Guilt Theme In Macbeth

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Guilt is an emotion associated with feelings of shame, regret, or responsibility for something a person has done. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the two protagonists, Macbeth and his wife Lady Macbeth, both suffer feelings of guilt for a heinous crime, the murder of their king. Guilt manifests itself differently in these two characters, as it does in every guilty person. Shakespeare uses blood imagery to develop the theme of guilt, as both characters struggle with and grow accustomed to the presence of blood throughout the play. Initially, Lady Macbeth, ruthless and strong-willed, contrasts with Macbeth, her cautious and cowardly husband. Then, after guilt festers itself over a period of time, the characters slowly begin to conform back to their …show more content…
Macbeth’s guilt manifests horrifically, and he sporadically kills his friends, his enemies, and innocent people alike. After he kills his best friend, Banquo, his conscience makes one last attempt to speak to him through the bloody ghost of his latest victim. He relates his situation to a pool of blood, recognizing that, “I am in blood/Stepped in so far that,/should I wade no more,/ Returning were as tedious as go o’er” (3.4.168-170). The blood imagery represents Macbeth embracing his guilt, instead of letting it consume him like it does Lady Macbeth. He recognizes his sin, yet persists nevertheless. The constant comparison throughout the play of blood to water demonstrates the prevalence and importance of blood in the story. Shakespeare uses blood in situations normally associated with water, like Macbeth wading in a pool of blood. The substitution of blood for water gives the play a certain grotesqueness that is important in its plot. As the guilt manifests, Macbeth begins to neglect incessant feelings of remorse. This becomes evident in his preceding murders, including those of the innocent family of Macduff, a man he is suspicious of. As he sends murderers to kill his family, he declares, “The castle of Macduff I will surprise,/ Seize upon Fife, give to th' edge o' th' sword,/ His wife, his babes, and all …show more content…
Although the play typically lasts over two hours, one could argue that the play ended after Macbeth killed Duncan. All mentally stable humans would suffer immense feelings of guilt after committing murder, so it was inevitable that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth would not be able to live out their reign in peace. The Macbeths’ downwards spiral represents the power of emotion, and how significantly guilt can fester in a

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