The Consequences of Macbeth's Imagination

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In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Macbeth constructs a ploy to become king by having King Duncan murdered. Macbeth then frequently experiences strange visions and thoughts driven by his imagination as he is going insane. These experiences play a large role in slowly deteriorating Macbeth’s mental sanity and life.

Macbeth is proclaimed Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor, and “King hereafter” when he first has an encounter with the three witches (I, iii, 50). Macbeth became Thane of Glamis with Sinel’s death and then became Thane of Cawdor after the previous Thane of Cawdor was overthrown, but Macbeth did not know why he was declared to be “King hereafter” by the witches.

Macbeth’s imagination starts to play a role right after he is confirmed to be Thane of Cawdor in Act I, scene iv. Shakespeare uncovers the way Macbeth’s imagination works by showing how Macbeth clings to evil ideas and thoughts. Macbeth has an aside that reveals his thoughts about killing King Duncan: “My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical / Shakes so my single state of man that function / Is smothered in surmise, and nothing is / But what is not” (I, iii, 139-142). This aside marks the first change in Macbeth’s character as the loyal Macbeth transforms into a credulous one.

Lady Macbeth discovers that Macbeth became Thane of Glamis and Thane of Cawdor in Act I, Scene v after she read a letter. It is identifiable that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have previously discussed murdering King Duncan so that Macbeth can take the throne when he says:

The raven himself is hoarse / That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan / Under my battlements. Come, you sprits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, / And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full /...

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...otionally cripple Macduff by destroying his castle and killing his family, but Macbeth’s plan does the opposite of his hopes when Macduff returns and kills Macbeth.

The role of imagination was the driving force in Macbeth that caused Macbeth’s despotic, restless lifestyle. This imagination along with his craving for power and paranoia are what led Macbeth to murder more and more until he himself was killed.

Source: Paul, Henry N. "Macbeth's Imagination." Bloom's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 9 Feb. 2014

Source: Bradley, A. C. "Macbeth's Imagination." Bloom's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 9 Feb. 2014

Source: Kinsella, Kate, Sharon Vaughan, Kevin Feldman, Donald D. Deshler, Burton Raffel, and Emily Brontë. "The Tragedy of Macbeth." Prentice Hall Literature. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007. 306-94. Print.
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