With reference to the soliloquies, analyse Macbeth’s mental deterioration

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Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth portrays how a once peaceful mind can be influenced by ones beliefs. The play was written at the time of the Jacobeans under the rule of James 1st, in which Shakespeare plays to his advantage. Shakespeare includes both contemporary events and the beliefs and obsessions of James 1st, which of course is what the play is built around, regicide and supernatural beliefs. The play captivates the audience into an intense life of a nobleman whose mind is corrupted by his own beliefs, as a result of this his mind disintegrates and it finally Shakespeare puts the audiences grief to an end with the death of Macbeth.

Shakespeare, through Macbeth creates a metaphor describing his life after trespassing into the supernatural beliefs to be like a play, ‘as happy prologues to the swelling act’. It states how Macbeth will not be leading his normal life, instead he will he have to act as someone he is not. He will not display the anxiety that burns in him over the possibility of the truth of the witches’ prophecies. This is the start of the mind deterioration because this is when he starts to lose his normal life and cast his true reality aside.

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In the opening of the second soliloquy Shakespeare uses monosyllabic words such as ‘if’ and ‘done ‘ to convey Macbeth’s agitated state of mind by the speed of which he is talking. Also this reinstates the stress he is being faced by with his question about the prophecies and his ambition to fulfil them. Also Shakespeare uses a caesura ‘Commencing in truth?’ to break up the speech, this states the idea of Macbeth’s uncertainty due to the pause to deciding on what to say. Then Macbeth starts to doubt, contradict himself such as ‘cannot be ill’ and ‘cannot be good’. This shows his uncertainty and him being unsure on what is right and what is wrong, this also shows how his ambition is deteriorating his mind. Also He knows that regicide would be eternal damnation but inside he has lust and ambition to become king.

Another sign of Macbeth’s mental deterioration early on is how weak his mind is. Duncan is staying at Macbeth’s castle after he was appointed thane of Cawdor. Macbeth has revealed his feelings about committing regicide but know with Duncan here he has second thoughts on it. He tells us he is ‘his Kinsman and his subject’ as well as being his ‘host’; Shakespeare portrays Macbeth as someone who knows what his duty is but something stops him from fulfilling it. Also Macbeth tells the audience how he ‘should against his murderer shut the door, / Not bear the knife himself.’ Macbeth nearing the end of the soliloquy explains ‘ambition’ to be the something that stops him from doing what is right.

Another key sign of Macbeth’s mental deterioration that becomes apparent is his liability to hallucinations. The first reference of this is his paranoia of what will happen in the future ‘Present fears /Are less than horrible imaginings.’ He shows how all his thoughts are taken away from the present but what will eventually happen to him after he commits mortal sins.

He thinks of murdering Duncan even though he doesn’t want which shows how his mind is weakening. Also reinforcing his liability to hallucinations is when he sees a floating ‘dagger’ before him, he cannot grasp it but he can still see it. This causes him to question himself and the dagger ‘Art thou /A dagger of the mind’ and ‘mine eyes are made the fools o’ th’ other senses. ‘ This soliloquy enacts the idea of reason versus feeling, Macbeth questions whether his eyes are confusing him or is it just his mind is corrupted by the supernatural beliefs and that the dagger is a sign leading him towards his fate. Here he wonders whether the supernatural have corrupted his mind or he is going insane.

The last soliloquy is set in the tense before battle, the country is in turmoil and lady Macbeth has just committed suicide. He has nothing left of him anymore, when the news arrives of his wife he tells them ‘she would have died hereafter/ There would have been a word for such a time’ suggesting that he has no feelings left.

The lack of emotion he shows is a result of him being unable to feel anything from how hardened his life has become. He then uses the repetition of ‘tomorrow,’ which shows us Shakespeare is trying to show Macbeth’s weariness in the final period of his life. Shakespeare also refers back to the metaphor of the actor from the first soliloquy. Where Macbeth first aired his ideas of regicide but know he uses ‘life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player/ That struts and frets his hour upon the stage / And then is heard no more.’ This signifies how Macbeth depicts how his life has come and gone from being the warrior Macbeth. We learn that he believes that he has not fulfilled the role he was meant to play, which eventually has led him to his death.

Throughout the soliloquies the descent of Macbeth’s mind is easy to predict. At first Shakespeare creates a metaphor describing how Macbeth will have to act his life from now onwards if he were to commit regicide. Around this time he has only aired his view on the matter a few times, but as we progress gradually he cannot take the thought of his mind. Eventually Macbeth nearly persuades himself out of committing the mortal sin but then has visions of a floating dagger leading him towards Duncan’s chamber. By now his mind cannot tell whether he is seeing things or it is a sign from the supernatural leading him astray. The last soliloquy depicts what is left of his noble character, nothing. He feels no emotions, no feeling for the death of his wife because he says he knew it was coming. All that takes up his mind is the idea of life; he questions life itself not knowing the reason for mankind’s existence. Then he describes how the role he has not fulfilled the part he wanted to play in life.

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With reference to the soliloquies, analyse Macbeth’s mental deterioration. (2017, Oct 13). Retrieved from


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