Guilt Theme In Macbeth

Great Essays
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

Related Documents

  • Improved Essays

    In addition, Macbeth also displays the characteristic of anagnorisis when Macbeth is in recognition of Banquo’s murder and is in the state of feeling very guilty. Macbeth’s guilty conscience causes him to constantly Banquo’s ghost in his seat. The quote, “It will have blood; they say blood will have…

    • 1120 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Often those blind to the real culprits have a sense of delusion. For example, after the realization of the murder of King Duncan, Lennox exclaims, “Their hands and faces were all badged with blood. So were their daggers, which unwiped we found upon their pillows” (II.iii.120-123). The blood found on the guards comes from the attempt to cover up the murderer, Macbeth. Shakespeare uses dramatic irony since the audience knows the reason for the guards’ death to show how some actions deepen the appearance of placed blame in attempt to hide the real culprit.…

    • 1043 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Laertes is very angry and reacts by wanting to kill Hamlet for taking the life of his father. Laertes says, “ Let come what comes, only I’ll be revenged Most thoroughly for my father” (4.4.148-149). This is proof as he is mad over Hamlet taking his father’s life. He seeks revenge for his father’s death and gets that but also gets killed as well. Both Hamlet and Laertes wanting to kill and get revenge for their father’s death sets up the destructive ending.…

    • 619 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    “ It is a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward hand? Come, let me clutch thee” (2.1.33-34). Macbeth kills the king in a bloody slaughter. Macbeth becomes weak again because he brought the daggers back with him but can’t bring them back to the scene of the crime. He feels extremely guilty about his murderous deed.…

    • 1044 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    He began to inform Macduff that he was so disturbed with the loss of Duncan, which caused him to kill the guards out of honor. By the end of Act 2, Macbeth has murdered three: King Duncan and his two guards. He then begins to plot out the murders of several other trusted acquaintances. Lady Macbeth and her husband slowly head for the road of…

    • 828 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Macbeth’s struggles of guilt and conscience eventually weigh down on him so much that he completely loses appreciation for life. In the Bible, it says “But if he struck him down with an iron object so that he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall be put to death.” (English Standard Version Numbers 35:16). Macbeth was guilty of murder and was put to death. Similar to this, Macbeth himself said: “Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return / To plague the inventor:” (Shakespeare 12-13).…

    • 1375 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Inhumanity In Macbeth

    • 700 Words
    • 3 Pages

    Furthermore, Macbeth’s ignorance of morals is seen in his conversation with the murderers when he plans the slaughter of Banquo. Macbeth tells the murderers, Macbeth is telling the murderers that as long as Banquo is alive, Macbeth is sick, and he will only be pleased and well once Banquo is dead. Macbeth’s simple mindset and courage shows how bitter and unethical he now turns out to…

    • 700 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Ross delivers the news to Macduff: “Your castle is surprise’d; your wife and babes / savagely slaughtered” (4.3.207-208) Macduff is furious and eager to fight Macbeth for revenge. Killing innocent people for any reason is unjustifiable, the fact that Macbeth orders soldiers to kill harmless people just shows the evil within him. A psychopath is someone who enjoys seeing someone else suffer from pain, and the only way Macbeth thought he could injure Macduff, in a way, was to murder Macduff’s family. Another relatable event to Macbeth is terrorism in present day. Society sees terrorists as an evil group of people who kill innocent civilians for a selfish reason.…

    • 647 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Great Essays

    Blood is a symbol of guilt in Macbeth. Guilt is a force that haunts the mind; once a crime is committed, it says with the criminal for the rest of their lives, constantly reminding them of their past actions. In Macbeth, blood symbolizes guilt for the protagonists. As blood is shed several times throughout the play, it sticks to the murderer, and makes them regret and feel guilty of their actions. In the beginning of the play just after Macbeth has killed Duncan, he exemplifies blood to describe his guilt for his actions.…

    • 1276 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Blood And Guilt In Macbeth

    • 1006 Words
    • 4 Pages

    In Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, Macbeth struggles with his own guilty conscience throughout. Even though he feels extremely guilty and confused in the beginning, he shortly revises those feelings until they have altogether been vanished. The initial display of guilt is associated with the first murder scene, which resulted in a bloody ending. Therefore, the volume of blood corresponds with how much guilt Macbeth displays. Shakespeare depicted the symbol of blood to correlate with the emotion of guilt to illustrate Macbeth’s conscience as he performed and witnessed the horrendous murders of virtuous…

    • 1006 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays