Guilt is one of the biggest downfalls of men. Guilt is a feeling that people get when they believe it does not fit a moral standard of society (www. wikipedia. org). Many people believe their conscience speaks to them and tells them what they have done is incorrect. Conscience is a feeling or voice that guides a person to believe what is right and what is wrong. Guilt can also be described as a feeling that a person’s conscience gives them when the person’s action is deemed a wrong by the conscience. Guilt is a defense mechanism used by the brain to tell the person what they did was wrong.
Macbeth experiences much guilt in the play written by Shakespeare entitled, Macbeth. Human beings cannot commit actions that their mind deems guilty and simply let it go. Rather, the guilt in their mind will affect different things such as their behavior and their further actions towards others. This is seen in every act of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and affects the protagonist’s reign as king and the rest of his short-lived life. Guilt is a psychological matter and thus must be thought of as theory rather than fact. Many researchers in the field of psychology have delved into this matter, one of these researchers being Alice Miller.
She stated that, “many people suffer all their lives from this oppressive feeling of guilt, the sense of not having lived up to their parents’ expectations…. no argument can overcome these guilt feelings, for they have their beginnings in life’s earliest period, and from that they derive their intensity” (www. wikipedia. org). She states by this that guilt can be thought of as not fulfilling other’s expectations to the highest level. For example, many scholarly students’ parents expect their students to go to a prestigious college or university with a study in a very hard field.
However, some students may want to enter the work force or join the military. These students will probably experience this feeling of guilt even though they did no wrong. A very good point that relates very much to Macbeth’s feeling of guilt in the play, Macbeth is that guilt can often cause anxiety. The story of Macbeth written by Shakespeare is a tragedy about a man and his wife who was thirsty for kingship. To describe the story briefly, he served under a king named Duncan and felt rather upset about not being deemed the next king after Duncan. It is important to state that Macbeth visits three itches to learn his future throughout the story. He visited the witches before learning that Duncan’s son was to be the next king. The witches told him that he would be king. Lady Macbeth grew very upset and asked evil forces to unsex her so she could convince Macbeth to kill Duncan. He did kill Duncan, and Duncan’s son fled to England leaving Macbeth as King of Scotland. He feels much anxiety that Banquo, another Scottish warrior, is suspicious of him so Macbeth kills him. Macbeth also commits the murder of Macduff because Macduff is suspicious of him.
Eventually, a war breaks out and Macduff kills Macbeth after Lady Macbeth kills herself. It is also important to illustrate that Lady Macbeth was psychologically not well towards the end of the play. She was sleepwalking and spoke about the blood spots on her hands that would not go away. Macbeth feels much guilt throughout the play leading him to be a very unhappy man and king. It led to the point that he did not value his life any longer. It is important to notice that if Macbeth did not feel any guilt he would have been a much more brutal king and much less of an actual human being. The theme of ambition is abundant in the play, Macbeth.
Macbeth has the ambition throughout the play to become the King of Scotland and live happy. However, his personal feelings and other characters impeded such as Banquo and Macduff. Therefore, those two characters created new ambitions for Macbeth by making him want to kill them. The guilt of Macbeth lessened his ambitions to kill more people or do other savage actions. Shakespeare exposes guilt early in the play. Guilt is felt as soon as the character of Macbeth even thinks about killing his king. It is not shown, however, to any other character for he speaks aside. “The prince of Cumberland!
That is a step on which I must fall down, or else o’erleap, for in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires; let not light see my black and deep desires. The eye wink at the hand, yet let that be which the eye fears, when it is done, to see” (Mac. 1. 4. 50-55). From this excerpt that he speaks alone, it is shown that he wants to become the king and if he must he will kill the current king, Duncan. However, he does not want to actually know or understand the action he is about to do when he kills the king. He would rather commit it, without thought. That is not the case though for Macbeth because he will know and understand what he did.
Many people would like to commit actions without a sense of guilt. For example, in a very modern situation a spouse may want to divorce his or her married partner. The thing that may stop the person, however, is that a young child will be affected so the couple does not divorce for the sparing of the feelings of the young child. This is a modern example of the effects of guilt even before an event happens. Macbeth can relate because he wants to be the king but he feels guilt over having the feeling of killing Duncan. He has been a good king to Macbeth and is very rewarding of him after the battle Macbeth has won.
Macbeth feels much guilt again when he tries to talk Lady Macbeth out of committing this violent act against Duncan in scene seven of act one in Macbeth. “We will proceed no further in this business. He hath honored me of late, and I have bought golden opinions from all sorts of people, which would be worn now in their newest gloss, not cast aside so soon” (Mac. 1. 7. 31-35) From this statement he says to Lady Macbeth he explains that the king has done him much good and he will not be able to commit the murder. He also explains they will be able to enjoy the people’s honor and not throw it away.
In Act II of Macbeth, Macbeth commits the murder of Duncan and in scene two, he feels guilt about it, “(looking at his hands) This is a sorry sight” (Mac. 2. 2. 20). Macbeth already feels shame and guilt from what he has done by looking at his bloody hands although Lady Macbeth tells him that is a foolish thought. Again, in the same scene he feels guilt which relates to the conscience of the person committing the action. Macbeth claims he hears a voice in the following, “Still it cried, “Sleep no more! ” to all the house. “Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more. Macbeth shall sleep no more” (Mac. 2. 2. 1-43). There are two things that can be noted about that quote said by Macbeth. First, guilt will affect behaviors and actions. The killing of Duncan affects Macbeth’s sleep. This also means he will never be able to rest peacefully again. Macbeth bathes in his anxiety. Second, guilt is driven by a person’s conscience. Macbeth’s conscience is telling him that he cannot sleep. That is the voice he claims to hear. In the second act of Macbeth, he feels very anxious unlike his wife who wishes her husband were not such a coward. It is seen that from just Act II that Macbeth feels a tremendous amount of guilt for the murder of Duncan.
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