On How Hallucinations and Vision Assisted in Macbeth’s Mental Deterioration

6 June 2016

Hallucinations and visions are often noted as signs of mental instability. This means the person is losing touch with reality. The causes can be guilt, nerves, or simply a mental disorder. In the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare the hallucinations and visions all contribute to the growing mental instability in Macbeth’s character. The image of a dagger with blood, the voices when killing Duncan and the ghost of Banquo all play key roles in the deterioration of Macbeth’s mental state.

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In Act 2 Macbeth and Lady Macbeth compose a plan to murder King Duncan. As Macbeth approaches Duncan’s room he notices a dagger floating in front of him “Is this a dagger I see before me? The handle towards my hand? Come, let me clutch thee: I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.” (2.1.33-35) Macbeth looks at the dagger in front of him that is pointing towards Duncan’s room and tries to grab it but he cannot.

This frustrates Macbeth and then he begins to notice something else “And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood, Which was not so before. There’s no such thing: It is the bloody business which informs “(2.1.46-48). Macbeth has realized that blood was not oozing out of the dagger and he acknowledges that it is his nerves getting to his head and projecting this image. This incident shows Macbeth starting to display signs of mental instability.

Secondly, Macbeth hears voices talking to him while he is killing Duncan. Macbeth explains to Lady Macbeth “Methought I heard a voice cry, ‘sleep no more Macbeth does murder sleep’, the innocent sleep,” (2.2.38-39). Macbeth is shaken by the event that just passed and tells Lady Macbeth that he believes he was cursed not to sleep again. This makes Macbeth feel regret right away for killing Duncan. Macbeth truly believes he has been cursed and this begins a mental barrier for Macbeth. As a result, later in the book Macbeth becomes restless and states …Better be with dead Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace Than on the torture of the mind to lie In restless ecstasy. Duncan is in his grave.

After life’s fitful
fever, he sleeps well; (3.2.19-23) Macbeth is sleepless and having nightmares. He says that he would rather be dead than alive with a tortured mind. He is stating he knows he is not mentally and physically okay. He refers back to Duncan’s murder and comes across as almost jealous of Duncan for being able to sleep, yet this indicates that Duncan’s murder is still on his mind. Macbeth’s guilt leads to the result of voices in his head and his restlessness.

Lastly, in Act 3 Macbeth hires murderers to ambush and kill Banquo and his son Fleance. While the murder is happening Macbeth is having a dinner party in which Banquo and Fleance should be at. As the banquet begins Macbeth see’s Banquo in his seat “…The time has been That when the brains were out, the man would die, And there end.

But now they rise again” Macbeth speaks aloud about the murder and even though he gives no indication that it is Banquos murder he talks about he is in a state where he is so scared he doesn’t realize there is anyone else in the room. “Avant and quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee! Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold; Thou hast no speculation in those eyes” (3.4.93-95). At this point Macbeth is so disturbed he does not realize he is speaking aloud. His has been mentally drained by lack of sleep and emotionally drained by the guilt of murders that he has come to a breaking point where he is mentally unstable.

In conclusion the hallucinations and visions in Macbeth all contribute to the growing mental instability in Macbeth’s character. The image of the dagger with blood, the voices when killing Duncan, and the ghost of Banquo are all proof that Macbeth’s grasp on reality gets less and less throughout the play. Shakespeare used these methods to display Imagery and foreshadowing throughout the play. These methods are still used in today’s writing to display a mental instability or spiritual encounter.

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