Macbeth Essay, Research Paper
THE INSANITY OF MACBETH:
In Shakespeare s Macbeth there are many actions done by the main character that are largely unexplainable, unless you use this reasoning;
The character of Macbeth suffered from the symptoms of
the mental illness paranoid schizophrenia.
this is believed by me to be true due to the fact that he indeed suffered from all five symptoms required in the diagnosis of the disease, and shows this throughout different times in the play.
The five basic symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia are:
dillusions, hullucinations, incoherence and catatonic behavior and a the appearance of the flat effect.
The first shown of the five basic indications was catatonic behavior. but before I discuss that event I’d like to add that although if this were an actual case the man would have obviously suffered many of these symptoms long before the first instance is shown in the play. Since it is just a play, the story begins with no history to support it. Therefore the first case will only be another random occurance in what is assumed to be one of many consecutive symptoms gone on throughout Macbeth s life. With this in mind I will describe Macbeth’s first shown symptom.
Catatonic behavior is lightly defined as motor activity unrelated to stimulus or less reactivity to the surrounding enviroment.
this token is modestly (and I use this term to describe the apparancy of the symptom and not the brutality of the action) apparent during act one/scene 2.
Macbeth was the thane of Glamis and a general in the king’s army. Engaged in battle of civil rebellion , his soldiers are coming to the end of the long faught battle, described by Shakespeare as
” As two spent swimmers that do cling together and choke their art.
and realizing how tired and physically drained his soldiers were by that time, he raged into the battle aggressively slaying the enemy without pregedous until he reached the leader of the rebellion, and instead of shaking his hand, as is customary, he decapitates the officer and places his head upon his sword. In this he showed great aggressive and impulsive almost unnecessary behavior in a situation where these tokens to madness , could be mistaken for bravery and spontaneous initiative in a time of need.
Now, my reasoning in mentioning this is not so much to show the brutality of the massacre, but for the endless praise he got for his bravery and little if any acknowledgement of the severity of his actions. This is because this kind of thing was an expected and respected quality for a man in his situation.
His mental illness could therefore have been easily hidden behind the illusion of necessary action for many years.
But in reality, the necessity in his killing lay only in his uncontrollable need to kill, which was satisfied and easily justified to the world and
almost most importantly, to himself, through his line of work.
After this massacre Macbeth and Banquo come across three witches. they prophesize that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor, and then king. They then foresee that Banquo will have a line of kings in his family.
When Macbeth and Banquo then return to there home , Macbeth is thanked by the king Duncan and given title as new thane of Cawdor, after finding out the Cawdor had been a traitor. Macbeth humbly accepts and agrees to have Duncan as his guest for the night.
I would now like to mention that I am not by any means giving a plot summary of this play, I am simply giving a summary of the events leading up to the individual sited incidents of his showcasing of the mentioned symptoms.
So to continue, Lady Macbeth receives a letter from Macbeth about his prophesy and she displays concern on her husbands ambition and ability to fulfill the prophesy. she then decides to take it upon herself to give Macbeth’s ambition the needed push.
In the next scene, Duncan has arrived at their castle. Macbeth convinces himself to go through with the act as soon as possible, but before the scene is over he relays his hesitation saying
“I don’t want to hurt somebody who’s done me so well”.
at this point there is an influence a conscience he has never had to deal with before, this is where his madness reaches a wall, and the breaking point in this wall is his wife.
It is obvious from his letter to her that he greatly loves and admires her, saying they are
“partners in greatness”.
So it is obvious how he reacts to her disappointment to his new found regrets.
You can also imagine his reaction as she reveals her anger. She says that she will not be able to love him if he does not go through with this. She says that he has made a promise and must keep it at all costs. This seems to break the wall and after a few reassurances, Macbeth is ready to do his deed.
When night comes and the king is in bed, Macbeth imagines a dagger before him, showing him the way, encouraging him to do it. this is followed by dreams of the witches and the sound of a wolf howling to cue his resolve as he decides to kill the king. These visions and dreams are ways of his sub-conscious relaying a need to kill which his conscious mind would not be able to handle admitting to at this point.
