In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Macbeth’s visions and hallucinations play a significant role and contribute to the development of his character. In the play Macbeth, a man is driven to murder his king and his companions after receiving a fairly ambiguous prophecy told by three witches. Although the witches triggered the series of events that later aid Macbeth’s descent into complete insanity, Macbeth is portrayed from the very beginning as a fierce and violent soldier. As the play goes on, several internal conflicts inside of Macbeth become clear. After he performs several bloody tasks, the madness inside of Macbeth is unmistakably visible to everyone around him. As a result of this insanity, he sees visions and hallucinations. Each time Macbeth hallucinates, he plunges further into insanity that is essentially caused by misguided ambition, dread and guilt. Macbeth has three key hallucinations that play a considerably important role in the development of his character: a dagger, the ghost of Banquo, and four apparitions while visiting the prophesying witches. Macbeth’s first hallucination and sign of madness comes directly before his wife and he murder King Duncan. After hearing from the witches that he will become the king and conversing with his wife about this, the two of them decide they must kill Duncan. From the beginning of the play, we see Macbeth is a loyal warrior, albeit a vicious one with no trouble killing. It is in the first scene that Macbeth’s brutality is illustrated. An army captain reported: “For brave Macbeth (well he deserves that name),
Disdaining Fortune, with his brandished steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution,
Like valor’s minion, carved out his passage
Till he faced the slave;
Which ne’er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,
Till he unseamed him from the nave to th’ chops,
And fixed his head upon our battlements.”
Macbeth is a skilled killer and this is displayed through the captain’s words, but now Macbeth is going to kill the man he is usually killing for. From this decision arises obvious internal conflict- he has love for his king and has proved this in battle. However, his ambition is decidedly the prevailing emotion and he decides he must kill his king. The scene before the murder takes place Macbeth imagines a dagger before him. He 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
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?”
Macbeth recognizes that the dagger is not real and accepts this. This is his first step into insanity. As he admits, his mind is feverish with excitement and perhaps dread, and he understands that this vision is ominous. His internal conflict has now begun to develop; his ambition is driving him to do something and subconsciously he knows it is not right. The second hallucination that Macbeth has is of the ghost of Banquo. The witches prophesized to Banquo, “Thou shall get kings, though thou be none.” (1.3.70.) Macbeth knows that Banquo’s sons will be kings, and in his conflicted state suspects that the murder of Duncan was done in vain, for he believes he has done all of the work for Banquo’s sons. Macbeth puts into place the scheme for both Banquo and his son Fleance’s murder. Banquo is murdered before Macbeth holds a feast as the new king. He learns of Banquo’s murder at the start of this event. During the feast, Banquo’s bloody ghost seems to appear only to Macbeth and take a seat at Macbeth’s dinner table. Macbeth proceeds to yell at the ghost, “Thou canst say I did it. Never shake/ Thy gory locks at me.”(3.4.61-62) At this point, it becomes clear that Macbeth’s insanity is reaching its peak, for he is in front of his peers and is unable to control himself. He threatens to fight the apparition with no regard to the rest of his guests. “Or be alive again/ and dare me to the desert with thy sword.” (3.4.125-126)...
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