Essay on Lady Macbeth Mental Downfall


Mental instability can be a naturally occurring disease or a self-inflicted mentality caused by one's actions. In William Shakespeare's Macbeth, the title character is influenced by many external characters, but he is essentially responsible for his mental state. He becomes paranoid after brutally killing the king to take the throne. He starts to hallucinate and become delusional after sending murderers to kill a man who will produce kings that will dethrone Macbeth. Finally, Macbeth's mental stability is so chaotic and radical he makes decisions based on his heart, not his head. From his first acknowledgment in the play, Macbeth continuously ignores the consequences of his actions and is consequently responsible for his mental instability.

Once Macbeth becomes king after the brutal murder of the previous king, he becomes paranoid and believes that he will be caught and killed. In Act II, Scene II, Macbeth returns to his room after killing King Duncan and believes he hears voices. Macbeth thinks that everyone will know that he committed the murder, the paranoia becomes too great that Macbeth starts to hear a voice, “Methought I heard a voice cry “Sleep no more, Macbeth does murder sleep”- the innocent sleep, sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care” (35-37). 

Clearly, Macbeth's actions made him delusional and unstable if he hears voices. Furthermore, Macbeth is seen by the guards, he is supposed to frame them and this causes Macbeth to become paranoid, he thinks a quick solution is to kill them. Macbeth then slaughters the guards in an attempt to destroy all evidence he visited Duncan's room the night of the murder, he then confirms to the other noblemen it was him, “Oh, yet I do repent me of my fury, That I did kill them” (2.3.107). Even though the soldiers were already seen with daggers and blood Macbeth still killed them because of his paranoia. The fact that he failed to suppress his paranoia after the murder of King Duncan contributes to his mental instability caused by his own actions.

When Macbeth commits cold-blooded murder his mental state becomes impulsive, radical and mentally unstable. In Act IV, Scene I, Macbeth learns that Macduff has fled to England and decides that he will start to act impulsively, starting with the orders to kill Macduff’s family,  “From this moment The very firstlings of my heart shall be The firstlings of my hand. And even now, To crown my thoughts with acts, be it thought and done. Seize upon Fife, give to th' edge o' th' sword. His wife, “His babies, and all unfortunate souls” (152-159). Surely, Macbeth’s murder of King Duncan has made him impulsive and radical if he is sending murders to kill an innocent wife and child because the husband is a danger to him.

Additionally, Macbeth's spontaneous and irrational actions are exhibited when requests that murders kill Banquo and his son, “That I require a clearness. And with him— To leave no rubs nor botches in the work— Fleance, his son, that keeps him company, Whose absence is no less material to me Than is his father’s” (3.1.37-41). Macbeth is reacting so irrational and impulsive that he is convincing farmers to kill Banquo in an attempt to wipe out his bloodline. This is impulsive because he doesn’t tell his wife or think for a day, Macbeth just sends them without any consulting or rational thoughts. The fact that Macbeth's actions lead to the impulsive and radical thoughts exhibits that Macbeth is responsible for his mental instability.

When Macbeth commits murder to get into power or he sends murders for his own personal needs he becomes hallucinatory and delusional. In Act III, Scene IV, Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost at his dinner party, although no one else can see this Macbeth still believes that Banquo's ghost is actually there, “(seeing the GHOST) Avaunt, and quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee. Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold” (3.4.98-99). Macbeth’s actions of having Banquo killed resulted in him seeing and hearing a ghost that isn’t really there. 

This hallucination and delusion are all in his head due to the fact that no one else can see his ghost. Furthermore, Macbeth shows his delusion and hallucination behavior when he is going to kill King Duncan. He sees a dagger that he is using to commit the murder in front of him on his way to Duncan’s room, “Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee. I have thee not, and yet I see thee still” (2.1.33-35). Clearly, Macbeth is at fault for his mental instability if he has a hallucination just seconds before he commits murder. This trend of his actions resulting in a sign of a mental illness proves that Macbeth is responsible for his own mental instability. The evidence shown proves that when Macbeth sees a ghost and a dagger it is a result of his own actions and thus is responsible for his mental instability.

In the play Macbeth, the protagonist is clearly at fault for his mental instability. Rather than wait to take the throne Macbeth speeds up the process and murders King Duncan. He then becomes paranoid, this causes Macbeth to hear voices and kill witnesses. As king, he becomes impulsive, sending murders to kill innocent people and this results in an increase of impulsivity. Finally, his murders set off a series of hallucinations that Macbeth believes are real. Macbeth is an example of a person who is a power-hungry savage who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, yet ultimately fails because of his irrational decisions.

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