So this is my English Essay on Macbeth II.i.61-77 by William Shakespeare.


Shame Struggles with Logic

Given the choice of eternal joy or eternal suffering, humans decide to choose eternal suffering in an attempt to find joy in themselves. This is explained in Genesis 3 where Adam and Eve choose to disobey God, cursing all of humanity in the process. One of the defining characteristics from the Fall is irresponsibility through blaming others. In Macbeth by William Shakespeare, the main character, Macbeth, and his wife conspire to kill the king. Shakespeare exemplifies the irresponsibility from the Fall through the specific language Macbeth uses to blame others and keep blame from himself.

Macbeth blames everything around him in order to keep from receiving consequences for killing the king. In lines 61 and 62, Macbeth talks about how the world is asleep, but he continues his description by saying, "Wicked dreams abuse . . . sleep" (II.i.62-3). Shakespeare specifically used the word "abuse" to present the nightmares as the aggressor, giving reason to blame the nightmares. The act of blaming another thing is keeping the attention from Macbeth. Blame causes emotions to surface, and those emotions can blind from truth. So with something to blame, