Summary: Symbols that Compelling Depictions of Mental Illness Through the Character

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In the tragedy-driven play, Macbeth, William Shakespeare epitomizes through character and symbols compelling depictions of mental illness, specifically schizophrenia, through Macbeth. In like manner, the madman authored by Edgar Allan Poe in The Tell Tale Heart displays damning manifestations of schizophrenia; Poe depicts the madman’s early acknowledgements of the vulture eye he must be rid of for no sane reason. Through the use of characters perceived mental state and symbols depicting imaginary sounds and false images, it shows how one who has witnessed and acted in haunting events will in result have a perpetual withdrawal from reality into delusion and will witness false perceptions. The conceived insanity of characters is noxious as it steers one into a permanent schizophrenic state.

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 Beginning with The Tell Tale Heart, the point of view of the story is from the madman who shows no remorse as he conjures up a plan into ridding himself of the old man’s vulture eye. As the madman puts his murderous plan to action, he acknowledges that “it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye”. Throughout the story, the madman is blindly guided into committing a brutal murder with no rational motive, saying that the eye has caused him distress. It is evident that the eye cannot justify his murderous actions, but the schizophrenic state that has left him unknown to judge what is the reality from fantasy, by the same token he fights the urge to constantly remind himself that he is sane and not mad. 

Correspondingly, in Macbeth, a look into Macbeth’s disturbed state is presented after Banquo’s death when Macbeth believes he sees his ghost seated at the table. At the beginning of the scene a banquet is set, in the midst of the banquet, Macbeth imagines Banquo’s ghost in which he speaks to, “Thou canst not say I did it. Never shake/ Thy gory locks at me” . Macbeth is beginning to show a distortion of reality as he is overridden with fear and ambition. Furthermore, by having the title as king he represents the state of the kingdom, Macbeth’s detachment from reality and fantasy shows his character foreshadowing the overall state of the kingdom. 

Both Poe and Shakespeare created characters, Macbeth and the madman, to show their states of schizophrenia as they are depicted as two-faced. An alter ego can be seen in Macbeth when he acts appalled by the murder not knowing who has killed King Duncan. In similar fashion, the madman provides hospitality and a comforting environment to the three policemen and convinces them that nothing has happened in the house. In conclusion, both Macbeth and the madman show a nicer exterior to others, yet on the inside, they have lost touch with what is real and fantasy as they both commit brutal murders and in result have delved into a chronic schizophrenic state. 

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