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Author: William Shakespeare
Original Language: English
Genre: Shakespearean tragedy
Setting: 11th century in Scotland
Essay on Macbeth
William Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, tells the story of an unstable king who eventually feeds off the killings of others. When reading the first act, Macbeth was not like that. He was just a warrior who got told what to do by his wife. Not by any means did Macbeth act like a man. He first “became a man” and started to fall into madness after he killed King Duncan, the Thane of Cawdor which led to Macbeth gaining power. Lady Macbeths and Macbeth’s hallucinations, like the dagger seen when murdering King Duncan, not only question their ability to lead a kingdom but the hallucinations also bring forth the downward spiral of both these characters. The readers see through this play that Macbeth trusts other people’s judgment more than he trusts his own. He takes the witches’ prophecy by heart and later on believes he is untouchable. These weird sisters play with Macbeth’s mind all throughout the play because they know that Macbeth will believe in what they are saying. In the first act, the witches tell Macbeth and Banquo: “All hail Macbeth, hail to thee Thane of Cawdor.” Putting the quote into context, it states that Macbeth is going to be a ruler of a kingdom which already has a king. This king goes by the name of King Duncan. As soon as the weird sisters put this thought into his head, Macbeth starts to think crazy ideas.
Macbeth and his wife plan to kill the king, in order to be head of the throne. In this process of deciding whether or not they are going to do this, there is a back and forth type of arguing between the lady and him. The queen tells him that he will be less than a man if he does not go through with this act. The first example the reader sees of Macbeth’s hallucinations is when he sees a dagger when killing the king. This dagger can represent multiple things. It can represent all of the killings that are about to flow once Macbeth kills his first man. The dagger is also an example of his own thoughts. The mind is saying this is a subconscious way of letting the body know that what you are about to do is one of the worst sins known to man. The blood from the dagger can also portray many different things too. The main symbol this blood simulates is blood. This blood that Macbeth is going to spill will be there for the rest of his life. Macbeth says as he is about to kill: “Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible To feeling as to sight? Or art thou but A dagger of the mind, a false creation Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?” In this quote, Macbeth starts to question his mental health. When he says “a false creation” this is one of the only times when he realizes something is actually going on in his head. His mind is questioning whether or not he should actually do this act or not. When looking at the dagger, Macbeth tries to figure out whether or not it is real.
Using the words “heat-oppressed mind” really hints to the readers of him having a mental illness too. The heat that he is feeling in his mind is because the only thing he has been thinking about is the murder and nothing else. If something is on someone’s mind, people can use the expression of the mind being hot and that is what this is referring to in the quote. He has been so taking over by the thought of being a king that nothing else matters to him. This scene is one of the first instances we see how crazy Macbeth truly is.
In act 3 Lady Macbeth refers back to the dagger when questioning Macbeth’s manhood. She says: “This is the very painting of your fear, This is the air-drawn dagger which you said Led you to Duncan”. Lady Macbeth uses this concept of the dagger to point out Macbeth’s fears. She is once again using this against him, and she brings his manhood into question again. Instead of taking her husband’s side, she points out his flaws and brings out the worst in him. She clearly states that Macbeth is just having another one of his fits and is trying to keep the situation under control. This nagging and questioning of the lady strongly contribute to Macbeth’s madness. The peak of Macbeth’s hallucinations is right after he kills his friend Banquo, who he believes is coming after him and his throne. After the murder of Duncan, that is the first thought in Macbeth’s head when trying to figure out what to do with someone who he feels threatened by. He is immediately struck by fear when he observes the ghost. There is something about Banquo’s ghost sitting in Macbeth’s chair that really gets him mad.
One reason that might be is because of the witches prophecy. The weird sisters state that Banquo will not be king, but his descendants and him sitting in the chair signifies that they are coming for him. Macbeth says to the ghost: “Avaunt, and quit my sight, let the earth hide thee-Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold; Thou hast no speculation in those eyes”.
Just the fact that Macbeth is trying to convince himself that Banquo is dead really concerns to all who watch. The first thing that is extremely concerning is him seeing this ghost and being the only one that can. The reader can wonder if him hallucinating is his internal guilt coming back to haunt him, like the dagger in the previous acts. The blood from the dagger and the bloody body of Banquo both represent something important. The blood is a symbol of guilt in this story. Guilt is the main reason why his mental illness is an extreme problem for him. One characteristic of a king usually is not having guilt for those who you have killed. When reading other plays or stories, the king never feels bad for what he has done to others. There is a sense of respect for the enemy but never guilt. This is one of the reasons why Macbeth was always going to be destined for death and not as thriving as a leader. As readers, we are constantly focused on Macbeth’s personal issues but tend to forget about the Lady.
In Act 5, Lady Macbeth says: “Here’s the smell of blood still”, after washing her hands over and over again in the sink. This blood on her hands is a hallucination for all of the bad she has done alongside the king. He is not the only one mental health has taken over. Lady Macbeth was not able to take the guilt from all of the murder anymore. The demanding queen’s actions Have finally caught up to her and she is not able to be the boss of Macbeth anymore. Blood is a major symbol that emphasizes the fact that there is madness within the King and Queen and neither of them is immune to forgetting about the past.
Theoretically, if they were both able to wash off their “blood” and forget about it, then their sins would have gone away. The constant feel of guilt eventually led to both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s downfall and demise. Macbeth was a gullible leader who listened to whatever prophecy he could and trusted his wife more than he trusted his thoughts. His madness and hallucinations caught up to him, and by the end of the play, he was not the leader the prophecies told him out to be. He was a failure, and his people turned against him because Macbeth was a bad leader and unstable. Madness was rooted in Macbeth ever since he was a kid, but it did not show up until blood started to spill on his hands.