This website uses cookies to ensure you have the best experience. Learn more

Macbeth's Guilt Essay

1768 words - 7 pages

Characters in the Shakespearean tragedy Macbeth scarcely feel guilt - with two exceptions: Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. In this essay let's consider their guilt-problem.

In his book, On the Design of Shakespearean Tragedy, H. S. Wilson comments regarding the guilt of the protagonist:

It is a subtler thing which constitutes the chief fascination that the play exercises upon us - this fear Macbeth feels, a fear not fully defined, for him or for us, a terrible anxiety that is a sense of guilt without becoming (recognizably, at least) a sense of sin. It is not a sense of sin because he refuses to recognize such a category; and, in his stubbornness, his savage defiance, it drives him on to more and more terrible acts. (74)

Blanche Coles states in Shakespeare's Four Giants that, regarding guilt in the play:


Briefly stated, and with elaborations to follow, Macbeth is the story of a kindly, upright man who was incited and goaded, by the woman he deeply loved, into committing a murder and then, because of his sensitive nature, was unable to bear the heavy burden of guilt that descended upon him as a result of that murder. (37)


A.C. Bradley in Shakespearean Tragedy demonstrates the guilt of Macbeth from the very beginning:


Precisely how far his mind was guilty may be a question; but no innocent man would have started, as he did, with a start of fear at the mere prophecy of a crown, or have conceived thereupon immediately the thought of murder. Either this thought was not new to him, or he had cherished at least some vaguer dishonourable dream, the instantaneous recurrence of which, at the moment of his hearing of prophecy, revealed to him an inward and terrifying guilt. (316)


In "Memoranda: Remarks on the Character of Lady Macbeth," Sarah Siddons mentions the guilt and ambition of Lady Macbeth and their effect:


[Re "I have given suck" (1.7.54ff.)] Even here, horrific as she is, she shews herself made by ambition, but not by nature, a perfectly savage creature. The very use of such a tender allusion in the midst of her dreadful language, persuades one unequivocally that she has really felt the maternal yearnings of a mother towards her babe, and that she considered this action the most enormous that ever required the strength of human nerves for its perpetration. Her language to Macbeth is the most potently eloquent that guilt could use.  (56)


Clark and Wright in their Introduction to The Complete Works of William Shakespeare explain how guilt impacts Lady Macbeth:


Having sustained her weaker husband, her own strength gives way; and in sleep, when her will cannot control her thoughts, she is piteously afflicted by the memory of one stain of blood upon her little hand.  (792)


The Tragedy of Macbeth opens in a desert place with thunder and lightning and three witches who are anticipating their meeting with Macbeth. Macbeth is greeted by the witches with "hail to thee,...

Find Another Essay On Macbeth's Guilt

An analysis of Act V scene i in Macbeth, focusing on the result of Lady Macbeth's ambition turned to madness

967 words - 4 pages Macbeth's unrestrained ambition results in her overwhelming guilt and madness, signified by her sleepwalking episode where she imagines an irremovable bloodstain on her hands in Act V scene i.Lady Macbeth's evil deeds drive her towards insanity where she sleepwalks, a symbol of her guilt and paranoia overtaking her feeble mind. It is ironic that Lady Macbeth cannot rid her pain and guilt through sleep in this scene, when in the banquet scene she

Blood Imagery In Macbeth Essay

601 words - 2 pages his men to catch and kill Macduff, and instead Macbeth's men kill Macduff's innocent son and later his wife. Macbeth is now giving orders to kill woman and children; he has become a complete tyrant. In addition to the middle, blood imagery is important to the end of the play. "Out, damned spot! out"(V.i.28). Lady Macbeth's guilt has overcome her; every night she scrubs her hands to remove the blood, the guilt of killing. Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth: Guilty or Innocent?

1285 words - 5 pages . (Macbeth I.vii.49-53).It is evident that Lady Macbeth is not as innocent as she first appears. Lady Macbeth is also guilty when she is learning about Duncan's murder. She is so shocked by the discovery that she faints and is tended to. The biggest factor to Lady Macbeth's guilt though is her sleepwalking. She is sleepwalking and trying to wash her hands of the blood from Duncan's murder. Lady Macbeth screams to no one while sleepwalking. Are these the

The change if the immagery of

971 words - 4 pages repeated image of the play is Blood. Also, the meaning of the image of blood changes throughout the play from first being associated with honor and changes to the murder of Duncan and guilt, then evil, and then finally back to its original meaning. In Macbeth there are more then 100 references to blood in the play. This emphasizes the violent and dark nature of the murders and of the play in general, and it also shows Macbeth's own character

