt Macbeth is hallucinating and losing his senses. Lady Macbeth is acting very strong and confident, just to give Macbeth more courage. But inside, Lady Macbeth is feeling guilty and she thinks that what they did is only giving them more unhappiness and pain.

As the play continues Macbeth starts suffering from troubled sleep, nightmares, and loss of appetite. Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth about his feelings and says:

Ere we will eat our meal in fear, and sleep/In the affliction of these terrible dreams/ That shake us nightly. Better be with the dead, / Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace, / Than on the torture of the mind to lie/ In restless ecstasy. Duncan is in his grave. / After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well. / Treason has done his worst; nor steel nor poison,/ Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing/ Can touch him further.


Because of his guilt Macbeth is suffering from troubled sleep, and nightmares. Macbeth compares himself with Duncan because Duncan is in peace and nothing can hurt him, where Macbeth is very unhappy and he does not have peace in his life. Later in the banquet Macbeth finds out that his hired killers have killed Banquo. When he finds out that Banquo is dead, he sees Banquo’s ghost and starts reacting in front of all the guests and says, “Prithee, see there! Behold! Look! Lo! How say you?/ Why, what care I? If thou canst nod, speak too. / If charnel houses and our graves must send/ Those that we bury back, our monuments/ Shall be the maws of kites” (3.iv.83-87). Because of guilt Macbeth sees Banquo’s ghost and starts talking to it in front of everyone. This makes Macbeth suspect for all the crimes, and people turn against him, which later leads to his downfall. Where Macbeth is having nightmares and seeing ghosts, Lady Macbeth is not doing so well either, guilt has taken over her. According to the doctor Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking. Lady Macbeth’s nurse tells doctor about Lady Macbeth’s actions and says, “It is an accustomed action with her to seem/ thus washing her hands. I have known her continue/ in this a quarter of an hour” (5.i.26-28). The hand washing of lady Macbeth symbolizes her guilt. While washing her hands in sleepwalking, Lady Macbeth says, “The thane of Fife had a wife. Where is she/ now? What, will these hands ne’er be clean? No more/ o’ that, my lord, no more o’ that. You mar all with this/ starting” (5.i.39-42). Lady Macbeth is saying that Macbeth should stop the killings because if he does not, it will destroy both of them and their hands will never be clean, it will always have stains of blood on it. At the end of play Lady Macbeth dies, she commits suicide, “The queen, my lord, is dead” (5.v.18). Seyton informs Macbeth that lady Macbeth is dead. Lady Macbeth cannot resist anymore and commits suicide. Because of guilt Macbeth is having nightmares and seeing Banquo’s ghost. Now everyone knows that Macbeth committed all the crimes. Lady Macbeth starts sleep walking and becomes suicidal and commits suicide.

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Therefore, in conclusion, guilt is the driving force behind Macbeth’s and Lady Macbeth’s downfall. Because of guilt Macbeth hallucinates, has nightmares, and sees Banquo’s ghost. However, in the beginning Lady Macbeth acts very strong and confident in front of Macbeth. Even though, Lady Macbeth tries to forget everything that she ahs Macbeth has done, but her conscience does not allows her to forget her actions and as a result she starts sleepwalking, becomes suicidal, and commits suicide. This also proves that a person a person can hide the guilt deep inside him/her, but their conscience will keep reminding them of what they have done.


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