Guilt Theme in Shakespeare

Guilt is something that every human being faces in the world in which we live in. Guilt has been around since the beginning of time and is something that most of us feel from one time or another in our lives. If you are not careful and don’t deal with the problem it can literally eat you alive. William Shakespeare uses the theme of guilt in two of his most famous plays, Macbeth and Hamlet. In Macbeth, Lady Macbeth starts to regret her decision in supporting Macbeth in murdering Duncan.

In Hamlet, Claudius carries around the guilt of killing King Hamlet and doesn’t find it a problem until he realizes Hamlet knows what he did.Both circumstances in each play support a famous quote by Lady Macbeth about the truth of guilt. In the play Macbeth, Lady Macbeth proves that a guilty conscience can lead to death devising a plan for her husband to murder King Duncan in hopes that Macbeth will take over the thrown. In the beginning of the play, she is portrayed as a strong and ruthless woman who pressures her husband into murdering Duncan.

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Even though Macbeth is hesitant, she manipulates her husband into following through with her plan.Afterward, however, Lady Macbeth develops a guilty conscience, which ends up driving her insane. By he end of the play, she commits suicide, signifying her inability to cope with her guilt and supporting the idea that a guilty conscience can cause death. In the midst of this tragedy, Lady Macbeth comments on how she feels after her husband has murdered Duncan. She observes that “Nought’s had, all’s spent/ Where our desire is got without content: / ‘Tis safer to be that which we destroy/ Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy.

” (3. . 5-7) Lady Macbeth is obviously regretting her decision to urge Macbeth into killing Duncan.

Although they succeeded in their goal, she still isn’t satisfied with the outcome. She wonders if it would be better to be at “peace” with the dead than in this “torture” of being a murderer but ultimately decides to put on a false persona so as not to become a suspect to anyone. I fully agree that Lady Macbeth’s view of guilt is correct and is fully supported by the characters of Lady Macbeth and Claudius in William Shakespeare’s plays.I feel that after anyone commits a crime, no matter the circumstances, guilt will eventually take over someone’s conscience and end up destroying one’s life if they do not confess or try to fix the situation. In the end, the person most always feels so guilty that they would rather be the person who was affected by the deed than the one who did it so that they wouldn’t feel so accountable.

This theme is also supported in William Shakespeare’s classic play, Hamlet. Claudius also murders the King in hopes to take over the throne.In order to get Claudius to prove he was responsible, Hamlet devises a plan to prove the guilt of his uncle by re-enacting the murder of his father right in front of him. Based on his reaction, Hamlet will be able to determine whether or not Claudius is truly guilty. As predicted, Claudius storms out of the play and quickly devises a plan to kill Hamlet so that nobody finds out about what he has done. “When Polonius leaves, the king is alone, and he immediately expresses his guilt and grief over his sin.A brother’s murder, he says, is the oldest sin and “hath the primal eldest curse upon’t” (3.

3. 37). He longs to ask for forgiveness, but says that he is unprepared to give up that which he gained by committing the murder, namely, the crown and the queen. He falls to his knees and begins to pray. ” Since he prays and is clearly feelings guilty over what he has done, it shows how badly guilt can eat away at your conscience. By the end of the play, Hamlet ends up killing Claudius by stabbing him with a poison sword, only supporting the theme that guilt and bad deeds only end up killing you.In conclusion, the theme of guilt is clearly portrayed in both of William Shakespeare’s plays Macbeth and Hamlet.

Lady Macbeth asserts that even though someone may commit a crime in hopes to make them happy and get something that he or she wants in life, the guilt will override the happiness. In both Lady Macbeth and Claudius’ cases, their guilt drives them to death. I agree with Lady Macbeth’s assertion and feel that nobody can be truly happy after doing a horrible deed. Living with a guilty conscience makes it impossible to enjoy life and is not something that anyone can ever survive.

Author: Charlie Rodgers


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