In the play Macbeth by Shakespeare, Shakespeare shows how guilt from one’s actions can consume and destroy humans through the changes in the character of Lady Macbeth throughout the play. Lady Macbeth, who changes throughout the play as the result of guilt, starts of the play encouraging Macbeth to eliminate his conscience. As the play progresses she ends up fully consumed in her own guilt. At the beginning of the play, when trying to convince Macbeth to kill Duncan, she degrades him by referring to him as female and taking away his manliness. She says
When you durst do it, then you were a man; And to be more than what you were, you would Be so much more the man…I have given suck, and know How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me. I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you Have done to this.” (act 1 sc 7)
In this quotation, Lady Macbeth is shown as a cunning and intelligent figure as she manipulates Macbeth’s ego and self image by questioning his manliness by putting off the murder of Duncan. When she says, “When you durst do it, then you were a man; And to be more than what you were, you would Be so much more the man” Shakespeare uses the theme of gender roles and the motif of value of the idea of being a man and manliness to show Lady Macbeth’s desire for Macbeth to commit the murder. Diction and imagery is used when she says ”while it was smiling in my face, Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you Have done to this.” she uses the diction and imagery to demonstrate to Macbeth how aggressive and ruthless he must be in order to gain what he wants. By comparing him backing out of his promise to her harming a newborn, she shows herself as an aggressive, ruthless, manipulator as well as her pushing Macbeth to do the murder. After convincing Macbeth to complete the first murder, he becomes more independent and ruthless as he becomes obsessed with the idea of killing anyone in the way of the crown. After realizing the bloodthirsty monster that she has created, she becomes consumed by her guilt to the extent where she is close to losing her mind. In act 5 scene 1, Lady Macbeth hallucinates spots of blood on her hand. She says, “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!—One, two. Why, then, ’tis time to do ’t. Hell is murky!—Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?—Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him.” in this quotation Shakespeare uses diction to show Lady Macbeths distress during this hallucination. She pauses a total of three times. This shows her fear, panick, and distress in this moment as she pauses to stop and process how her actions have lead to the guilt that will stay with her forever. When she says “Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him.”, she is referring to Duncan and referencing the effect that his blood, killing him, has had on her and Macbeth’s emotional and physical states. She is also mentions the motif of blood which throughout the play to symbolize guilts so by mentioning it, she is expressing that no one knew how emotionally damaging and how much guilt she would experience after killing Duncan.
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