Guilt in Macbeth Essay

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Guilt in Macbeth

There is a large burden of guilt carried by Lady Macbeth and Macbeth in Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth. Let's look at this situation closely in the following essay.

Fanny Kemble in "Lady Macbeth" asserts that Lady Macbeth was unconscious of her guilt, which nevertheless killed her:

A very able article, published some years ago in the National Review, on the character of Lady Macbeth, insists much upon an opinion that she died of remorse, as some palliation of her crimes, and mitigation of our detestation of them. That she died of wickedness would be, I think, a juster verdict. Remorse is consciousness of guilt . . . and that I think Lady Macbeth never had; though the unrecognized pressure of
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[. . .] Macbeth's capacity for seeing things that may or may not be there is almost limitless, and the appearance of the mousetrap play to Claudius, though more easily explained, has the same dramatic point as the appearance of Banquo's ghost. (90)

The Tragedy of Macbeth opens in a desert place with thunder and lightning and three witches who are anticipating their meeting with Macbeth. Macbeth is greeted by the witches with "hail to thee, thane of Glamis," "thane of Cawdor," and "thou shalt be king hereafter!" When Ross and Angus arrive with news of Duncan's reward ("He bade me, from him, call thee thane of Cawdor"), it is logical for Macbeth to assume that all of the weird sisters' prophecies will come true. At this point in the play there is no guilt felt.

After the king's announcement that "We will establish our estate upon / Our eldest, Malcolm," Macbeth says, "The Prince of Cumberland! that is a step / On which I must fall down, or else o'erleap," for his scheming is seriously underway. At Inverness in Macbeth's castle, his lady anticipates Duncan's visit: "The raven himself is hoarse / That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan / Under my battlements." Beginning at this moment in the
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