In Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, the idea of sanity, security and despair is shown throughout the play. This is shown by the fleeting state of mind of Macbeth and using many different literary devices, portraying an imagery of darkness, obliviousness and death. After studying and analyzing the text from Macbeth; all characters have seen or played a part to show these themes throughout the play. If you explore the text further Shakespeare also uses rhythmic devices to reinforce these ideas using iambic pentameter for all of the cast of Macbeth but changing rhythm when there is something supernatural or unworldly though the play.

From the very beginning of the play we tell the Macbeth (main character) is wealthy and in reasonable status, however through the play we begin to see his lust for power and security. Macbeth is concealing his deepest desires within, realising now that he must do something to gain power over the throne in the quote ” The Prince of Cumberland! – that is a step on which I must fall down, or else o’erleap ” and by saying this is giving off an imagery of darkness. he then goes on to say ” let not light see my black and deep desires ” this is Shakespeare using the literary device of dramatic irony, showing the audience that Macbeth has plans to come of these desires. Shakespeare presents Macbeth as a soon to become unstable force signifying the theme of sanity and despair because of these dark desires.  Macbeth also states that he fears what he must have to do in the quote ” The eye wink at the hand, yet let that be, which the eye fears, when it is done, to see. ” Macbeth is frightened of what his hands must do in the eyes of god, asking him to look away in the quote ” For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires! “. Shakespeare uses the personification of the stars to be perceived as angels above looking down on Macbeth, I believe that Shakespeare does this to further convey this theme of despair.

The idea of sanity is conveyed throughout Macbeth by Shakespeare through many different literary devices. sanity is being able to think and behave in a normal and rational manner; sound mental health. The idea of loss of sanity revolving around Macbeth begins when he first meets with the witches, telling him ” All hail Macbeth! that shalt be king hereafter. “, because of the witches giving him this prophecy of himself he begins to have dark and ominous thoughts. Another way Shakespeare has displayed this idea through Macbeth, through symbolism and personification.

Shakespeare uses Macbeth to personify Macbeth’s feelings into a dagger ” Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand? come, let me clutch thee ” . Macbeth in this scene of the play is about to murder King Duncan for the crown, however is stopped as he sees a figment of his imagination appearing in front of him ” I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.” . Macbeth even recognises that this is not real ” A dagger of the mind, a false creation. ” because of this we can tell that Shakespeare is using this to show the readers of watchers of the play, that Macbeth is perceiving his own loss of sanity. Shakespeare also shows the idea sanity in this scene through Personifying the imaginary dagger by having Macbeth talk and ask questions to the dagger ” come, let me clutch thee ” this is also the use of symbolism as the dagger is a imagery of Macbeth’s feelings towards Duncan. Shakespeare uses this as a form of dramatic irony again and this further conveys the idea of sanity and despair by the fleeting state of mind of Macbeth.

Shakespeare also uses Macbeth to further cement the idea a security using different literary devices. Security is being in a state free from danger or harm, Shakespeare uses this to further convey Macbeth’s downward spiral into despair by making him lust and desire for a sense of security. The way Macbeth tries to obtain this false sense of security is by demanding the witches for more of the future to come. Once Macbeth is shown and has the realisation that he is still wearing a ” fruitless crown ” we can tell from this realisation that Macbeth is coming to a state of fear which has turned into anger. Macbeth has been given a sense of security changing the way on how he thinks because of this, Macbeth’s entire personality has changed over the course of the book. Macbeth is now wanting to act on every thought he thinks of, because he knows he is impervious to mortal people because of the prophecy that the witches gave him he decides to raid Macduff’s castle. ” The castle of Macduff I will surprise, Seize upon fife; give to th’ edge o’ th’ sword ”  Shakespeare has done this to portray an imagery of darkness but Shakespeare is also doing this to show the despair and fear that Macbeth has of Macduff ” his wife, his babes and all unfortunate souls that trace him in his line “. Macbeth is realising that he is beginning to lose control of the situation at hand by making rash decisions because he is not assessing the situation or thinking about what would be best.

Macbeth has now even shown no sympathy for his own wife as she cannot take the burden of the deeds that they have done together and beings to go lose her sanity not knowing what is real or a vision ” Not so sick, my lord, as she is troubled with thick-coming fancies “. Macbeth not focusing on what is happening with his wife but more on what will happen on the battlefield says  ” Cure her of that. Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased ” . from this we can take away that Macbeth has completely fallen into a pit of despair because of his lack of empathy towards people and his own wife. Shakespeare has done this so that we can see a real contrast between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, the reason why is because from the very beginning Macbeth has been the one who was timid and fearful compared to his wife. The roles have been reversed showing us a completely different state of mind from Macbeth and how he has lost his faith in everyone and has no hope that he will come out of this alive.

In Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, the idea of sanity, security and despair is shown throughout the play. Macbeth is a key part is portraying these ideas though his fleeting state of mind, though the play we can tell how taking the lives of the people around you for the gain of power and security can take a toll on your mental health. Shakespeare has also used many different literary devices throughout the play though the use of metaphors, personification and more. Shakespeare has shown how if people were to know the future, it can change the state of mind of that person drastically. In this case of Macbeth, these emotions and thoughts that he wished not to want were upturned by the witches, showing us what can happen to people’s state of mind.




Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. You’ve made some excellent observations here, and are starting to work towards constructing a clear sequence of instances as well as offering strong evidence and analysis of devices and effects to support your ideas.

    What you’ll need to work on:

    1) Some of your sentences are over-long and make your points very difficult to understand. What you’re saying in your introduction is great, but how you’re saying it needs work. It’s not in the words you’re using, only in the complexity of the sentence structures. Try reading your work to yourself aloud.

    2) Keep your quotations short. These should generally be around a line long.

    This essay may shape up very well if you keep on the track you’ve established and address these matters of style.

  2. Achievement Achievement with Merit Achievement with Excellence
    Develop and structure ideas in formal writing.

    Use language features appropriate to audience and purpose in formal writing.

    Develop and structure ideas convincingly in formal writing.

    Use language features appropriate to audience and purpose with control in formal writing.

    Develop and structure ideas effectively in formal writing.

    Use language features appropriate to audience and purpose with control to command attention in formal writing.


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