Top-Rated Free Essay
Literary Analysis of Macbeth
In Macbeth, a play by the world renowned playwright, William Shakespeare, there are many lessons to be learned. One of these is that inner struggles result in mental and physical repercussions which, in turn, result in possible guilt that may never go away. How someone deals with their inner struggles affects the repercussions. Shakespeare’s Macbeth opens with three witches, “the Weird Sisters,” foreshadowing the themes of the play. They speak to Macbeth and Banquo, telling Macbeth that he will one day become king. When hearing of the sisters’ prophecy, Lady Macbeth, Macbeth’s wife, immediately begins to plot the killing of the current king, Duncan. Why? So she can be queen of course. Macbeth is reluctant to kill Duncan at first, but he eventually agrees to follow his wife’s plan. After psyching himself out and enduring some realistic visions, Macbeth finally readies himself to kill. Macbeth commits the crime, though he cannot seem to remain calm. Lady Macbeth completes her plan by wiping blood on the guards whom she earlier drugged, therefore framing them. Macduff and Lennox, two Scottish noblemen, discover the dead body of the king the following morning. Macbeth plays his part well and acts astonished. Soon after the burial of the king, Banquo, a noble general, begins to suspect Macbeth of murdering the kind. To assure that his secret is not revealed, Macbeth has Banquo killed, adding yet more blood to his hands. While at a banquet, the ghost of Banquo appears to Macbeth who does not take kindly to this and causes a scene. During this time, Macduff is in England gathering defense because he is, as Banquo was, suspicious of Macbeth. Later on Macbeth sees the three Sisters again and is shown more visions of his future. The visions lead him to believe that he cannot be killed by anyone. However, he was only told that no man born of a woman could harm him. He soon plans to have Macduff’s family killed as well. Over in England, Macduff tries to convince Malcolm, son of the late King Duncan and newly appointed Prince of Cumberland, to return to Scotland and take over the throne from the tyrant Macbeth has become. After testing Macduff’s loyalty, Malcolm finally agrees to go to war with Macbeth. Lady Macbeth, back in Scotland, has gone mad with the guilt of what she has provoked: murders. A doctor is called in to possibly cure Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking, but he diagnoses her condition untreatable by medicine. When it comes time to fight, Macbeth believes himself to be invincible. After all, he was told he cannot be killed by any man born of a woman. From whom else could a man be born? Macbeth, when face-to-face with Macduff, learns that Macduff was not born of his mother but cut out of her. Not as immortal as he believed himself to be, Macbeth is slain by Macduff who then carries Macbeth’s head onto the battlefield to prove his victory. As for the conflict of inner struggles, it is shown in Macbeth and in his wife, Lady Macbeth. In act 2, scene 1, lines 46-47, Macbeth sees “A dagger of the mind, a false creation,/ Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain.” While seeing the daggers, Macbeth believes himself to have fever. This vision causes him to psych himself out of his task at hand which he eventually finds the motivation to do. During act 2, scene 2, lines 15-16, Lady Macbeth claims of Duncan, “Had he not resembled/ my father as he slept, I had done’t.” Lady Macbeth cannot do her own task she has been so determined about. She let her inner emotions come out and affect her decisions, thus, weakening her. Back to Macbeth, he expresses, “How is’t with me, when every noise appals me?” Macbeth is jumpy and possibly hearing things. Perhaps he is afraid of the guards coming to arrest him should he be found out. His skittish nature causes him to be made pale with fear at the sound of any noise. What these three situations have in common is their negative outcomes. When someone commits an act that they know is wrong, if they have a conscience, they may never again feel at peace. In act 2, scene 2, lines 46-47, Macbeth hears a voice exclaim, “…Sleep no more!/ Macbeth doth murder sleep-the innocent sleep.” Macbeth is hearing voices causing him to not be able to sleep. Clearly he is distraught with himself knowing that only “the innocent sleep.” After the crime he has committed, he has no right to the word innocent. While at the banquet during act 3, scene 4, on lines 113-115 Macbeth says to the ghost on Banquo, “Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold;/ Though hast no speculation in those eyes/ Which thou dost glare with.” According to the Shakespeare, Macbeth is the only one that sees Banquo’s ghost. The guests all believe that he may be ill. The apparition is but a mind game triggered by his guilt. Speaking of guilt, in act 5, scene 1, lines 45-47, Lady Macbeth, unaware of the doctor and the gentlewoman as witness, asleep even, exclaims, “Here’s the smell of the blood still. All thee perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!” Lady Macbeth sleepwalks because of the new burden upon her heart. In her mind she tries to wash the blood from her hands but cannot. Macbeth and his wife both experience tricks of the mind courtesy of their guilt for killing Duncan. One’s self-struggles and guilt are both mental, inner conflicts that cannot be cured by anyone or anything but the person them self. On lines 8-9 of act 2, scene 1, Banquo whines, “And yet I would not sleep. Merciful powers,/ Restrain in me the cursed thoughts…” Banquo’s “cursed thoughts” more resemble nightmares. Though he desires to sleep, he cannot. Whether he knows it or not, he has the power to stop them. Another example of proof can be found on line 86 of act 5, scene 2 when the doctor says to the gentlewoman, “More needs she the divine than the physician.” The doctor is called in to evaluate and hopefully cure Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking. He claims that medicine cannot cure her. He believes her illness to possibly be beyond even her control. The only “prescription” the doctor gives is for Lady Macbeth to visit the priest, for the cause of her sleepwalking is the new burden upon her heart. Inner struggles could possibly cause one to commit an act which they may later regret. In act 2, scene 1, Macbeth fights with his mind’s visions. In this scene, he is sickly and not in the right state of mind. He believes he is fevered because of his hallucinations. The illusions, in fact, somehow motivated him to kill the king. Again on line 45 of act 5, scene 1, Lady Macbeth tries diligently to wash the blood off of her hands. Her guilt cannot just simply be “washed” away as she is trying to do. The blood she is trying to clean was caused by her part in the killing of King Duncan. Overall, Macbeth’s stressing over whether or not he should kill Duncan actually led to him committing the act. Knowing she played a major role in Duncan’s death, Lady Macbeth will always have to live with her guilt. The two themes previously discussed both greatly affect the play. Had Macbeth not been so worried about killing Duncan and not thought about it so much, he might have declined his wife’s plan. After “she [Lady Macbeth] strike upon the bell,” found on line 40 of act 2, scene 1, Macbeth banters with himself which, in the end, turns out to be a self pep talk. Macbeth’s visions indirectly led to the death of Duncan. As for the guilt issue, it killed Lady Macbeth. The doctor told Macbeth in act 5, scene 4, on lines 53-54, “Therein the patient must/ Minister to himself.” Lady Macbeth let her inflictions get the best of her. Without her around, Macbeth has no one left to truly support him. The news of Lady Macbeth’s death preceded possibly Macbeth’s greatest speech. Macbeth had contemplations on the biggest decision to be made during the entire play. He was able to muster up the courage to do his task with the help of his saboteur of a wife. In the end, it was the guilt of her crime that caused her death. Based on one’s inner struggles and how they sort them, the repercussions may be positive or negative. In the case of a negative, the effect(s) could stay with the person forever. We thank Mr. Shakespeare for teaching us these valuable lessons.