The Effect of Guilt and Evil in Macbeth

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‘The play, Macbeth, explores the effects of guilt and evil.’ Discuss.
William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth, explores many different themes including loyalty, betrayal, ambition but is it the powerful theme of evil and the consequent guilt that have the most devastating effects on the play’s protagonist, Macbeth and his loyal wife.

Shakespeare’s language and imagery constantly reinforce the theme of evil. The opening scene introduces the themes of evil and disorder as the three powerful hags, personifications of evil, plot Macbeth’s downfall, amid a stormy setting. Murders are committed at night and Lady Macbeth calls on the ‘dark forces’ to help her.

The ‘valiant’ and ‘noble’ Macbeth is a mighty warrior, one of the leaders in King
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She is bold and confident in her support of the regicide. Lady Macbeth pours scorn on Macbeth accusing him of cowardice.

When Macbeth’s conscience continues to torment him when he becomes agitated by an apparation of the ghost of Banquo at a banquet, and pleads, ‘Avaunt! And quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee!’ Lady Macbeth still remains calm enough to cover up her husband’s incriminating performance, by explaining ‘my lord is often thus, and hath been from his youth: pray you keep seat.’

Although awakened to the consciousness of guilt Macbeth continues his journey of destruction as he is driven by a lust for power that overrides all other feelings. He exhibits little emotion at his wife’s derangement and becomes fixated on the slaughter of his enemies.

In the first Act, Lady Macbeth forms a pact with the evil spirits to take away her tender, womanly qualities ‘and fill me from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty’. This is to ensure that she will have the strength to carry out whatever deed are necessary for her husband to ascend the throne. By the end of the play, however, the repercussions of her evil acts are clear and she is incapable of ignoring her guilty conscience. She grows fully aware of her actions and knows that ‘all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand’ and descends into babbling

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