Macbeth: Schizophrenic?

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Macbeth’s tragic downfall into insanity could be modernly diagnosed as the mental disorder schizophrenia. Many of the actions carried out by Macbeth during the play lead the reader to believe that Macbeth is crazy. However, by today’s medical standards, Macbeth falls into several of the categories under the diagnosis of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is defined as, "a psychotic disorder characterized by loss of contact with the environment, by noticeable deterioration in the level of functioning in everyday life, and by disintegration of personality expressed as disorder of feeling, thought, and conduct." In Act I Macbeth is very uneasy in his and Lady Macbeth’s decision to kill Duncan. He says, “We shall proceed no further in this business. For he hath honored me of late.” (I.7.31-32) This is an unmistakable example of how Macbeth is not fully confident in his decisions. He feels guilt and anguish, as does Lady Macbeth, for she will not commit the murder herself, due to the fact that King Duncan looks too much like her father. At this point in the play, it is quite questionable as to weather either of the conspirators will consummate to the killings. Duncan’s death can be identified as the turning point of Macbeth’s sanity. This is when Macbeth starts to clearly display numerous symptoms of schizophrenia. O One of the most common symptoms of schizophrenia is the inability to distinguish between reality and fantasy. Macbeth displays this characteristic as he speaks vehemently to an empty chair, which he believes is the ghost of his old friend Banquo, who he just recently had killed. He says, “Prithee, see there! behold! look! lo! how say you? Why, what care I? If thou canst nod, speak too. If charnel-houses and our graves must send Those that we bury back, our monuments Shall be the maws of kites.” (III, 4) Macbeth is the only one to see the ghost, not even the audience is allowed by Shakespeare to see this apparition. After this, his mental stability begins to deteriorate throughout the course of the play. Guilt and obsession are also among the leading features associated with schizophrenia. After Macbeth is coaxed into killing Duncan, he is plagued by the blood, which he has spilt. However, he still manages to kill anyone who threatens his reign, even those who are very close to him. One could say that his obsession with maintaining his royal sta... ... middle of paper ... ...s disorganized and fragmented, the ill person's speech is often muddled or unreasonable. Thought disorder is frequently accompanied by inappropriate emotional responses: which means words and mood do not appear in tune with each other. The result may be something like laughing when speaking of shady or frightening events. Early warning signs, such as Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking, her irrational speech, and her loss of normal temperament were all reverberations of her mental instability. Extreme circumstances such as the ones presented in Macbeth are highly probable causes for both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s development of schizophrenia. Their behavior, although seeming quite erratic and irrational, is quite common among patients with this disorder. The term “schizophrenic,” however, was not even brought to the public until 1911, by a Swiss psychologist, Eugen Bleuler, almost three decades after Shakespeare’s Macbeth was introduced to England. Citizens during the sixteen hundreds would have just thought Macbeth and his wife were insane and should be locked away. With today’s psychoanalytic sciences, though, it can be most likely predicted that schizophrenia was present in Macbeth.

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