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Macbeth: Reasons For The Development Of Insanity

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Macbeth: Reasons For The Development Of Insanity Insanity, as defined as an inability to act rationally, develops most commonly in individuals as a response to conditions with which the mind is unable to cope. Prolonged or intense, sudden psychological trauma always results in denial or repression in some form or another, both of which cause the individual to gradually lose their grip on reality. In the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare, as the chaos and guilt caused by their immoral actions increases, the prevalent characters deteriorate into insanity. Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, and Macduff slip into delusion and desperate acts as an outlet for their growing disgust with both themselves and the consequences of their actions. The play opens with a description of gruesome war, in the thick of which is Macbeth, alluding to the dangerous internal conflict going on within him- he is at once consumed by ambition, yet completely lacking in the self-confidence to support it. Macbeth"'"s weak character, marked by his inability to make decisions that are not black and white in nature and his susceptibility to persuasion, is clearly displayed in his constant need for reassurance from outside influences and his expression of desire that his actions could have no consequence, '"'If it were done when "'"tis done, then "'"twere well twere done quickly. If th"'"assassination Could trammel up the consequence and catch With his surcease, success, that but this blow Might be the be-all and the end-all - here.'"' ...read more.


action through the hallucination of Banquo"'"s ghost, while at the same time trying desperately to convince himself otherwise, '"'Thou canst not say I did it; never shake thy gory locks at me!'"' (III.iv.50-51) These fits of paranoia are products of Macbeth"'"s feelings of guilt that only compound as Macbeth tries to suppress them, surfacing in hallucinations that threaten to expose him and a violent defence mechanism of murdering anyone that could be perceived as a threat. Macbeth seems to sense that it is only a matter of time before lying himself into an illusion of security fails. As everyone, including his wife, continually abandons him, Macbeth sinks into a mood of nihilism that follows his psychological pattern of denial and justification by allowing him to claim that if life is ultimately without consequence then his crimes are also meaningless, '"'Life"'"s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.'"' (IV.v.23-27) Against all rational logic, Macbeth concludes that he is innocent of any permanently damning acts, but also that life holds no further purpose for him. Like her husband, Lady Macbeth learns that there is such a thing as guilt by association. She is plagued by the knowledge that she herself did not kill Duncan, but is directly responsible for his death. ...read more.


It is Ross and Malcolm that seem to have disproportionate emotion. Malcolm"'"s claims that Macduff should avenge the murder of his family by challenging Macbeth are fraught with hypocrisy, since Malcolm himself flees when his own father is murdered instead of taking his own advice. His urgings to Macduff seem to come from selfish means, (he needs an army with which to defeat Macbeth) instead of any real concern for the grief that Macduff is feeling. Macduff expresses his exasperation at Malcolm"'"s disregard and his feelings of culpability for provoking the tyrannical Macbeth"'"s wraith, '"'But I must also feel it as a man; I cannot but remember such things were That were most precious to me. Did heaven look on, And would not take their part? Sinful Macduff, They were all struck for thee.'"' (IV.iii.224-228) Eventually Macduff does agree to Malcolm"'"s requests as it becomes increasingly apparent that he will not receive the sympathy he seeks from anyone. Indeed Macduff throws himself into the aim with obsessive vigour, having nothing left to live for. Macduff"'"s frantic charge to meet in a fight to the death with his nemesis seems to mirror his Macbeth"'"s own nihilistic mood- however, Macduff"'"s willingness to die originates from despair rather than apathy. In the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare, the main characters stew in guilt upon realization of the aftermath of their actions, driving them to insanity. In that neither Macbeth, nor Lady Macbeth, nor Macduff can escape the mental anguish as consequence of their actions, Shakespeare effectively hits home the idea that one should thoroughly check their conscience before they act. ...read more.

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