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Guilt in Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Guilt in Macbeth

There is a large burden of guilt carried by Lady Macbeth and Macbeth in Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth. Let’s look at this situation closely in the following essay.

Fanny Kemble in “Lady Macbeth” asserts that Lady Macbeth was unconscious of her guilt, which nevertheless killed her:

Lady Macbeth, even in her sleep, has no qualms of conscience; her remorse takes none of the tenderer forms akin to repentance, nor the weaker ones allied to fear, from the pursuit of which the tortured soul, seeking where to hide itself, not seldom escapes into the boundless wilderness of madness.

A very able article, published some years ago in the National Review, on the character of Lady Macbeth, insists much upon an opinion that she died of remorse, as some palliation of her crimes, and mitigation of our detestation of them. That she died of wickedness would be, I think, a juster verdict. Remorse is consciousness of guilt . . . and that I think Lady Macbeth never had; though the unrecognized pressure of her great guilt killed her. (116-17)

In “Memoranda: Remarks on the Character of Lady Macbeth,” Sarah Siddons mentions the guilt and ambition of Lady Macbeth and their effect:

[Re “I have given suck” (1.7.54ff.)] Even here, horrific as she is, she shews herself made by ambition, but not by nature, a perfectly savage creature. The very use of such a tender allusion in the midst of her dreadful language, persuades one unequivocally that she has really felt the maternal yearnings of a mother towards her babe, and that she considered this action the most enormous that ever required the strength of human nerves for its perpetration. Her language to Macbeth is the most potently eloquent that guilt could use. (56)

Clark and Wright in their Introduction to The Complete Works of William Shakespeare explain how guilt impacts Lady Macbeth:

Lady Macbeth is of a finer and more delicate nature. Having fixed her eye upon the end – the attainment for her husband of Duncan’s crown – she accepts the inevitable means; she nerves herself for the terrible night’s work by artificial stimulants; yet she cannot strike the sleeping king who resembles her father. Having sustained her weaker husband, her own strength gives way; and in sleep, when her will cannot control her thoughts, she is piteously afflicted by the memory of one stain of blood upon her little hand.

The Role Of Lady Macbeth

In society today, women are generally viewed as figures that control men and make decisions for them. Women tend to take control of the men’s actions and do what is best for him. Even though women might not realize it, the decisions they make for men might lead them to harmful consequences. Women are controlling figures who cause men to let go of their own morality which then leads to their own demise.
In the play Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, Lady Macbeth was a power hungry woman who would do anything to achieve control. “…Nature is more powerful than nurture, and a person’s capabilities are strictly limited and largely determined by his endowment at birth” (The Scientific Monthly 221). Lady Macbeth was born to be a powerful and controlling woman. She took on many masculine characteristics, because she was craving power. If it weren’t for her manipulating Macbeth to commit the murder of King Duncan, she would’ve done it herself. Macbeth even thought that she was a man’s soul in a woman’s body. “…Come, you spirits/ That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here/ And fill me from the …

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