September 29, 2022


Macbeth: a Tale of Madness

✧・゚: *✧・゚:* my review of Macbeth’s tragic protagonist *:・゚✧*:・゚✧

I’m going to write about Macbeth’s descent into madness, and the effect of mental instability on other characters in Macbeth. My question is, how did the imagery in the story symbolize how Macbeth and other characters slowly descended into madness over the course of the novel?  There are people who will have a rather simplistic, and incorrect answer for this question, saying; “That’s obvious. Macbeth was just mentally unstable to begin with.” Their argument is limited by its assumption that Macbeth had little to no development as a character from the beginning to the end of the story- especially how he was affected by his violent actions. This statement is provably false due to the tone shift revolving around Macbeth’s character as the story progresses. As the plot of the story develops, Macbeth seems to as well- slowly declining in sanity as aforementioned. When Macbeth is getting ready to murder the king, one of the first signs of Macbeth’s disassociation with reality can be observed. In that scene, Macbeth begins speaking to an illusion of a bloody dagger. In scene in act two, scene one consists of Macbeth exclaiming “Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible? To feeling as to sight? Or art thou but a dagger of the mind, a false creation, Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?” (Shakespeare). An initial glance at this excerpt most likely conveys the message-  that the witches had sent the magical dagger to cheer Macbeth on from afar; however, within the context of Macbeth’s character, that might not be exactly so. In regards to the mental state of Macbeth, as well as the outcome of this situation- this example of his behavior seems to highlight the first delusion that Macbeth commonly experiences later on. Later on in the story, Macbeth inevitably kills King Duncan, as well as his former good friend, Banquo for suspecting him of treason. After Macbeth sends his assassins after Banquo and his son in order to disrupt the witch’s prophecy- Macbeth holds a dinner party to avoid public suspicion. Soon after all of Macbeth’s guests arrive, the “murderers” return with news of their ambush. Since the murderers attack Banquo and his son in an isolated area in the forest, they managed to kill Banquo; but were unable to get to his son, Fleeance (who escaped). Hearing this, and knowing that the witch’s prophecy stated that he would be overthrown by Fleeance, Macbeth remained in shock and in anger as he tried to deal with the situation. Even Though Macbeth was probably paranoid and terrified beyond belief, he had to keep himself together in order to look stable in front of all of his esteemed guests. Despite his best efforts, Macbeth ends up being enveloped in his own delusions once more. In this scene Macbeth “sees” the ghost of Banquo, and states; “For the blood-boltered Banquo smiles upon me” (Shakespeare). This statement from Macbeth shows that he becomes so paranoid and fearful of the world around him that he loses touch with reality, and spirals into mental instability- truly experiencing all of his delusions. All in all, Macbeth’s descent into madness can be represented by all of the disturbing imagery that Macbeth is reflecting upon due to all of his regretful and violent actions coming back to haunt him.

A Figment of His Imagination

I picked Act 2, Scene 1, Lines 44-66 & 75-77 from Macbeth because it shows off Macbeth’s hysteria. The scene is at the end of the play, the cause of his death. It shows how he so badly didn’t want to blame himself for the murders he committed, so he instead blames his actions on fate. He acts as if he has gotten it all figured out, as if he had cracked the code, had been given a sign that murder was his destiny. But in reality he was experiencing delusions for all the wrong reasons, guilt.

At first Banquo is talking to his son Fleance about the night. He is feeling pretty on edge because of the result Macbeth had when the weird sisters prophecy came true. He is scared of the Witches, and he makes that pretty clear with the way he is handling Fleance in this scene. Macbeth, Banquo’s best friend, but also new King, enters with a Servant and torch. This approach from the dark startles Banquo because he thinks Macbeth could be the Witches. Macbeth and Banquo converse, mostly about Macbeth’s King status. It is nighttime. Macbeth has just became king, later on he will send murderers to kill Banquo. Macbeth no longer has people around him to distract him from his intrusive thoughts. Macbeth starts to hallucinate a dagger. Currently the conflict is Macbeth’s Hallucination of a dagger. At first he is confused, but then he starts to convince himself that he is envisioning the dagger for a reason, because it is a sign of fate, a sign that he is going on the right path. A path he must continue to follow, the path of a murderer. But he is probably just trying to reassure himself he didn’t commit an ungodly, sinful thing. 

