In Act II scene ii of Macbeth, Macbeth says: “What hands are here! Ha! They pluck out mine eyes. Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clear from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red” (Act II scene ii). This hyperbolic statement is said immediately after Macbeth murders the king, Duncan. The character in this statement is suggesting that the blood on his hands will never be washed away, even with all the water in the ocean. The blood is symbolic of his guilt saying that it is so extensive that it will turn all the oceans to blood if he tries to wash his hands. The reader feels sympathetic towards Macbeth because he can no longer sleep and the guilt is eating him alive. The quote reflects that often guilt can consume a person and lead to inevitable, tragic consequences. Two characters in the play, Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth, let guilt consume them and eventually kill them.
Macbeth immediately regrets his megalomaniacal decision to kill the king. He believes that he heard a voice say, “Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep” (Act II scene ii). Sleep is “murdered”, a personification that is very important because people who cannot sleep ultimately go crazy. Macbeth’s guilt starts to consume him right after he commits the treacherous act. Ironically, Macbeth murders Duncan in his sleep, and when he does so he murders his own sleep as well. The guilt Macbeth has leads him to a period of insomnia, which drives him insane. Not only does Macbeth feel extremely guilty, he is very paranoid as well: “What hands are here? Ha! They pluck out mine eyes” (Act II scene ii) shows how paranoid Macbeth is. He thinks that someone is outside with a knife waiting to kill him. Ironically, the knocking at the door is by Macduff, who eventually comes to kill Macbeth. Guilt rapidly destroys Macbeth and consumes all of his thoughts. Ultimately, he receives what he deserves, and is killed by Macduff.
Macbeth isn’t the only character consumed by guilt. Macbeth doesn’t want to kill the king as much as his wife does. Lady Macbeth is more of a megalomaniac than Macbeth and wants to be queen more than anything. After Macbeth kills Duncan, he is already regretting it and feeling guilty. Lady Macbeth tries to calm him down by saying, “ A little water clears us of this deed” (Act II scene ii). It is extremely ironic how she thinks a little water will fix Macbeth, while Macbeth doesn’t even believe all of the water in the ocean will clear the guilt off his hands. Lady Macbeth appears to be