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Macbeth?s Guilt and the Damage Done

Many people suffer from the inescapable terms of guilt. Even the most seasoned and vile criminals turn themselves in sometimes. Like the way guilt has defeated many others, it too defeats Macbeth. (Macbeth?s downfall is directly linked to his own actions1, and the guilt he feels after murdering the King Duncan2, and having his best friend Banquo murdered3, and caving in to the desires of Lady Macbeth4.)

After first being given the witches prophesies, Macbeth is skeptical. This makes sense of course, but his mind is whipped into a small fervor after having seen the first fortune come true. Thoughts race through his mind about his possible kingship, and he writes his hurried letter to Lady Macbeth. It is then that she talks him into murdering the king in his sleep. Easy enough is it to tell that Macbeth did not go along with this plan at first, ?We will proceed no further in this business? (I. vii. 34). However, he does eventually come around to this idea, and so does he murder the king. Since at first he can not muster up the courage within himself, he ?sees? a dagger leading him to Duncan ?Is this a dagger I see before me,/ The handle towards my hand? Come, let me clutch/ thee? (II. i. 44-46). After the murder he is once again consumed by guilt. For the first time however, he makes a mistake because of it. He is so wracked by the deed that he takes the daggers with him, and then incessantly washes his hands. All the while Lady Macbeth cleans up after his mess ?I?ll go no more./ I?m afraid to think what I have done? (II. ii. 65-66). The king was, however, only the first step towards strings of evil deeds that Macbeth would feel guilty for.

Throughout the beginning of the play, we see that Banquo is as close as Macbeth has to a ?best friend?. Banquo appears to be an upstanding individual and doesn?t seem to have any enemies. This changes; however, when Macbeth becomes the king. Banquo suspects that Macbeth murdered Duncan, and this makes him an instant enemy. And it?s not that having Banquo killed is easy for Macbeth this time around either, as he was closer to Banquo than he ever likely was to King Duncan ?For certain friends that are both his and mine,/ Whose loves I may not drop, but wail his fall/ Who I myself struck down.? (III. i. 137-139). He actually seems to mourn for him, and he attempts to shield Lady Macbeth by not telling her, and concerning her with other matters ?Come we?ll to sleep. My strange and self-abuse/ Is the initiate fear that wants hard use? (III. iv. 174-175). This deed even drives him to see the ghost of his former friend at a dinner later, and this apparition serves a similar purpose to the guilt racking his brain.

Macbeth does not make all his own decisions, and usually his ?better half? fills in his personality deficiencies. Lady Macbeth time and time again is the driving force behind much of our protagonist?s ambitions. She makes him feel guilty for not wanting to kill King Duncan in the first act ?Wouldst thou have that/ Which thou esteem?st the ornament of life/ And live a coward in thine own esteem? (I. vii. 45-47). Even though this isn?t shown in the immediate play, it is likely that Lady Macbeth has been bothering him with this type of provoking for a while. Even this guilt, which is delivered to him by outside forces, tears away at his mind. And this time so much so that it drives him to murder.

(Macbeth?s downfall is directly linked to his own actions1, the guilt that followed after murdering the King, Duncan2, and having his best friend Banquo murdered3, and caving in to the desires of Lady Macbeth4.) Macbeth was the constant victim of stress from all angles. Few decisions were made easy for him, and this brought along with it all the guilt that makes him a tragic hero. Macbeth is the Caesar of his time period, except just a little more evil. Were it not for his actions and the pressures put upon him, it?s likely he wouldn?t have ended up another dead body in the chaotic period surrounding his rise and fall.


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