Free Macbeth Essays: Sleep and Sleeplessness

525 words - 2 pages The Sleep and Sleeplessness Motif in Macbeth We have consciences that function to tell us the difference between right and wrong. If we have clear consciences, we usually possess the ability to sleep. But when our consciences are full of guilt, we experience a state of sleeplessness. In Macbeth, Shakespeare uses the sleep and sleeplessness motif to represent Macbeth's and Lady Macbeth's consciences and the effect Macbeth's conscience has

evilmac Shakespeare's Macbeth - Theme of Night vs Day and Evilness

594 words - 2 pages glimpse of evil comes that night. After he has done his deed, the paranoia sets in.  “But wherefore could not I pronounce ‘Amen'?”  (II.ii.31).  Macbeth realizes that the “goodness” is starting to drift away.  He looks at his hands and sees his guilt, the blood.           The next example of evil at night is when the sleeplessness sets in and Macbeth's guilt starts to get the best of


1000 words - 4 pages       In the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare, we discover that Macbeth is a tragic hero. There are many factors, which contribute to the degeneration of Macbeth. Macbeth is very ambitious and courageous, and is later portrayed as a moral coward. All of these qualities lead to his tragic death at the end of the play. There are three major points, which contribute greatly to Macbeth's degeneration. The first was the

An Evil Brain For the Insane

1312 words - 5 pages clear that their guilt will revisit them for the rest of their lives. Those who felt the effects of their evil will reciprocate the Macbeth’s bad karma. 
 By embracing evil, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth have committed villainous acts that leave behind permanent mental scars. Their guilt leads them to an unsettled state of mind, and slowly degrades their functionality. Macbeth's guilt causes him to act strangely in the presence of his guests, and it

Macbeth, The Tragic Hero. Shakespeare

1011 words - 4 pages decision proves to be his last. Macbeth misunderstanding of the prophecy and believing he was invincible, he mistakenly believed he could change fate.Macbeth is a perfect example of a tragic hero. His greed, fear and guilt are the key factors leading to his downfall. Macbeth's initial greed is caused by the three witches, then he longs for power, which soon becomes his. In trusting the witches who twist his prophesies Macbeth is begging for failure. In

The Symbolism of Blood in Macbeth

1024 words - 4 pages not so before" (Macbeth 2.1.46-48). The false appearance of blood on Macbeth's dagger asserts his hesitancy to murder Duncan. In this case, blood symbolizes the possible guilt of Macbeth upon the murder of Duncan. Immediately following the murder of Duncan, Macbeth uses the symbol of blood to assert the magnitude of his crime. Macbeth conveys immediate concern when he states, "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No

Analysis- Macbeth's soliloquy, Act 1 Scene 7

617 words - 2 pages tone throughout his soliloquy is one of confusion, frustration and is filled with hellish images which are associated with what may become of Macbeth's soul. "Bloody instructions, which being taught; return to plague th'inventor, deep damnation, poisoned chalice" Macbeth recognizes the guilt which may come with the murder of Duncan and we find ourselves feeling pity for him as he struggles with morals and his own ambition. Personification and

Similar Essays

Macbeth's Implacable Guilt Essay

1787 words - 7 pages Macbeth's Implacable Guilt        The Shakespearean tragedy Macbeth underscores the important and usually unforeseen effect of sin, that of guilt. The guilt is so deep that Lady Macbeth is pushed to suicide, and Macbeth fares only slightly better.   Blanche Coles states in Shakespeare's Four Giants that, regarding guilt in the play:   Briefly stated, and with elaborations to follow, Macbeth is the story of a kindly, upright

How Guilt Leads To Macbeth's Downfall English Essay

739 words - 3 pages Everyone, at one point or another, has experienced guilt. For some it appears as a simple nagging sentiment that keeps them from a peaceful sleep or a productive day’s work. For others it manifests itself in their day to day lives, becoming a limitless supplier of a guilty conscience, forcing itself into their psyche. In the tragedy of Macbeth, Shakespeare offers a view into the transformative power of guilt. Guilt is established as a

Lady Macbeth's Transformation Into A Guilt Ridden Woman In Shakespeare's Macbeth

698 words - 3 pages From murder to greed Macbeth portrays a story of how a human’s flaws can be elevated to a point where they are no longer flaws but a person’s way of thinking and acting. A lot of the characters evolve from doing what they think is right to doing what their heart desires. Throughout the play, Lady Macbeth changes from an evil mastermind to a guilt ridden woman because Shakespeare shows how a person’s actions affect their personality by having

The Effects Of Macbeth's Ambitions Essay

1331 words - 5 pages ambitions caused him to take part in many regretful acts, resulting in havoc throughout Scotland. Later in the play, his prerequisite knowledge allowed him to fear nothing, which essentially caused him to lose his reign as King. The effects of Macbeth's ambition are: multiple deaths, his and Lady Macbeth's relentless feeling of guilt, and the change of Kingdom leaders.The first most prominent effect of Macbeth's ambition is the murder of multiple