Essay on Macbeth and Guilt

Submitted By brendyboo
Words: 1708
Pages: 7

Manifesting guilt in the tragedy of Macbeth According to The Dictionary of Psychology, guilt is defined as an emotional state produced by the knowledge that one has violated moral standards. Most authorities recognized an emotional state as guilt only when the individual has internalized the moral standards of the society (thus it is distinguished from simple fear of punishment from external source). Based on this definition guilt is a powerful feeling of remorse that haunts the conscience, is self-administered and can take control of your life. A good example of guilt can be seen through the principal character of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth who undergoes a deep feeling of regret due to the murder of King Duncan. His wife and partner in crime, Lady Macbeth, unveils a transformation of character and feels repentance which is identified later on in the play through her incidents of sleepwalking. And at last, the noble Macduff, Thane of Fife, dwells in the state of guilt because he abandoned his family for his country. In the tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare, Macbeth’s haunted conscience, Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking and Macduff’s abandonment of his family dramatically depict the physiological effects of guilt. Foremost, through the experiences of Macbeth it is shown that self-destructive guilt cannot be assuaged by recourse to action nor by even the most determined effort to obliterate the pangs of conscience by active engagement in denial and transference. Throughout this Scottish tragedy there are many different types of guilty feelings that play a role in Macbeth’s fatal decisions that led him to his downfall. Macbeth is first introduced in the wounded captain’s account of his battlefield valor; our initial impression is of a brave and capable warrior. This perspective is complicated, however, once Macbeth is seen interacting with the Weird sisters who prophesize that Macbeth will be Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland. This scene first recognizes that Macbeth has little curiosity to reign over the entire country of Scotland. Macbeth says, “Without my stir” (I.I.144). This quote by Macbeth has been said as an aside when in a conversation with Banquo to tell the readers that Macbeth believes in the prophecies and in order to fulfill the last prediction, he must murder the King. The thought of such behavior disturbs him so he tries to get a grip of himself; he does not want to get his hands bloody and decides that he will leave it to fate. It is then realized that his physical courage is joined by a consuming ambition and a tendency to self-doubt; the prediction that he will be king brings him joy, but it also creates inner turmoil. Later on in the play during the opening scene of Act II, Shakespeare then reveals to the readers the guilt that Macbeth is experiencing due to the preparation of the King’s assassination during the “dagger’s soliloquy”. While in his soliloquy Macbeth says, 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… (II.I.35-38)
Macbeth’s words indicate that he is hallucinating a dagger in front of him; he envisions this murder weapon instead of the crown. Macbeth is starting to become mentally fragile and is seen by the readers that he is being tormented. This quote proves that Macbeth is feeling quite guilty and is dreading the deed/crime. Even after the murder of King Duncan, Macbeth feels a lot of guilt, shame and regret. He is substantiated as a multidimensional villain who has a lot of uncertainty of conscience and is not unremittingly evil. This dynamic/round/complex character shows regression (not progression) and has good qualities that are being overshadowed by one poor decision. This is evidence is supported when Macbeth says, “To know my deed, ‘twere best not know myself. Wake Duncan with thy knocking. I would thou