Notes on Macbeth Themes

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Macbeth Topic Tracking: Guilt

Act 1, Scene 7

Guilt 1: Guilt has a large part in manipulating how Macbeth and his wife act after they have committed their crimes. It is their guilt that drives them both mad. Before they have even killed Duncan, Macbeth feels guilty and considers backing out of the murder, but Lady Macbeth won't let him.

Act 2, Scene 1

Guilt 2: Once again Macbeth sees that what he is doing is morally wrong, but he doesn't let that stop him. He kills the king despite his misgivings.

Act 2, Scene 2

Guilt 3: Macbeth begins hearing things as soon as the murder is completed. He cannot even pray because he is so guilt-ridden over his crime.

Act 2, Scene 3

Guilt 4: Lady Macbeth faints at the news that Duncan is dead. Whether it is a trick on her part to throw the others off the trail, or if she has finally seen the weight of the crime that she and her husband have committed is unspecified in the text. Either way, this action is either a realization of guilt or a disguise of it.

Act 3, Scene 2

Guilt 5: Lady Macbeth feels that her husband is thinking too much of his guilt and not enjoying his royalty as he should be.

Act 3, Scene 4

Guilt 6: Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost at the banquet table and it freaks him out. His guilty conscience is projecting visions of Banquo because he is responsible for the man's murder. Outbursts like these hint at his guilt and make the thanes suspicious of the new king.

Guilt 7: After Macbeth's breakdown in front of the thanes, Lady Macbeth tells him to get some rest. Macbeth hasn't been sleeping well because he feels so guilty.

Act 5, Scene 1

Guilt 8: Lady Macbeth's guilt is finally getting to her, too. She sleepwalks and tries to wash the blood from her hands. This routine and her sleep talking are manifestations and proof of her guilt.

Act 5, Scene 2

Guilt 9: Malcolm and the thanes who have sided with him have heard that Macbeth is going mad, and they assume that his madness is a result of the guilt for his crimes.

Act 5, Scene 5

Guilt 10: Lady Macbeth has died (perhaps suicide), and her guilt is believed to be the cause of her death. Her conscience got the better of her in the end.

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