Macbeth is a dynamic character. At first, Macbeth is a loyal nobleman. He turns into a killer. the Witches and Lady Macbeth give him a big head. They pressure him to kill Duncan until he succumbs and changes forever. Then he becomes a manic killer who constantly is fighting his morality. He depends on the witches and his wife or his world would fall apart. They are the only things that gave his new life and mentality meaning. They reassure him that he is doing the right thing. His thinks that running over everyone is meant to be. The words “proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain” reveal that he knows he is damaged by what he did, he knows that he is not ok with himself. Macbeth would be staring at one spot on the ground, he would swipe and paw at the dagger, yet it would not meet his clutch. (he realizes that the dagger is a figment of his imagination)To start his soliloquy he would look up and rise from his knees. (This is the start of his realization) He takes out his dagger and grins, then he looks back at the hallucinated dagger and continues his soliloquy. Then he walks off the stage proudly.(he has reassured himself he is on the right path, and that the dagger was a sign)

The Poetic elements of the soliloquy is the comparison of real life to hallucinations. The theme is really just what the dagger means, why did Macbeth hallucinate the dagger, does it have a correlation to Macbeth’s life. Macbeth makes that connection himself at the end of the soliloquy. Phrases like “to feeling as to sight” and “I have thee not yet I see thee still” show off Shakespeare’s ways of implementing poetry into Macbeth.

At first, Macbeth’s tone is Confused.  This tone is created by the worry and shrill of his voice as it gets faster because he is so overwhelmed. It changes to entranced, though, in the next line, where his eyes widen and his voice becomes slow and somewhat quiet, he starts to breath heavier. Tonal shifts continue to happen. In the next stanza he becomes confused again, his eyebrows furrow and concern starts to creep into his voice, but this time his voice isn’t particularly loud or soft it is at a fixed level of volume.  In the next line Macbeth is in disbelief, he doubts his vision, his voice is shrill and frustrated, his eyebrows are kept raised throughout this line. In the next line Macbeth is focused, his voice now can barely be heard he is contemplating endlessly. His face is bleak. In the next stanza he again, in awe of this dagger, he shakes himself out of his state of focus and begins to paw at the dagger, his mouth is wide open. In the next line Macbeth accepts that his brain isn’t doing great and he realizes that may be the reason why he is envisioning the dagger. His face is now bleak, maybe a bit sorrowful even, his voice is dull, his brows eventually start to furrow once he realizes that his brain hadn’t reacted well to the murder. In the next line Macbeth convinces himself that he was going good. He shakes his head, dismissing his previous thoughts and he speaks confidently, loud and proud, in fact he smiles. In the next line he is even more confident, he speaks loudly, grins smugly, he’s Macbeth, he has a purpose and has been given a sign from god. In the last line is satisfied that he came to that conclusion. He smiles his words are loud and clear, he doesn’t have to worry about his “heat oppressed brain”. What nonsense! he decides.

Macbeth Soliloquy Analysis

I picked lines 44 through 55 of Act 2 Scene 1 because I thought the flow of  Macbeth’s speech would be easier to remember. There seems to be a pattern in the soliloquy with the choice of words, which would help me memorize where each line goes. I also picked this scene because of the way that Macbeth’s sanity was shown, and how his mood changes.

In this monologue, Macbeth is in his castle during the night when everyone else is asleep, speaking of his thoughts of killing Duncan before he does the deed of the actual murder. He’s seeing a dagger in front of him, when it isn’t actually there. The fact that he is hallucinating right before he murders his king, shows how nervous and how mentally unstable he is at this point.

Macbeth is a dynamic character because he goes through a lot of character development. In the beginning of the book, Lady Macbeth tries persuading him to kill the king while he does not want to and thinks it’s a crazy idea. In this monologue, he is so out of it that he literally imagines a dagger in front of him, right before he pulls his actual dagger out to go and actually murder Duncan. Macbeth says, “Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?” In this quote, he is admitting that he is ill, mentally.

I would stage this scene in an area where no one else would be in the middle of the night, because Macbeth is talking to himself and reflecting on how he’s feeling. I might choose to stage him in the bathroom where he is looking at himself in the mirror, possibly washing his face to wake him up a bit before he leaves to kill the king.

One theme that this monologue illuminates is self doubt. Macbeth is doubting his own sanity because he’s hallucinating and questioning himself. Shakespeare uses elements of poetry to get this theme across by using phrases such as “heat-oppressed brain”, “fatal vision”, “false creation” and using rhythm in the soliloquy. It makes the speech seem more intense and meaningful to Macbeth’s state of mind.