Insanity in Macbeth
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In William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a few of the characters face insanity. This insanity begins with their desire for power and sovereignty. A man named Macbeth is told of a prophecy that states Macbeth will become king. However, the witches’ prophecy also states Macbeth’s friend, Banquo is the father of the next king. As a result, Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth murder the current king, Duncan, and later on Banquo’s son. Consequently, Macbeth faces insanity from his guilt following the murder of the king. While on the other hand, Lady Macbeth goes mad for the prophecy’s promise, but later on, is also eaten up by the guilt of her crimes. At the same time, the Witches (a.k.a. Weird Sisters), express their insanity when they meddle with the other characters’ lives in blatant, ruthless manners. These characters’ strive for power is what drives them to their insanity.
Macbeth’s ambition for the crown begins when the idea of becoming king intrigues him and leads him to murder King Duncan. As a result, Macbeth is filled with guilt that even “Neptune’s ocean” (II.ii.77) cannot wash away. Although the blood and evidence is gone, Macbeth still sees the blood on his hands; Macbeth still feels like a guilty man despite that no one else can guess of his crimes since the blood is physically gone. Macbeth’s paranoia and shame of other people finding out of his crime, is causing him to see blood is that not there. A short time after, despite the fact that Macbeth is king, he wishes to “safely thus” (III.i.53) be so, for being king means “nothing” (III.i.52) to him if he is not able to remain king. In other words, how far is Macbeth willing to go just for the crown? Consequently, the second part of the witches’ prophecy continues to haunt Macbeth, therefore he kills Banquo’s son, Fleance in order to cease the witches’ prophecy.
In addition, Macbeth fears that Banquo with his “wisdom” and “valour” (III.i.57) will figure out the crimes Macbeth and his wife have committed, and will turn them in, hence ending his kingship. As a result, Banquo is also murdered. Macbeth’s tyranny and madness for the throne is illustrated when he is willing to sacrifice his friendship with Banquo, in order to stay King. Macbeth’s ambition to be king has caused him to lose trust in everybody, including his own best friend; Macbeth now only has himself to trust. Afterwards, due to his guilt, Macbeth sees Banquo’s ghost, a sight that could “appal the devil” (III.iv.73) himself. Macbeth’s use of the “devil” in his speech suggests that what he sees is truly terrifying, as the devil himself would be frightened. Macbeth’s delusion has caused him to be so horrified by something that no one else can even see; this strongly implies that Macbeth was imagining the whole scene, which is a good indignation that Macbeth is losing his mind. Simply, Macbeth’s guilt followed by his crimes to strive for his desires has caused Macbeth his sanity.
On the other hand, while Macbeth is initially hesitant to take action, Lady Macbeth is already scheming Duncan’s murder. Also, Lady Macbeth asks the spirits to make her a queen of “direct cruelty” (I.v.46), “no comp compunctious visitings of nature” (I.v.48), and to be filled in darkness. Lady Macbeth wishes to consist of pure evil and no compassion; she wishes no way out of the “dunnest smoke of hell” (I.v.54). Lady Macbeth is relying on spirits that do not exist to change her inside out, when she could simply change her personality herself. Consequently, Lady Macbeth gets her wish of being filled with the “smoke of hell” (I.v.54). Lady Macbeth is now filled with complete guilt and the dark shame of her crimes, with no way out. Similarly, Lady Macbeth is now in the state that her husband previously was in, as she also cannot remove the guilt from her hands. Though physically, the blood is gone, she can still “smell” (V.i.46) it; meaning the memories of her crimes, and guilt is still fresh and haunting her. Ultimately, the guilt becomes too much for Lady Macbeth and she takes her own life. In short, Lady Macbeth’s wish to become ruthless and compassionless leads a world of darkness and no way out of guilt.
From the very beginning, the Weird sisters blatantly use their magical advantage over other characters in order to feel powerful compared to these characters. An example of this is when the witches avenge against a sailor because his wife simply refuses to give one of the witches a chestnut. The sisters cast a spell to forbid the sailor from sleeping “neither night nor day” (I.iii.20) until he “dwindle, peak, and pine” (I.iii.24) as a punishment for his wife’s rejection of the witches. The witches avenge a sailor who does nothing wrong, all over a chestnut; hence they give such a blatant punishment and guarantee that he will never sleep again until the day he dies. The witches’ hyperbolic punishment shows that their method of penalty is unfair and cruel. In other words, the witches are abusive of their magical advantages and are insanely oblivious to other people’s feelings. Another example of endeavour for power is when the witches trick Macbeth into thinking he cannot be murdered by any man “born of a woman” (IV.i.87). The idea of being immortal causes Macbeth to become careless, and ultimately becomes the reason for his downfall. Meanwhile on the other hand, Macbeth’s downfall is the witches’ success to deceive. In other words, the Weird sisters obtain satisfaction from the suffering of others by their means in order gain the feeling authority over somebody else.
Without a doubt, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, and the Weird sisters’ insanity begin with a simple aspiration. As a result of their actions in order to achieve these goals, the result of these actions and the consequences they must face is what directs them to their madness. For instance, Macbeth goes crazy due to his guilt of murdering his best friend and the king he once adored. Macbeth gives up everything for the throne; his integrity to do the right thing, his best friend, and his sanity; however it is still not enough to maintain his kingship. As well as Lady Macbeth, who becomes a victim of her own desires to become a person of pure evil. Lady Macbeth sees no way out of darkness; she can no longer handle the guilt to the point she wishes to live no longer. The guilt of the horrors her and Macbeth have created push her over the edge. At the same time, lives of those the witches have damaged is what gratifies them; the suffering of others is what they see as their success. In short, these characters have very bizarre desires, which contain even more bizarre ways of fulfilling them. Therefore, the attaining of these desire contain very significant consequences; the exchange for their sanity.