In Shakespeare's Macbeth, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth both show signs of what would today be diagnosed as symptoms of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is defined as "a psychotic disorder characterized by loss of contact with the environment, by noticeable deterioration in the level of functioning in everyday life, and by disintegration of personality expressed as disorder of feeling, thought, and conduct." There are three major symptoms of the disorder; not being able to distinguish the difference between fantasy and reality, incoherent conversations, and withdrawal physically and emotionally. The most common and most well known symptom of schizophrenia is when people cannot distinguish between what is real and what is not. Schizophrenics often suffer from delusions and hallucinations. A delusion is a false belief or idea and a hallucination is seeing, hearing, or sensing something that is not really there. Some people diagnosed with the illness may speak with disjointed conversations. They often utter vague statements that are strung together in an incoherent way. Lastly, some schizophrenics withdraw emotionally, for example, their outlook on life is deadened and they show little or no warmth, and also physically, such as their movements become jerky and robot-like.
What causes people to become schizophrenic? One possibility, in Macbeth and his wife's case is guilt. Macbeth, in trying to become king, kills some people he knew very well and was loyal to at one time. He really did not want to have to Banquo, but he felt he had to so that he could become king. He said to his wife, "We will proceed no further in this business: He hath honored me of late." (I.7.31-32) Lady Macbeth feels guilty, too. For example, after she smeared the King's blood on one of the drunken attendants to frame him, she says, "My hands are of your color, but I shame to wear a heart so white." (II.2.63-64) Their conscience could be condemning them so loudly that it drove them crazy, literally....
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