Honors 10 English
1 March 2018
Beneath ambition characteristics are demolished
Without all the words about guilt and conscience, the famous play Macbeth would be one
long killing spree; with Shakespeare’s famous lines about the theme of guilt, the noble Macbeth and ruthless Lady Macbeth become fascinating and flawed human beings in a tale of ambition, murder, love and death. The returning hero Macbeth and his strong wife, Lady Macbeth, depend on each other to unite their desires and to gain the crown. Macbeth has a vaulting ambition, combined with a guilty conscience that tortures him throughout the play. Lady Macbeth uses her fierce strength to incite Macbeth to act, and she feels no remorse about doing so. Weak Macbeth needs powerful Lady Macbeth to drown out the voice of his conscience, so their actions match their desire for him to be king.
Once Macbeth hears the witches’ prophecies, he is confident that he will become king, without working for it. When he discovers it isn’t as easy as he thinks, he considers if he truly needs to become king because he doesn’t want anyone to realize his feelings, that will soon turn into murdering King Duncan. Macbeth only wishes it were a dream, so he wouldn’t have to painfully experience it, but Macbeth knows that when he opens his eyes, he will eventually have to see his immoral deed.
Stars hide your fires;
Let not light see my black and deep desires.
The eye wink at the hand, yet let that be
Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see. (1.4 57-60)
His conscience is still strong, and he is shocked that he is contemplating killing his good friend. The guilt and tortures of Macbeth's conscience start even before Duncan is murdered; knowing he is planning the murder makes Macbeth hesitant he can go through with it, but Lady Macbeth tells him to be confident in his thoughts and brave in following it out into steps to take the crown. She contrasts with her husband in the way of having no principles at all to stand for. Duncan’s murder is the start of Macbeth’s wild ambition needing to kill and his conscience losing himself. Macbeth feels embarrassed that he feels pressured to kill others for a selfish gain of wanting to become king. His conscience is stepping in and is reminding him of what type of man he is and questions if he truly needs and wants the crown. “What hands are here? Ha! They pluck out mine eyes.” (2.2.77), he can’t bear to glance at his hands, he is so horrified by what he sees.
Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red. (2.2. 78-81)
Lady Macbeth orders him to go wash his hands, and it is she who takes the bloody daggers away to smear the blood on two guards, hoping she won’t be suspected of the crime. Lady Macbeth
doesn’t ridicule him, but she is always wondering why he self-doubts himself, but she continues to take advantage of not having any conscience to influence Macbeth to carry out the wicked deeds. The enormity of Macbeth’s crime has roused in him a powerful sense of guilt that will haunt him throughout the entire play, and eventually destroy him. Lady Macbeth is disparaging Macbeth, telling him her hands are red and bloody, like his, but that she is embarrassed
to have a heart as white and cowardly as his. “My hands are of your color; but I shame to wear a heart so white.” (2.3 13) Lady Macbeth is proud to join him in his crime of murdering Duncan. She wants Macbeth to believe that they are equal partners in this deed. She manipulates him to murder, but she doesn’t feel guilt-ridden after all she’s done, while Macbeth is the
opposite, feeling complete remorse. Macbeth’s own principles hold him back from becoming king, and it will take Lady Macbeth’s lack of standards and her humiliating and exploiting to turn Macbeth into a murderer. Macbeth's fear that he has lost his integrity and what had once made him a brave and intelligent man has already pushed the limit of turning back, he can’t return to the man he used to be. “I am in blood/Stepp'd in so far, that, should I wade no more, /Returning were as tedious as go o'er.” (3.5 136-138) Macbeth has changed under the influence of the evil Lady Macbeth from a brave and noble man into a murderer who is power hungry. He cannot fathom that he has actually committed murder after murder to become king, when he once was content to just be Thane of Cawdor and Glamis. Macbeth craves to go back in time when his conscience would have kept him from committing murders, but it would be harder to turn back now,he has to stand up for what he has done, despite how it turns out.
Macbeth needs Lady Macbeth’s strength to make him deaf, so he won’t have to listen to his conscience and to inform him that he can become king, only if he will follow his wishes. Lady Macbeth never has a conscience to stop her from scheming with Macbeth, even if it means humiliating him to force him to continue. She is strong, cruel and manipulitive woman that has nothing stand in her way. By the end of the play, though, she suffers from nightmares and her subconscious is driving her insane. The ruthless, domineering Lady Macbeth has vanished, all that is left is a pathetic and troubled sleepwalker who has terrifying dreams that torture her, she is effected by Macbeth believing that blood can literally wash away from one’s hand, but it will never morally vanish. “Out, damned spot! out, I say” (5.1. 35). The red stains she thinks she sees on her hands is just her imagining all the bloody murders she and Macbeth have plotted and carried out.
Macbeth needs Lady Macbeth’s coercion to make him hard-of-hearing to his conscience and to remind him that he can become king, if he will act on his desires. Once started, the two of them, King and Queen, cannot be stopped. Lady Macbeth tells him “what’s done is done” (3.2. 12), ignore it and move on. Macbeth’s own morals hold back his ambition to be king, and it took Lady Macbeth’s lack of morals and her shaming and manipulation to turn Macbeth into a murderer. In Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are demolished by their vaulting ambitions, that they are brave to act upon, but won’t take the circumstances following their horrendous acts.