Top-Rated Free Essay

Crucial Scene in Macbeth: The Dagger Soliloquy

Better Essays
Poem:

Is this a dagger which I see before me,

The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee:

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 form the heat-oppressed brain?

I see thee yet, in form as palpable

As this which now I draw.

Thou marrshall'st me the way that I was going,

And such an instrument I was to use.

Mine eyes are made the fools o'th'other sense,

Or else worth all the rest. I see thee still

And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of bleed,

Which was not so before.

There's no such thing:

It is the bloody business which informs

Thus to mine eyes.

Now o'er the one half-world

Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse

The curtained sleep. Witchcraft celebrates

Pale Hecate's off'rings, and withered murder,

Alarumed by his sentinel, the wolf,

Whose howl's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace,

With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design

Moves like a ghost.

Thou sure and firm-set earth,

Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear

Thy very stone prate of my whereabout,

And take the present horror form the time,

Which now suits with it.

Whiles I threat, he lives; ...Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.

How this scene contributes to our understanding of character and play:

So far, the play has hurdled through seven scenes of mounting tension and now tithers on the threshold of regicide. At this point, Shakespeare freezes the action. In the tension of silence, both character and play develop on new levels.

For Macbeth, this soliloquy, in A.C. Bradley's words: "is where the powerful workings of his imagination rises to a new level of visible intensity as his conscience manifests itself as an air-drawn dagger." This is the first glimpse of a vigorous imagination from which stems the guilt-inspired hallucinations that will torment him. Bradley concludes that "his imagination is a substitute for conscience", but this isn't all. This soliloquy expresses macbeth's most profound fears and hopes, and the dagger symbolises the fulfilment of his black desires.

It conveys his internal struggle to divest himself of fear and scruples to become wholly committed to murder. His attempt to grab the dagger indicates his desperation to accomplish the deed before any regrets. Yet the past tense in "the way I was going" suggests that realisation of his desires has blunted blind courage.

Macbeth's difficulty in overcoming his conscience demonstrates that murder goes against his person, and he has to fight his own nature to carry it out. This soliloquy halts the action for us to absorb this crucial element in his characterisation.

His struggle also alerts us to his suffering and heroism. The "heat-oppressed brain" and his confusion as his eyes and touch contradict each other emphasises his tortured, conflicting mind.

Macbeth seeks the reassurance of reality, drawing his own dagger in fear and frustration of confusion. He ultimately rejects the illusion, attributing it to the 'bloody business'. S.T. Coleridge suggests that macbeth "mistranslates the recoiling of conscience into selfish reasonings due to his cowardice." From then on, there's a grim acceptance of the deed and Macbeth bids the earth to "hear not his steps". According to Samuel Johnson, "that Macbeth wishes to escape the eye of providence is the utmost extravagance of determined wickedness", yet Bradley interprets Macbeth's aligning himself with evil as "frightfully courageous". From such varied analysis emerge a humanly complex man driven by his internal turmoil to the point where survival requires that courage straddle fear.

On the play's level, this scene guarantees Duncan's death. The dagger is a symbol of Macbeth's resolution, turning its handle toward his hand, spurring him to 'clutch' it. The personification of 'withered Murder" gives the deed a concrete tangibility. And Macbeth's final words "whiles I threat, he lives" show his cold determination. In confirming Ducan's death, it marks a turning point in the play, as Macbeth fulfils the witches' prophecy.

Another turning point is in Macbeth. He lets the dagger marshal him toward the deed, pursuing the illusory rewards offered by evil. In David Elloway's words: "He's entered a world of deceptive dreams and moves through it with the mindlessness of a sleepwalker." Macbeth expresses his fear of the 'sure and firm-set earth', which is a symbol of reality. This shows his tendency to take meaning at face-value, justifying his blind confidence in the witches later.

The soliloquy's dark imagery enforces the magnitude of Macbeth's crime, and foreshadows its consequences. Blood appears both on the blade and handle of the dagger, insinuating that he cannot emerge cleanly from the deed. Associates of night and evil are evoked to set the scene for murder. The apparent death of nature during night connotes the unnaturalness of the deed. Coleridge believes that "the dimensions of murder are expressed in the portrayal of its movement." Murder moves in three ways: stealthily, as that of a trained assassin. Then, with Tarquin's ravish, equating it with rape. And, like that of a ghost's, a mindless wraith "alarumed" to fulfil his sole purpose. By portraying the diverse facets of murder, Shakespeare demonstrates its profound unnaturalness, and the magnitude of its consequences.

Also, this crucial scene reinforces the themes and motifs of the play, extending upon their importance.

Primarily, it illuminates the conflict between appearance and reality. Despite the apparent solidity of the dagger, Macbeth cannot grasp it. This dramatises the deceptive nature of appearance. The latent meanings of many lines epitomise the idea that the full truth is hidden by face value. The phrase: "dagger of the mind" doesn't merely mean an imaginary weapon, but also the bane of the mind - a rancour in his peace. Only both meanings together can convey Macbeth's turmoil and the depth of his thoughts.

The image of blood in 'gouts', the darkness of night, and the non-restriction of action to merely human agencies are potent elements of this soliloquy. These are what create the ominous ambience of the play. According to Bradley, "macbeth gives the impression of a black night broken by flashes of light and colour." Here, the glimmering dagger and the potent colour of blood create this effect. Such vivid and violent imagery are what characterises Macbeth.

