Macbeth: Guilt Consumes People

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 11th grade February 2008

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William Shakespeare wrote the play Macbeth. One, of many the themes in this play was evil. A consequence of evil is guilt. The consequence of guilt can be seen after every evil action takes place in the play. Shakespeare uses many poetic techniques to communicate the theme of guilt consumes people. Shakespeare uses several methods to emphasize this theme including imagery, metaphors and rhymes.

One method Shakespeare uses is imagery to emphasize the theme of guilt consumes people. Right after Macbeth kills Duncan (the king of Scotland) he says, "Methought I heard a voice cry 'sleep no more, Macbeth shall sleep no more!'"(26). Cleary Macbeth is distraught. His guilt is interfering with his sense of hearing. The fact that he has killed someone is causing him to hallucinate. Another quote that uses imagery is used in the banquet scene. Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost in his chair. He says, "Thou canst not say I did it.

Never shake thy glory locks at me"(49). Macbeth quivering with fear can be seen through this quote. Even though the ghost isn't real, Macbeth is being tortured so much by the thought of Banquo that his guilt is taking over his mind. A final example of imagery can be seen through this next quote. All of the murders have really taken a toll on Lady Macbeth. In Act V she is sleepwalking and revealing secrets about the murders. In this quote she says, "Yet who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him?"(78). She is talking about Duncan's murder. The quote makes the reader relive Duncan's murder. Shakespeare does this to make the reader understand how terrible and bloody the murder was by talking about how much blood there was. Lady Macbeth fells so guilty that she is thinking about the murders while she sleeps.

The theme of guilt consumes people can be also be seen in this play through the use of metaphors. After Macbeth kills the king he says this quote: "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood clean from my hand"(27). Macbeth means he wishes that he had never killed the king. Another metaphor used in this play, is used after Lady Macbeth died. Macbeth seemed to not care about his wife's suicide at all. He was more concerned about the timing of it. His 'couldn't care less about life' attitude can be seen in the next three quotes "Out, out brief candle"(86). He is talking about Lady Macbeth's life. "Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player…"(86). He means life doesn't mean anything. "It [life] is a tale told by an idiot…"(86). He means no one cares about anyone's own life except for the person whose life it is. Macbeth also means that a person's life is told by that person. By those three quotes it seems like Macbeth is trying to ease his guilt by putting Lady Macbeth down. He knows that Lady Macbeth killed herself because she didn't want to live with the guilt and he is trying to make it seem like life is unimportant and death is inevitably.

Rhyme is the final poetic technique that is used to emphasize the theme of guilt consumes people. Lady Macbeth is so consumed by her guilt that she has started to sleepwalk. During one of these 'walks' Lady Macbeth says, "The thane of Fife had a Wife. Where is she now?"(71). She is talking about the murder of Lady Macduff and her children. The quote shows that guilt can take over a person and cause them to do abnormal things. Another rhyme is used when Macbeth is plotting against the king. He said, "Stars, hide your fires! Let not light see my black and deep desires."(13). He says this because he doesn't want anyone to know that he is angry and plotting against the king. The quote shows that he isn't scared or nervous, but he is being cautious.

It is obvious that the poetic techniques, imagery, metaphors, and rhyme, that are used in this play help the reader understand how guilt consumes people. It takes over people's lives, they hallucinate, sleepwalk and become paranoid as a result of it. Guilt is like an invisible brick tied onto a track star's leg. The invisible brick can only be felt by the track star. The spectators may not know why the track star is running slow, but the effects of the invisible brick can be seen by all. Guilt is like the brick. The guilt can only be felt by the person who is guilty. Everyone else only sees the effect the guilt is having on the person.