Macbeth Commentary #2
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s an man named Sigmund Freud developed a method that he called psychoanalysis which he used to treat mental disorders. He formed his procedure of psychoanalysis by observing his patients. According to this theory, personalities arise because of attempts to resolve conflicts between unconscious sexual and aggressive impulses and social demands to restrain these impulses (Freud’s Theory of Psychoanalysis, Sparknotes). Feud believed that most (if not all) mental processes are unconscious. He then put forward another theory that people have three levels of awareness: the conscious, containing all the information that a person is paying attention to, the preconscious, containing all the information outside of a person’s attention but is available if needed and the unconscious, containing thoughts, feelings, desires, and memories of which people have no awareness but greatly influence every aspect of a person’s daily life. Psychoanalysis focuses on the unconscious aspects of personality. According to Freud, the human mind is like an iceberg. It is mostly hidden in the unconscious. He believed that the conscious level of the mind was like the tip of the iceberg that could be seen, but the unconscious was mysterious and was always hidden.
Another one of Freud’s proposals was discussed in class last week. We learned about Freud’s three components of personalities: the id, the ego, and the superego. The id contains our basic intellectual and primitive impulses such as thirst, anger, hunger and instant gratification. This component of personality is based on the “pleasure principle,” (a constant want of whatever feels good regardless of the consequences). The id has no sense of morality/right or wrong. In the book Macbeth, the character categorized as the id in my opinion would have to be Lady Macbeth. She acts as a sophisticated Freudian id to Macbeth’s ego, taking action to reach her aims, with no understanding of the true consequences of her wickedness. The concept of being queen and the immediate pleasure it brings is what turns Lady Macbeth into an uncontrolled id, seeking only to achieve the crown with little care for the results it might have. To accomplish this, she has to prepare herself; she needs to be strong and manipulative so that she can incite Macbeth into killing King Duncan.
With a clear understanding of what actions need to be accomplished to kill the King, Lady Macbeth begins to attack the logical thoughts and moral conscience within Macbeth’s mind. However, after thinking through the possible consequences resulting from his wife’s plan and by further reasoning with the possibility of being caught as the King's murderer, Macbeth decides to change his mind and call off the whole scheme. Due to the fact that he is being both a kinsmen and host, Macbeth believes he should “Not bear the knife myself” (act 1 scene 7). Duncan has been “clear in his great office, that his virtue will please like angels” (act 1 scene 7). His rational mind, his ego, has entered into the world of reality, where being simply the Thane of Cawdor is fine enough. In my opinion, his reasoning is the result of his connection to his superego. He knows that his thoughts of murder are wrong. He knows that Duncan is a good man and kin. He knows that fate should be trusted. However, the second of Freud’s three components of personalities is the ego and is the more prominent personality in Macbeth’s character in this scene. The ego tires to maintain a balance between our impulses (id) and our conscience (the superego). The ego is rooted