Trace the Downfall of Macbeth Using a Contemporary Understanding of Human Psychology With a modern understanding of psychology, it is clear that William Shakespeare’s knowledge clearly transcended his time. While no one can be sure how much was really known, Shakespeare seems to show off his knowledge of the issue in his plays, most strongly in Macbeth. Macbeth clearly struggles with bipolarity and the question remains how much Shakespeare knew about this condition. And therefore, in Macbeth, one traces the downfall of the protagonist to a severe case of dipolar disorder because of three symptoms: hallucinations, manic episodes and changes in mood.
In Macbeth, knowing that hallucinations are a symptom of bipolarity and Macbeth has these; one could trace these hallucinations directly to his decline and to bipolarity. Hallucinations can occur and vary from person to person, and the patient can see, hear, smell and taste thing that are not really there and some can acknowledge that they are hallucinating. Macbeth goes through both of these phases. The first sign Macbeth is experiencing a hallucination is in the dagger scene. In this scene, Macbeth clearly knows he is hallucinating. Macbeth makes this clear by what he said on page one hundred and ninety eight; “I have thee not, and yet I see thee still./ Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible/ to feeling as to sight?” (35-37). Macbeth clearly understands he is hallucinating, saying that he cannot grab the dagger, but can see it. This dagger convinces Macbeth that he should kill Duncan, after which is where he finds himself in a downward spiral. Another hallucination Macbeth has also leads to his downfall. Macbeth gives away the fact that he killed Duncan by saying, “Thou canst not say I did it. Never shake/ Thy gory locks at me” (pg. 218, 50-51). All the nobility at the table now had no doubt that Macbeth committed the crime. Although it was another hallucination, Macbeth was not aware this was what was happening. And when he started hacking and chopping the so-called ghost everyone knew the real story. While these hallucinations directly point to bipolar disorder, they also lead to Macbeth’s downfall. If Macbeth did not have these hallucinations, he would not have convinced himself that the dagger was pointing him in the direction of Duncan, leading Macbeth to him so he could kill him. This would have saved Macbeth’s life and also his spirit. Also, had Macbeth not given away that he killed Duncan by speaking with his second hallucination, he would have had a much better chance of surviving and not collapsing. These hallucinations give us evidence that Macbeth had bipolar disorder and these hallucinations lead to his downfall and ultimately his death.
Macbeth’s manic episodes throughout the play Macbeth lead directly to his downfall. Manic episodes have symptoms such as increased irritability, decreased need for sleep, unusual impulsiveness and high self-esteem. Macbeth clearly shows these symptoms throughout the play. These issues make themselves known early on. Macbeth’s high self-esteem and ambition comes in almost immediately, in the first scenes of the play, in which the witches show us that he has dreamed of being king. Admittedly this could be natural, but how Macbeth follows this ambition shows us his true nature and more symptoms of bipolarity. He kills Duncan so he can be king, but still does not stop there. He kills whoever he feels is necessary and in some cases, randomly. These killings are almost impulsive, which is another symptom of bipolarity. By saying things like, “The very firstlings of my heart shall be/ the firstlings of my hand (pg. 229, 147-148), he shows us that he is radical and acts quickly. These are common signs of bipolarity. These manic episodes are what bring Macbeth down. If he had not being so impulsive and not had issues with irritability and anger, he would not have killed Duncan. If his