English IV H
October 26, 2011
Effects of Guilt in Macbeth
The psychological effects of guilt are vividly depicted in Macbeth and cloud the mindset of characters throughout the play. In much of Macbeth, a sense of guilt Macbeth and Lady Macbeth both possess leads them to take actions that ultimately lead to their downfall. It is this sense of guilt that drives them both mad. Guilt plays a large part in influencing Macbeth and his wife act after they have committed their crimes. Shakespeare examines several aspects of Macbeth's life, focusing mainly on the change his character undergoes as the story progresses.
Macbeth begins with three witches talking in a barren and lonely place in medieval Scotland. It is here that Macbeth speaks to three witches, which is the source that will ultimately lead to his guilt. Macbeth hears of the three prophecies that play out his future. Apprehensive at first, he later learns the truthfulness of the prophecies and begins to believe the witches. Once he is crowned thane of Cawdor, after the preceding thane of Cawdor was executed for treason, he immediately begins to have thoughts of becoming king. This feeling is expressed in his letter to his wife, Lady Macbeth. After reading the letter Lady Macbeth too has aspirations of Macbeth becoming king. His first signs of guilt come when he begins to think of killing King Duncan, the reigning king of Scotland. Before he can even kill Duncan, guilt stricken Macbeth begins to change his mind about following through with his devious plan. He decides that he will not kill Duncan and returns to Lady Macbeth. She accuses him of being a coward and then reassures him that everything will go along as planned. Before committing the murder, Macbeth has hallucinations of a floating dagger. These hallucinations signify the point in Macbeth that the truly consuming guilt begins to appear. This floating dagger leads him to Duncan’s room. Once he...