Guilt and Conscience in Shakespeare’s Macbeth

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In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the theme of guilt and conscience is one of many explored throughout the play. Macbeth, is a well respected Scottish noble who in the beginning of the play is a man everyone looks up to; however as the play progresses he makes a number of bad decisions. Eventually, as a result of his actions he suffers guilt and this plays heavily upon his character until his personality is completely destroyed. Shakespeare uses a range of techniques in order to develop this theme such as, characters, imagery.

Shakespeare uses the title character of Macbeth to effectively develop the theme of guilt and conscience in his play. Several times in the play we see Macbeth’s character crumbling as a result of a guilty conscience. At the beginning of the play he meets the witches with Banquo, and this prompts the first step toward killing the King. This helps in developing the theme because we get the idea that Macbeth does not trust the witches, nor does he fully believe them. Unfortunately his ambitious nature gets the better of him and causes him to listen carefully to how he might acquire his kingship. Macbeth feels guilty that he is thinking about killing the King because he’s basing his entire thought upon belief in the ‘evil creatures’. We see this when Macbeth has a soliloquy in which he says, “Cannot be ill, cannot be good” and also asks himself why the thought of becoming King makes his “seated heart” knock against his ribs.

Macbeth ‘sees’ a bloody dagger in front of him even before he kills the King; this shows that he feels guilty even before the evil deed. He tries to convince himself and his wife that he should not kill Duncan, and at one stage he orders her not to go any further with the deed. Lady Macbeth...

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...cally after Duncan’s murder she is haunted by his blood then she goes crazy and eventually kills herself. All of these contribute to the strong theme of guilt and conscience in Macbeth.

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth the theme of guilt and conscience is one of the most prominent in the play. It gives life to the play and gives depth to the characters, it makes Macbeth a much more realistic character because we are shown that he is not perfect and still responds to temptation. The results of committing evil acts have such a powerful effect on the human mind, that it is eventually destroyed by it. Macbeth’s destroyed mind is evident when he states, “O full of scorpions is my mind dear wife!”. Macbeth and his wife, like all of us must live with our own actions; unfortunately his choices make this impossible and light the way to a tragic and dusty death for the Macbeths.

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