Analysis of the Two Main Characters in Macbeth Play

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Macbeth, written by William Shakespeare, is a play that consists of various psychological themes such as manipulation, ambition, and guilt. Throughout this play, we can observe how the mental state of the two main characters, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, deteriorates due to the intense amount of guilt that they go through, which is the result of the violent acts that their ambitions led them to commit.

In the beginning of the play, Macbeth is seen as a brave warrior and is highly praised and admired by King Duncan. He responds humbly to King Duncan’s remarks when we read “The service and the loyalty I owe / In doing it pays itself.”Even though by the way Macbeth is introduced at the beginning of the play, the audience might expect him to be a hero or a good character, moving forward, we start to see his true intentions.According to Arthur Kirsch, “Macbeth is the most self-centered of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes”, and “relentlessly pursues what he thinks of as his own good”. Moving forward, Macbeth expresses his aspiration of becoming king, The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step / On which I must fall down or else o’erleap, / For in my way it lies. 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. 

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Not only does he express his deep desires, but also what he is willing to do in order to bring to fruition his ambitions; even if it means committing an evil act, which is why he prefers his “black” desires to be unknown or kept a secret. Psychiatrist and author James Gilligan conducted an experiment on prisons and prison mental hospitals with the objective of looking into violent behavior in prisoners, what causes them to behave violently, and the consequences. According to Gilligan, when asking prisoners what triggered their violent acts, “references to the desire for respect as the motive for violence kept recurring” . The result of this experiment relates to Macbeth’s case, which is using violence in order to fulfill his own ambition and gain respect from the nation by becoming king.Macbeth’s wife, Lady Macbeth, is just as ambitious. Due to her manipulative nature, she had a great influence on the evil acts that Macbeth perpetrated. Lady Macbeth would do anything in order to get what she desires. She is so consumed by her own ambitions that she asks the “demons of murder” to take away her feminitity in order to have the guts to commit evil acts.

Come, you spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, / And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full / Of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood. / Stop up th’access and passage to remorse, / That no compunctious visitings of nature / Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between / Th’effect and it.In this speech, not only is she asking for her femininity to be taken away, but also general human feelings such as guilt and remorse.

When Lady Macbeth shared her evil plan with Macbeth, at first, he was hesitant. Macbeth felt remorse just by thinking about murdering King Duncan, and not only that, he was also afraid that his reputation would go downhill when we read “I have bought golden opinions from all sorts of people”, which again, shows us how important it is to him to be respected by others.

After Macbeth expresses that murdering King Duncan is not a good idea, Lady Macbeth starts manipulating and insulting him multiple times by questioning his “manliness”, and calling him a “coward”. According to Roland Mushat Frye, “certain non-moral areas might be the province of her advice” . Because of the constant manipulation, Macbeth ends up killing King Duncan. Later on in the play, Macbeth becomes king; but not even becoming king is satisfactory enough to fulfill his ambitions. Feeling intimidated by the witches’ prophecy about Banquo, he demands for him to be killed, along with his son, Fleance.After the atrocious acts that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth committed, guilt starts to consume their minds. We first see this when Macbeth sees Banquo’s ghost sitting down on his chair; he tells the ghost, “Thou canst not say I did it. Never shake/ Thy gory locks at me”. Another example is when Lady Macbeth starts to sleepwalk and hallucinate. She starts to constantly rub her hands as if she’s washing them, because she believes that there’s still blood on her hands from the murders; we see this when she says, “Here’s the smell of blood still. All the perfumes / of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand”.

If I was directing Macbeth, Act 5 Scene 1 would take place in Lady Macbeth’s room and bathroom, to make the scene as accurate as possible. I would have Lady Macbeth hysterically crying while delivering her lines, which would give the audience a sense of her guilt. I would also have the demons that she prayed to laughing and making fun of her; this will show that even though she asked them to take her conscience away, she still has those human inner feelings, and failed at being “tough”. Even though she was hallucinating and the blood wasn’t real, I believe that the “blood” on her hands should be shown in order for the audience to see her point of view. 

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