The Spiritual Decline of Macbeth
The play, Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, has been analyzed to such an extent that many assume it is impossible to say anything new about the play. Yet, a close reading of Macbeth can still yield tremendous insights. One interesting point worth noting is Macbeth's inability to answer "Amen" to a solemn prayer to God. Shakespeare's post-medieval world strictly adhered to the binary opposition between good and evil, or in other words, between Christ and Satan. The common belief was that satanic forces could not pay homage to Christ. Thus, Macbeth's inability to answer "Amen" reflects his spiritual decline, sinking to the ranks of the witches and Lady Macbeth.
Macbeth was written for Shakespeare’s new patron, James I (James VI of Scotland), following the death of Queen Elizabeth. James, a relative of the real Banquo, was interested in witchcraft and Scotland, hence the themes and setting of the play. The play itself tells the story of a man, urged by his wife and foretold by prophecy, who commits regicide in order to gain power.
Lady Macbeth is the wife of Macbeth and the person who has the greatest influence over him. A childless woman, from the start of the play she turns feverish at the prospect of becoming queen and declares that she would kill her own child--"dash his brains out"--if it would help her achieve her goal (I.vii.55). This connection between childlessness and power has led critics, prominently AC Knight in his famous essay, “How Many Children Had Lady Macbeth?” to remark that this is part of the play's greater symbolism, where evil is infertile and good is fertile. (Citation? Since you just paraphrased one of Kn...
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...m he must take the daggers back, put them with the grooms, and smear the grooms with blood, so it will look like the grooms killed the King. Macbeth is unable to return to the scene of the crime to do that so Lady Macbeth takes the daggers from him and tells him that it's childish to be afraid of the sleeping or the dead. And she's not afraid of blood, either. She says, "If he [King Duncan] do bleed, / I'll gild the faces of the grooms withal / For it must seem their guilt" (2.2.52-54)
The conscience is a fickle thing. If it is suffering, its owner suffers. As Macbeth’s spirituality declined, he was unable to acknowledge a simple prayer with a
simple response, “Amen”. His wife apparently was unable to take comfort from prayer. For both, this lack of communion with goodness ultimately led to
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