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Macbeth Essay

4/25/2014 | Jason Liu| ENG1D8






The strive for power may cause one to turn to unprincipled tactics, however it is this
behavior which may bring harmful repercussions later on. This is true in William Shakespeare's
play Macbeth. The play follows the rise and fall of a thane named Macbeth, he has a strong
ambition for power, however he ultimately meets his downfall due to the corruption that
constantly grew during his journey for power. Corruption is like an incurable disease which
harms the corrupted and his/her surroundings. The Kingdom of Scotland was a bright and lively
nation, however under the reign of a corrupted individual, it begins to experience unusual
weather patterns and animal behaviors. Lady Macbeth, a woman with a strong-will and stable
mind, starts to slowly descend to madness. Her husband, Macbeth, a promising thane of
Scotland, begins to experience unnatural hallucinations that harm his mental state. These peculiar
happenings were all caused by the harmful effects of corruption.
The corruption of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth disturbs the Great Chain of Being, causing
their surroundings to suffer. This disruption is shown by the changes in the weather after the
couple murder Duncan. Ross comments about the weather, stating: "Thou seest the heavens, as
troubled with man's act, / Threatens his bloody stage" (2.4.4-5). Ross is using a double entendre
to refer to the stormy and ferocious state of the skies and the cause of this unusual state. He
refers to the skies as "heavens", while he is also trying to say that the heavens are troubled. The
weather is therefore reflecting the state of heaven, which is currently "troubled with man's act".
The heavens are hurt by the corrupt acts that the couple performed and are currently trying to
purge Earth of the disease that is corruption, as indicated by the metaphor, "threatens his bloody
stage". This change in weather is a clear example of the harmful effects corruption bestows on
those surrounding the corrupted. However, not only the weather is affected by the corruption,
animals start to act strangely as well. Ross and an old man discuss the strange behavioral
changes of the horses during the night. The horses suddenly "turned wild in nature, broke their
stalls, flung out" (2.4.16), and according to the old man, "they ate each other" (2.4.18). Duncan's
most prestigious and loyal horses fell victim to the corruption of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
The horses were not acting obediently like they normally would, instead they broke free of their
stalls and rebelled against their captivity. This most puzzling behavior could only have been
induced by the sickly symptoms of corruption. Many strange events take place in Scotland due to
corruption interfering with the Great Chain of Being, perhaps the downfall of Macbeth and Lady
Macbeth may be in the best interest for the kingdom.
Lady Macbeth is a character who falls prey to the sickly power of corruption,
consequently she begins to act strangely. Lady Macbeth displays this strange behavior through
the unusual acts that occur during her sleep. During one instance of her sleepwalking, the doctor
and gentlewoman view Lady Macbeth attempting to wash something off her perfectly clean
hands while yelling, "Here's the smell of blood still: all the / perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten
this little hand" (5.1.50-52). Lady Macbeth succumbs to the corruption that was brought upon her
by the murdering of Duncan; she is regretting the decision to kill Duncan. In the metaphor, "all
the / perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand", Lady Macbeth is acknowledging the
fact that she will never be able to undo the horrible deed which had corrupted her soul. This
extreme case of sleepwalking is an indication of the disease that will ultimately drive Lady
Macbeth to madness. Lady Macbeth also reveals many secrets in her sleep, which is unusual
because she used to be a person with a strong will who would never reveal secrets, even under
pressure. The doctor describes Lady Macbeth's unusual behavior by saying, " Unnatural deeds /
Do breed unnatural troubles. Infected minds / To their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets. /
More needs she the divine than the physician" (5.1.70-74). The doctor is explaining how corrupt
deeds will cause the corrupted to behave weirdly and reveal secrets in their sleep. Furthermore,
the doctor explains how she needs help from the heavens in order to be cured of the corruption
she is experiencing. Under the effects of corruption, Lady Macbeth begins to do many strange
things in her sleep, such as revealing secrets, which will lead to her downfall.
Macbeth's hallucinations are examples of the harmful effects that corruption has on its
victims. When Macbeth is first corrupted and about to kill King Duncan, he experiences a
strange hallucination. Macbeth sees a floating dagger and says, "I see thee still, / 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 thus to mine eyes" (2.1.45-49). Macbeth is shocked to see the
weapon that he is about to kill Duncan with appear before him. The terrifying image of "gouts of
blood" suddenly appearing on a floating blade causes Macbeth's mental stability to waver and
makes him uncomfortable. The decision Macbeth made to kill Duncan corrupted his soul and
brought on this hallucination. Macbeth is further harmed when he views the hallucination of
Banquo sitting in his seat at the banquet he is holding. Macbeth, fearful and intimidated by the
ghost, looks at the ghost and says, "What man dare, I dare: / Approach thou like the rugged
Russian bear, / The armed rhinoceros, or the Hyrcan tiger; / Take any shape but that, and my
firm nerves / Shall never tremble" (3.4.99-103), meaning that the ghost of Banquo is the only
thing that Macbeth fears to see. Macbeth's mental stability is frail during this hallucination.
Macbeth is regretting his decision to kill Duncan, which consequently caused him to kill his best
friend, Banquo. This is indicated by the use of personification in the lines, "take any shape but
that, and my firm nerves shall never tremble". Macbeth is greatly harmed by this incident due to
the remorse generated from seeing the ghost of Banquo and the suspicion that arises around the
thanes who viewed Macbeth's unusual behavior during his hallucination. The hallucinations
brought on by the disease-like power of corruption affect Macbeth's mental health and slowly
work to bring Macbeth to his downfall.
Those who become corrupted will have an eternal sickness cast upon them which harms
themselves and their surroundings until their eventual downfall. The corruption of Macbeth and
Lady Macbeth disturb the Great Chain of Being, which causes unusual behaviors in the
environment surrounding them. Macbeth also demonstrates the disease-like effects of corruption
through his various hallucinations. Similarly, Lady Macbeth also begins to act strangely and
hallucinate during her sleep. Both of these characters continue to suffer from these effects until
their swift deaths. In the end, those who achieve a goal through underhanded tactics will
eventually be destroyed by the disease that is corruption.








Word Count: 1196 (excluding works cited)
Works Cited
Shakespeare, William, and John O'Connor. Macbeth. Harlow, Essex, England: Longman, 1999.
Print.