Essay on Macbeth: The Effects of Guilt

Essay on Macbeth: The Effects of Guilt

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Macbeth, a tragedy written by William Shakespeare and edited by Maynard Mack and Robert Boynton, displays the many ways in which guilt manifests itself and the effects it has on its victims. Throughout the play, characters including Lady Macbeth are deeply affected by guilt in ways they had never expected. Macbeth takes its audience on a journey through the process in which guilty gradually eats away at Lady Macbeth and forces her to do what she thinks is best. Though Lady Macbeth may have initially seemed unaffected by the murders she had been involved in, her desires eventually faded and were replaced with an invincible feeling of guilt which eventually took her life.
An overpowering emotion, guilt once lay dormant in Lady Macbeth, but this dormancy foreshadows the effects it would have on her later in the play. At one point, Macbeth states, “…We but teach bloody instructions, which, being taught, return to plague the inventor” (I.vii.7-10); though Macbeth was the one to speak these words, it brings the idea of foreshadowing to the audience. After all, Lady Macbeth was the inventor of these “bloody instructions” which led Macbeth to believe that murder was normal and that it was what it took for him to fulfill the witches’ prophecy. It was only fair that Lady Macbeth would be plagued by her own ideas, she was the one who told Macbeth to do it, and though she did not perform the deeds herself, she essentially forced her own husband to commit an evil act. Of course, it is only natural for characters such as Macbeth, who were actually involved in murder itself, to feel guilt and remorse for what they had done; However, to be the inventor of these ideas, the mastermind, the wizard behind the curtains, it...


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... is dreaming of such bloody actions while there are so many murders occurring around them. As nights go on, Lady Macbeth continues to think about what is bothering her 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even in her sleep. Guilt is eating away at Lady Macbeth, causing her anxiety, anger, and repents. Ultimately, Lady Macbeth feels it is necessary that she admit defeat and let guilt win by committing suicide and letting guilt take her life.
As Shakespeare’s Macbeth continues to progress, it is understood that many of the characters develop and become what they had once feared. In Lady Macbeth’s case, she began to feel guilt, an emotion that ultimately took her life. Though guilt may have seemed an emotion that was far off and impossibly able to affect her, Lady Macbeth eventually began to forget all about her initial desires and was plagued by guilt.

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