Guilt In Shakespeare's 'Macbeth'

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Guilty Pleasure In the words of Coco Chanel, “Guilt is perhaps the most painful companion of death.”
Harboring immense levels of untreated guilt leads to the deterioration of the human mind in which the ability to handle mental turmoil and distinguish friend from foe is severely impaired. This follows Maslow’s pyramid of hierarchy as if a person is unable to comfortably express his or her emotions, then that individual will be consumed by his or her own instability. In William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Macbeth is engulfed by the accumulating guilt of his actions which gradually decays his mental state as shown through hallucinations, the inability to perform basic daily functions, and extreme paranoia.
Macbeth was not always wracked with guilt
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This is shown when Macbeth compares his visions of a floating dagger to “a dagger of the mind” (Shakespeare 2.1 39). Macbeth is wrought with guilt from the very idea of carrying out Duncan’s murder and, due to his sensitive characteristics, consequently punctures his sanity in order to handle this self-condemnation. After murdering Duncan, Macbeth insists that he hears voices cry in the night, “‘Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep’” (Shakespeare 2.2. 35-36), but no one other than Lady Macbeth is awake to emit a sound. The cries are instead Macbeth’s conscience realizing that he will never rid himself from the nightmares of this night. These hallucinations are not only rupturing Macbeth’s mental health as a result of his guilt, but serve as the catalyst that impairs his ability to function in daily life…show more content…
This is shown through Macbeth’s obsession with manslaughter when Macbeth says, “To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings! Rather than so, come fate into the list, and champion me to th' utterance” (Shakespeare 3.1 73-74). Macbeth’s paranoia regarding Banquo’s children surmounting he is at such a great extent that Macbeth is willing to take extreme precautions in order to forestall the prophecy from ending his reign. However, not everything goes in Macbeth’s favor as the plan to murder both Banquo and Fleance is double the toil and trouble as Fleance escapes. This further agitates Macbeth’s anxiety causing him to feel “cabined, cribbed, [and] confined” (Shakespeare 3.4 25) by his own fate. Eventually this leads to Macbeth’s “very firstlings of [his] heart [being] the firstlings of [his] hand” (Shakespeare 4.1 153-154) when Macbeth orders Lennox to not only slaughter Lady Macduff and Macduff’s son, but “all unfortunate souls that trace him in his line” (Shakespeare 4.1 160). As Macbeth’s unstable mindset is consumed by anxiety, Macbeth continues to slaughter any possible threat, including those not directly involved, as he spirals into lunacy. The self-condemnation resulting from Macbeth’s increasingly heinous actions leads to Macbeth’s inevitable
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