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The Guilt of Lady Macbeth

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1382 words Published: 19th Jul 2021

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Macbeth is a play full of dishonest deeds. Most of these deeds are brought up by power, hunger, and greed. In the end these deeds led to mostly death. In the first act Lady Macbeth persuades Macbeth to kill King Duncan. Macbeth finally gives in and kills Duncan, which at first makes Lady Macbeth happy. Her mood quickly changed though; after a while, her guilt begins to gradually build inside of her. First she thinks about it all the time. Then she has a sleepwalking episode in which she kept trying to wash blood off of her hands. Finally, she ends up killing herself. Lady Macbeth’s guilt is what shows that she’s partly responsible for the murder of Duncan.

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In the beginning Lady Macbeth is a supportive and loving wife, who gets along well with her husband. When Macbeth tells her about the witches’ prophecy of him being king, she is happy for him. She then becomes ruthless in trying to get Macbeth to kill Duncan. Lady Macbeth soon starts persuading him to kill Duncan so that Macbeth can take his place. Leading up to Macbeth murdering Duncan, Macbeth goes back and forth on what he is about to do. Lady Macbeth is not going to let him back out. Her first tactic of persuasion is she starts playing on Macbeth’s insecurities. She does this by calling him a coward because he is afraid to kill Duncan (Eddy 14). Lady Macbeth also tells him that he will become more of a man if he kills Duncan. “When you durst do it, then you were a man; / And to be more than what you were, you would/ Be so much more the man” (I. IV. 49-51). “She has no patience with Macbeth’s fears, seeing them as childish imaginings” (Eddy 14). At this point, Lady Macbeth seems more power hungry than Macbeth because she keeps pushing him to kill Duncan.

Someone might say that Lady Macbeth was the coward because she would not kill Duncan herself, even though she wanted him dead more than anybody. Instead she used an excuse, she said “Had he not resembled my father as he slept, I had done’t” (II, ii, 16-17). She must have been scared to do it herself or just didn’t want to feel the guilt even though she ended up feeling it anyway. A person might ask why she is guilty. They might see the situation as “Macbeth needs to learn how to resist peer pressure”. Yes this is a good point, but Lady Macbeth is guilty for more than just persuading Macbeth to commit the crime of murdering Duncan. First, she is guilty because she made an outright killing machine out of Macbeth. Secondly, Lady Macbeth had to do with some of the actions of the murders such as her framing Duncan’s attendants. “Why did you bring these daggers from the place? They must lie there: go carry them: and smear the sleepy grooms with blood” (II, ii, 66-68). “If he do bleed,/ I’ll gild the faces of the grooms withal,/ For it must seem their guilt” (II. ii. 54-56). She then goes to the attendants’ room smears the blood on them, and leaves the daggers there with them. This would now make her a manipulator and a framer. Lady Macbeth is altogether a dishonest person. Would these actions make her more guilty than Macbeth at this point? Lady Macbeth then talks to her husband about the guilt they might have later on. She says “These deeds must not be thought/ After these ways; so, it will make us mad” (II. ii. 33-34). This shows us that she knows that the guilt will eventually make them go mad.

Many times after the murder, Lady Macbeth tries to conceal both her and Macbeth’s guilt. She does this so that no one would think they had something to do with the murder. She thinks that if no one else knows they are guilty it helps them completely forget about it themselves. She gets angry with Macbeth several times for being occupied with his guilt instead of enjoying his kingship. “You have displaced the mirth, broke the good meeting, with most admired disorder” (III, v, 109-111). She’s angry with him because if he says too much while he’s under his “guilt spell” he will end up getting both of them in trouble. Even if they do not get completely caught, the people might get suspicious of the two of them. If the people get suspicious they might start to accuse them, and it can only go downhill from there. “Come on. Gentle my lord, sleek o’er your rugged looks, Be bright and jovial” (III, ii, 27-29). In this phrase she is trying to get Macbeth to snap out of his guilt spell. She wants him to put his mind on something else like his kingship. Does Lady Macbeth feel that their deeds were done in vain because he’s not enjoying the kingship that he wanted so badly or, is it as simple as she wants him to conceal and hide his guilt like she does? This technique that she has of hiding her guilt does not work very well, in fact, it fails her in the end.

Lady Macbeth’s gradual spiral into insanity starts a little after Duncan’s murder. First, she starts thinking about the murder constantly. Then she has her sleep walking episode. “Out, damned, spot! Out, I say!” (V. i. 36). In her sleepwalking episode she is seeing Duncan’s blood on her hands. Her hallucinations are so deep that she can still smell Duncan’s blood on her hands. This small detail shows how deep Lady Macbeth’s guilt really is. At this point she knows that she cannot bare the guilt a longer. Soon after this sleep walking episode she kills herself. She kills herself because she let all the guilt build up inside of her, and she just could not take it anymore. She should have dealt with her guilt better, or if she could not handle it she should have never committed the crime. “Her way of coping is to deny reality and to rely on her strength of will, but in the end the awful truth forces itself out through her unconscious, and even her will to live fails her” (Eddy 15).

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Lady Macbeth is similar to Judas Iscariot in the Bible. These two are similar because they both commit suicide out of guilt. Lady Macbeth is guilty for persuading Macbeth to kill Duncan and acting as his accomplice. Judas Iscariot on the other hand, was guilty for betraying Jesus and turning him over to the guards. “Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, ‘How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?’ And they gave him thirty pieces of silver. From that time on Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus” (Matthew 26: 14-16 NLV). Judas betrays Jesus and turns him over to the guards for money. “Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.” (Matthew 7:5 NLV). Judas and Lady Macbeth were both involved in evil deeds that led to someone’s death. They both felt very guilty about what they had done. Lady Macbeth’s guilt made her extremely self-conscious because she thought that someone would find out. Eventually she got to the point where she was paranoid, so she killed herself to escape the guilt.

This is a prime example of the horrible things guilt can do to you. Lady Macbeth started off as normal person. Her one mistake of being power hungry led her to a downward spiral into insanity. If she would have been patient instead of trying to kill people to get Macbeth into the king position, she wouldn’t have had the guilt and she wouldn’t have killed herself. The witches told the future which means he would have became king regardless of if he killed Duncan or not. Something else could have happened to Duncan; they didn’t have to kill him. She would have enjoyed being queen a lot more if it had not gotten somebody murdered in order to be it. It would have been a lot better because she would not be paranoid about getting caught and neither would Macbeth. She also would have been a lot more peaceful because her self-conscience would not have gotten to her in the way it did. The story of Macbeth can teach you very good life lessons. The first and biggest one is that greed can bring you down a lot. The second is that it pays to be patient. Last but not least is that guilt is not something you can ignore; you have to deal with it before it gets out of hand. The guilt brought upon Lady Macbeth by these bad deeds did more harm to her than what she thought they would. Therefore, Lady Macbeth’s suicide was brought on by her guilt of being responsible for Duncan’s murder.


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