hidden meanings in macbeth
Post on 15-Aug-2014
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DESCRIPTIONAnother "essay" that I had to write about something completely obvious
After the discovery of Duncan's body by Macduff, everything said by Macbeth to the other Thanes is deceitful and hypocritical as he puts on a false face to disguise his false heart. Therefore, his speeches are taken one way by the Thanes but have hidden meanings for Macbeth. Macbeth tells the Thanes that he had lived an extraordinary, perhaps near-perfect life that was ruined by the sorrow that he experienced through Duncan's death, but there is a hidden reason for why his great life was ruined. After being told that Duncan has died, he proclaims, Had I but died an hour before this chance, / I had lived a blessed time; for, from this instant / There's nothing serious in mortality: / All is but toys: renown and grace is dead; / The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees / Is left this vault to brag of (2.3.107-112). The Thanes assume that he means that his otherwise amazing life has been marred by the assassination of the great Duncan; if he had died but an hour before, he would not have experienced the sorrow of Duncan's assassination. Because he has lost his great king, he cares no more for life. When he says that, The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees / Is left this vault to brag of (2.3.111-2), the Thanes think he means that all of his real life was over and that the rest of his life would be empty and unhappy, as if he were forced to eat the sediment from a cask of wine rather than drink real wine. He really means, however, that he would not have killed Duncan had he died an hour before the murder and that he will have to live with guilt and fear of being caught. Until he killed Duncan, he had never before performed such an evil deed, so he became very nervous after the murder, always fearing that someone was listening to him. Now that he has murdered Duncan, he must avoid being caught, so renown and grace is dead (2.3.110). He will do anything, perhaps even murder more people, to avoid being caught; he cares no more about being a virtuous leader. Macbeth's explanation of why he killed Duncan's chamberlains can also be interpreted as an explanation to Lady Macbeth about why he did not follow the plan. Right after having seen Duncan's chamberlains covered with blood, he kills them. When Macduff asks why Macbeth did so, Macbeth explains, Who can be wise, amazed, temperate, and furious, / Loyal and neutral, in a moment? No man:/ The expedition of my violent love/ Outrun the pauser reason. Here lay Duncan,/ His silver skin laced with his golden blood;/ And his gashed stabs looked like a breach in nature/ For ruin's wasteful entrance: there, the murderers,/ Steeped in the colours of their trade, their daggers/ Unmannerly breeched with gore: who could refrain,/ That had a heart to love, and in that heart/ Courage to make's love known (2.3.127-37)? This is in one sense just an excuse to the Thanes for killing the chamberlains right away rather than following more standard procedures for killing traitors. Because the chamberlains were covered in blood, it was obvious to the Thanes that the chamberlains had killed Duncan. As Duncan had been such a good king, Macbeth was angry and shocked that Duncan has been assassinated. There was no way, according to Macbeth, that he could have thought rationally when he saw the chamberlains, and, perhaps because he was thinking irrationally, he killed the two chamberlains to show that he loved Duncan. Macbeth is also talking to Lady Macbeth in a way. He explains why he did not follow the murder plan and killed the chamberlains. Since last night he has been nervous and scared of being caught; he even hallucinated last night because he was so stressed, so he could not control himself. His violent love (2.3.129) can refer to a love of violence. He has fought before in battles, and he has just murdered Duncan, so he has a desire for violence and wants to kill even more people. Finally, although the chamberlains had been drugged, he could still fear that the chamberlains would be able to provide evidence against Macbeth. The combination of these three factors led him to ignore rational thoughts about the consequences of his actions.