How Does Shakespeare Portray Macbeth’s Guilt

Published: 2021-09-03 16:40:17
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In act 2 scene 2, straight after the traitorous and evil deed is carried out, Macbeth is instantly filled with the feelings of guilt and regret. “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? ” This shows the sickly and horrible feelings of remorse have immediately entered his mind and despite Macbeth being a strong, noble and brave soldier in battle, he cannot withstand the distress and misery that this treason has brought on his poisoned conscience. This quote shows Macbeth talking about Duncan’s blood on his hands, Duncan’s blood is the symbol of guilt; it foreshadows the later events in the play.
Shakespeare uses this metaphor to show the enormous scale of Macbeths treachery as it says that even with Neptune’s ocean, his hands wouldn’t be clean, and will stay with him forever. The feeling of inner regret and guilt that Macbeth experiences reveals that he isn’t entirely the antagonist but despite this, he has still murdered such a precious and fair man and therefore the audience will be despising him and would await for Macbeths downfall and punishment later in the play, engaging them fully.
In act 2 scene 2 after Duncan’s murder, the audience are able to understand the diversity of feelings between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and the extent that the two characters feel the guilt of the crime. ‘A little water clears us of this deed’ This quote shows that Lady Macbeth does not recognise the implications of what they have done and is unaware of the severity of the crime.
Shakespeare uses dramatic irony in this quote as Lady Macbeth first thinks that such a terrible and blasphemous crime can be cleared from the conscience by just a few drops of water and she herself does not seem to be at all worried or frightened at the thought of what she has done. However later on in the play, the infective and overwhelming feeling of guilt does wriggle into her mind and damages it to such an extent that she commits suicide.
Macbeth on the other hand is immediately guilt ridden and terrified at the thought of what they have done and feels immensely traitorous as he has just murdered the man who has awarded him for his great efforts on the battlefield. He is filled with so much regret of what he has done to the extent where ‘Macbeth shall sleep no more’ as the everlasting feeling of guilt will keep Macbeth up, not letting him sleep. This is also very ironic that he has killed Duncan, letting him rest in peace, while Macbeth himself shall be sleepless and living with his guilt.

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