Guilt, A Fatal Flaw Essay

1136 words - 5 pages

Guilt is a consuming force capable of corrupting even the most just. Its effects lasting through the centuries, turning the steel minded to weakened shadows of men. More than anything else guilt changes people; it takes hold of thoughts, challenges sanity and erases morals. It triggers an internal battle between right and wrong, a force proven to be unstoppable, a thirst proven to be unquenchable. There is no better example of this than in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Macbeth, written in 1606, displays all characteristics of a tragedy plagued with guilt. Civil unrest was prominent in England due to James the first being crowned both King Scotland and England in 1603. Macbeth was written in order ...view middle of the document...

Macbeth was a true eleventh century Scottish ruler, however the recorded Macbeth, who had a good right to the throne, ruled competently in Scotland from 1040 till 1057. He succeeded Duncan, whom he had vanquished in fight, yet the true Duncan was a feeble man, around Macbeth's age, not the regarded elderly figure we meet in the play. Truly, Macbeth was succeeded by his stepson, not by Duncan's child, Malcolm, who went to the throne later. The Stuart rulers asserted plummet from Banquo, yet Banquo is a legendary figure who never truly existed. Shakespeare discovered his variant of the story of Macbeth in the Chronicles of Holinshed, an antiquarian of his own time. Holinshed does incorporate a Banquo in his form; however he is additionally a backstabber who helps Macbeth in the homicide. As a tribute to the Stuarts, and James specifically, Shakespeare presents Banquo as a shrewd, honourable and noble figure who stimulates envy in Macbeth to the extent that his great qualities concerning the guarantee the witches make to him of establishing a line.
Interestingly, Macbeth starts to show clues of blame much sooner than he has killed Duncan. Actually, when the possibility of homicide jumps out at him, he shows the misleading quality of it."Stars, hide your fires,/Let not light see my black and deep desires;/The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be/Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see.”(I.iv) In addition, his infamous "Is this a dagger which I see before me… "(II.i) visualization proposes that expectant guilt is pushing him around the edge of insanity.
Obviously, in the wake of submitting regicide and asserting the throne, Macbeth is unable to appreciate the ill gotten kingship. To some degree, this is because of his developing feeling of neurosis; however it is transcendently because of the developing feeling of guilt, which prompts sleep deprivation. "Macbeth does murder sleep… Macbeth shall sleep no more."(II.ii) and dreams of Banquo's phantom "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.iv)
The presence of Banquo's phantom is both a physical exemplification of Macbeth's guilt and a prevalent dramatic custom of the time. Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre is overflowing with apparitions. Case in...

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