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Crucial Scene In Macbeth: The Dagger Soliloquy

1070 words - 4 pages

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, sensibleto feeling as to sight? Or art thou buta dagger of the mind, a false creation,Proceeding form the heat-oppressed brain?I see thee yet, in form as palpableAs 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 stillAnd on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of bleed,Which was not so before.There's no such thing:It is the bloody business which informsThus to mine eyes.Now o'er the one half-worldNature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuseThe curtained sleep. Witchcraft celebratesPale 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 designMoves like a ghost.Thou sure and firm-set earth,Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fearThy 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,...

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