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Guilt and Conscience in Shakespeare’s Macbeth Essay

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In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the theme of guilt and conscience is one of many explored throughout the play. Macbeth, is a well respected Scottish noble who in the beginning of the play is a man everyone looks up to; however as the play progresses he makes a number of bad decisions. Eventually, as a result of his actions he suffers guilt and this plays heavily upon his character until his personality is completely destroyed. Shakespeare uses a range of techniques in order to develop this theme such as, characters, imagery.

Shakespeare uses the title character of Macbeth to effectively develop the theme of guilt and conscience in his play. Several times in the play we see Macbeth’s character crumbling as a result of a guilty conscience. At
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Macbeth’s conscience is further tormented after he kills Duncan. He begins to get paranoid and hallucinates, hearing voices saying, “Sleep, Sleep no more! For Macbeth has murdered sleep”.
As well as seeing the ghost of his murdered friend Banquo at the diner table, he also develops insomnia, and goes so far on as to suggest that he is jealous of Duncan because he can sleep forever whereas he cannot sleep at all. He also loses his appetite and can no longer eat well; this shows that his insides are turning with the memory that he himself had killed a King who had been so good to him and to Scotland. After getting Banquo killed, Macbeth sees his ghost at the banquet with twelve bloody gashes in his head; this makes Macbeth completely insane in an instant. He is not only scared by seeing the ghost of Banquo, but also by the thought that he had done these horrible things, and that his soul would be haunted by his murdered friends ghost for ever. It is through the main characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth that this theme of guilt and conscience is so vividly portrayed.

Likewise at the beginning of the play Lady Macbeth is a very strong character, but this strength crumbles as the play progresses due to her guilty conscience. At the beginning Lady Macbeth tries to muster the strength to force her kind natured husband into killing Duncan. She says things like, “unsex me here” in an attempt to muster
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