Madness And Madness In Macbeth

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Macbeth and Madness

Imagine the President of the United States admitting to having mental instability. This scenario may rattle some, but it plays out in William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth. The play’s title character uses violence to maintain power but gradually plummets into mental illness. In Macbeth, Shakespeare asserts that power drives the title character and his wife, Lady Macbeth, to insanity, particularly after conspiring to murder his cousin Duncan, the King of Scotland, in order to attain authority. Before the murder, Macbeth foreshadows the possible repercussions; afterward, he experiences an immediate sense of remorse. The subsequent murder of a friend displays his progressive unsteadiness, but the massacre of an entire family
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In the third act, during a festival honoring the deceased Banquo, the ghost of Macbeth’s victim apparently taunts him, and the now-king dares the ghost to speak─much to the dismay of the guests (3.4.82-129). Similar to his encounter with the dagger, Macbeth probably experiences hallucinations, which can sometimes serve as flashbacks of traumatic events and terrify those who (according to people around them) are “seeing things.” Furthermore, in stage and film productions of Macbeth, the ghost is either nonexistent or portrayed by an actor. No one at the festival except Macbeth actually sees Banquo’s ghost; audiences determine whether Macbeth even sees it. Either way, his hallucinations certainly signal his remorse over both Duncan and Banquo’s murders. From the perspective of neuroscientist Nancy J. C. Andreasen, besides his harrowing confession, Macbeth’s hallucinations are another sign of him “still suffering enough from pangs of conscience.” Some may wonder if Macbeth is only talking to himself rather than the ghost since the ghost never answers Macbeth’s questions. This proves that his hallucinations drive him further into insanity and deviance. In fact, they also push him to do the unthinkable in order to maintain his

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