Shakespeare's pre-eminence as a dramatist is due to his capacity to create vivid images that embody powerful human emotions. This soliloquy brims with such imagery and symbolism, and is imperative in promoting Macbeth, the simplest of Shakespearean tragedies, to be the most broad and massive in effect.

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Good Essays

    Dagger Scene(Macbeth)

    • 679 Words
    • 3 Pages

    DAGGER SCENE M acbeth is the only tragedy of Shakespeare in which the tragic hero turned villain but yet it retains the sympathy of the audience unto the very end. Even when Macbeth makes Scotland bleed as a result of his career of blood he does not entirely loose our sympathy, this feat of dramatic art has been achieved by Shakespeare by giving us a peep into his soul and thus showing to us his inner agony and spiritual torture, all throughout the play by the various soliloquies of Macbeth…

    • 679 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Better Essays

    Macbeth, the dagger scene

    • 1139 Words
    • 5 Pages

    Commentary: Macbeth, Act II, Scene I “Is this a dagger which I see before me…” Macbeth is one of the most famous plays written by William Shakespeare. The play tells the story of Macbeth, Thane of Glamis whose dark ambition will lead him to murder the king and take his crown. This passage is Macbeth’s first soliloquy extracted from the Scene I of Act II, also known as the “dagger scene”. This is the scene that precedes Duncan’s murder. Many themes are recurring throughout the play and this…

    • 1139 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Better Essays

    Comparing Performances of Macbeth Dagger Scene The works of William Shakespeare have been performed numerous times, and in numerous different ways throughout the centuries. As a playwright Shakespeare did not give many stage directions so one director might stage the scene in a completely different way than another director. This is true as well for Shakespeare's famous tragedy Macbeth, specifically scene two act one; the infamous dagger scene. Prior to this scene Macbeth has learned that it has…

    • 1276 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Good Essays

    Dagger Scene Vs Macbeth

    • 1031 Words
    • 5 Pages

    The story of Macbeth is a playwright written by William Shakespeare in 1606 in Varies locations in Scotland and briefly England. The tone of this book is very dark and ominous, back then they went by the saying “ Blood must have Blood” this says problems must be resolved by war you kill we have to kill, there was never peace. The film is to me very different than the playwright, you have to read the book before you watch the film. The film is very confusing, to me the way the movie was made it almost…

    • 1031 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    The Dagger Scene The Dagger Scene in Macbeth is to be interpreted along psychological lines. It is to be understood that the dagger scene is not a part of the supernatural machinery of the play. Macbeth is highly excited, it is his imagination what made him believe that he saw a dagger beckoning(calling) him, for Macbeth being a moral coward was unable to accept the responsibility for any decision. He had uptill now depended upon witches and his wife to fool him on taking the decision to kill Duncan…

    • 658 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Soliloquies in Macbeth

    • 760 Words
    • 4 Pages

    These soliloquies show a clear development in the character of Macbeth. They are used throughout the play, and are very important in the understanding of the play. The first two soliloquies show Macbeth’s through process and opinions on what course of action to take before he kills Duncan. The following two soliloquies show his thought process after he is committed to killing Duncan, and much of his hesitation in doing so. These soliloquies are key to the story, and if we didn’t have they the play…

    • 760 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Macbeth Soliloquy

    • 952 Words
    • 4 Pages

    Macbeth’s Soliloquy In Macbeth’s soliloquy Shakespeare uses many rhetorical devices to magnify Macbeth’s change in attitude about killing Duncan. Two of the main rhetorical devices used in the soliloquy are rhetorical questions and allusions to Hecate and Tarquin. These two devices help Shakespeare depict the change in Macbeth’s attitude about killing Duncan and also represent his decision to kill Duncan. Macbeth’s rhetorical questions share his lack of clarity and conviction to kill Duncan while…

    • 952 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Macbeth Soliloquy

    • 805 Words
    • 4 Pages

    MACBETH SOLILOQUY DAGGER AHEAD OF ME (ACT 2, SCENE 1) Good morning/afternoon everyone and welcome to today’s workshop on the famous and acclaimed playwright William Shakespeare at Brisbane’s prestigious Twelfth Night Theatre. This presentation is from a soliloquy from the play Macbeth in Act2.Sc.1 (Lines 33-65). Paraphrasing a Shakespeare aside and that too of a self-divided protagonist, is far from an easy task. Macbeth has made his decision to kill the King and take the crown as his own…

    • 805 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    Soliloquies In Macbeth

    • 873 Words
    • 4 Pages

    In The Tragedy of Macbeth, William Shakespeare illustrates the tragic events in the life of a man named Macbeth. Macbeth is the tragic hero, whose selfish and greedy actions led to his downfall. Shakespeare uses literary elements such as irony, foreshadowing, soliloquies, and asides to portray tragedy throughout the story. The Tragedy of Macbeth shows that power brings out the worst in people, and can ultimately be the downfall of their reign. Many times throughout the story, Shakespeare uses irony…

    • 873 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Macbeth Soliloquy

    • 284 Words
    • 2 Pages

    his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury Signifying nothing. Dear William, In my opinion your Soliloquy can be seen as depressing or, depending on how you look at it, as a motivation for everyones lives. When it says “Tomorrow, and tomorrow... day to day,” macbeth is trying to tell us that life is boring and only repeats itself day by day. That line reminds me that it is up to us to make our lives enjoyable and interesting. If…

    • 284 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays