Macbeth: How Guilt Can Change Everything

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As humans, we feel guilt. It is a part of our daily life. Whether it’s something as small as forgetting to say thank you to someone or something as large as being found guilty in a court of law. In the play, Macbeth by William Shakespeare, the author uses the motif of blood to represent how a guilty conscience can lead to disastrous things.

When Macbeth has slain the traitor, Macdonwald, he is praised and given the title Thane of Cawdor. Lady Macbeth coerces Macbeth to kill King Duncan so he can officially be king. Macbeth does so but feels as if he made a mistake. One may take notice of his monologue in act II scene I, the quote: “I see thee still/ And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood…” (Shakespeare 298). This quote explains how Macbeth feels guilty for killing King Duncan because he is hallucinating and thinks he still has the dagger he used to kill the king. Shakespeare shows that even though Macbeth feels guilty, he is still going to go kill King Duncan. One may take notice that a guilty conscience can still lead someone to do things you are pressured to do.

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In act II scene II, Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth to frame the guards to make it seem as if they killed King Duncan. She says, “That fears a painted devil. If he does bleed/ I’ll gild the faces of the grooms withal/For it must seem their guilt.” Shakespeare has Lady Macbeth says this to show the similarities between blood and guilt. She says she will paint the servants with blood so they seem guilty. Lady Macbeth is showing that she is going to make sure there are no holes in her plan so Macbeth can become king.

When Lady Macbeth exits the room, Macbeth speaks and says, “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood/ Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather/ The multitudinous seas in incarnadine, /Making the green one red.” (Shakespeare 299). Macbeth, feeling at fault, is saying that all the water in the world could not wash away his guilty conscience. One may have felt as Macbeth has in this particular moment where nothing could wash away the lack of innocence from a malicious deed.

In Act V scene I, Lady Macbeth is sleep talking. As she is sleep talking, she practically confesses the murder of King Duncan to the Gentlewoman and the Doctor. “What need we fear who knows it when none can call our power to account?—Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him.” (Shakespeare 350). Lady Macbeth’s sleep talking shows how the murder of King Duncan has impacted her. Humans may have tendencies to sleep talk if they feel nervous or have something heavy weighing on them. Shakespeare shows through this scene that guilt can lead to bad things. In this case, Lady Macbeth’s suicide.

In the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare, the author uses blood to show disastrous things can be caused by a guilty conscience. In the play, we see many examples of how blood is a motif for guilt. Shakespeare makes this known through Macbeth as we see his life unfold after the murder of King Duncan. Sometimes, throughout everyone’s life, one may experience guilt. Whether it is something as small as lying or something as big as being caught cheating on a test in front of the whole class; these scenarios show that anyone can have a rapport with the conscience-stricken emotion Macbeth feels all through the play


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