These hullicinations are more than just another symptom, they are the first building block in his destination of the clearing his conscience.
Next, the guards are drugged and Macbeth proceeds to kill the king. he goes back to his wife very shakin up, going on about hearing someone say he killed sleep, sleep representing peace reserved for those with a clear conscience.
After the king son’s flee, from fear of being the next, Macbeth is named king.
skipping ahead to act three, scene one, Macbeth expresses concern for his security as king, delivering a sililoquy about how it means nothing to be king unless he is secure in being so. These worries come from Banquo and his prophecy of a line of kings in his family. He also realizes that Banquo is suspicious of him.
Macbeth is becoming very paranoid, and is quickly losing his composure. his paranoia is now standing in the way of him enjoying his reign as king. his sickness is taking over now, it is almost completely free to roam and cause
damage as it pleases without the worry of his conscience intervening. Next to go will be his rational mind and it will be the last before complete insanity is set free.
He now invites Banquo to a banquet that night, and learns that him and his son are riding that afternoon but can be back in time for the banquet. At this Macbeth summones three murderers, which he’d talked to of the situation on three other occasions. The murders find and kill Banquo, in the woods, but are unable to kill Fleance before he escapes. Macbeth , once told of this is delighted, and only moderately upset at Fleance’s escape. He feels Fleance is useless, for the time being, and cannot threaten his reign at this point.
His composure seems stable now, up until he walks into his banquet. he notices the ghost of Banquo sitting at the head of the table, the ghost then nods to him to signify that it knows of what he’s done. he freaks out in front of everyone at the sight of this.
it is obviously another hullucination. the last threads of his, thought to gone, conscience are now tormenting him for the last time and trying to come back to life. But this is thwarted and his conscience is destroyed as his wife convinces him it never happened. She explains an excuse for the situation and Macbeth calms down and settles into dinner.
In act five, scene 1, the witches meet again and await Macbeth’s arrival, for he has decided to consult them again. It is important to note how desperate he must feel at this point to consult the powers of evil. When he arrives, the witches show him three visions to answer his questions.
The first vision is a bloody head, warning him of Macduff. The second is a bloody child, reassuring Macbeth that he will not be killed by woman born. The third is a crowned child behind a tree, it tells Macbeth he will not lose his reign until Birnham woods advances towards the castle.
At this Macbeth feels he should indeed not fear Macduff, but should kill him just to be sure. But at the same time, Macduff has gone to join an army to help bring down Macbeth and end his tyrant reign.
When Macduff is away, Macbeth has his family murdered, without any probable reason.
This shows clearly that his conscience and reasonable mind have gone from him completely, and his mind has completely subdued to insanity. Macduff hears of his families massacre and vows revenge on Macbeth.
I would now like to note that at this point, Lady macbeth is in a horrible condition. She dreams and talks in her sleep of the murder of king Duncan.
This is the result of such a murder on an ordinary mind. Her mind was never pre-conditioned and accustomed
to death the way Macbeth’s was, her mind can’t handle it and instead of gradually losing her conscience and slipping into insanity she is being haunted by the conscience she wasn’t able to get rid of. she eventually kills herself to end the torment.
In act five, scene three, Macbeth learns of British forces advancing towards his castle but remains confident in the witches prophesies.
he puts on his armor and prepares for battle, trying to convince himself he’s confident of his security. His confidence is greatly shaken when he hears a messenger say that Birnham woods seems to be moving towards the castle, when it’s actually the British forces using tree branches as camouflage.
Macbeth realizes he must fight after contemplating suicide. he decides it would be better to at least take out a few men before he dies. He faces battle and is confronted by Macduff, he is killed by Macduff after he tells him he was not of woman born.
the play ends as the throne is restored to Malcom, its true heir.
so in closing I’d like to say that schizophrenia is broadly apparent in the mind of Macbeth. He suffered from this condition, probably for most of his adult years until it expanded all out due to the timing of that specific Enviroment and situation. The qualities that drove his ambition, also fueled his demise.