Guilt is a feeling that haunts the conscience. Usually thisfeeling comes when one has committed an offence, crime, or wrong act.
It is thefeeling of responsibility for this poor action that has been committed. In the play, Macbeth by WilliamShakespeare, the effects of guilt and having a guilty conscience is a recurringtheme displayed throughout the play. The characters are affected by guilt somuch, that it leads to their death essentially, just because they were not ableto handle the consequences for the events that occurred. The themeof guilt in Macbeth is developed in the play through Macbeth, Macduff, and LadyMacbeth. Macbeth, initially the protagonist, later earns himself therole of the antagonist after his relentless killing spree. His goal was tobecome king and anyone that threatened his title of becoming was killed.
Immediately after killing King Duncan, Macbeth’s senses were sharpened, and heis paranoid about being caught, which is why he jumps at every noise, “How is’t with me, when every noise appallsme?” (2.2.55).
After seeing his bloody hands, Macbeth wishes thathe hadn’t done the deed because of all the troubles that came with the murder.Duncan’s blood issymbolizes Macbeths guilt and how regretful he is of committing the crime.During the banquet scene he begins to hallucinate and sees the ghost of Banquositting with him. “Avaunt! And quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee!”(3.
4.50-52). Macbeth later buries his guilt and decides to kill even morepeople, so he can keep his position as king.
Macduff is a Scottish soldier who is known for hisloyalty and strong temper. At the time of Macbethsleadership, Macduff feels very threatened because he is very suspicious andbelieves Macbeth killed King Duncan. He was the one who discovered the Kingsbody and has a reason to believe that he is next which is why he left andjoined forces with Malcolm in England. At the same time, Macduff is drenchedwith guilt because he left behind his wife and children who were left to dieunder the wrath of antagonist Macbeth.
Just after Macduff hears hisfamily has been murdered he says, “And I must befrom thence!” (4.3.212) to express hisregret at having been away from home when the murderers arrived.Lady Macbeth, Macbeths wife has a burning ambition to be queen. She constantly tauntsher husband for his lack of courage and lets him know that he doesn’t act likea man when he is needed to. Lady Macbeth’s guilt is subconsciously expressedthrough her dreams and is evidenced by her sleepwalking in when she confessesto the murder. When Lady Macbeth cries “all the perfumes of Arabia willnot sweeten this little hand,” (5.1.
40) we realize how ironic thisstatement is because in the second act she says, “A little water clears us ofthis deed” (2.2.25).
At first, she wasn’t guilty but then the guilt beganto eat her.The theme of guilt in Macbeth is developed in the playthrough Macbeth, Macduff, and Lady Macbeth. In conclusion, guilt is displayed through several depictions inthe play. The theme of guilt isexpressed by Lady Macbeth,through blood imagery in addition to Macduff and Macbeth’s internal conflict. Guilt is a major factor in people’s lives, and will continueto terrorize the characters of Macbeth fora long time.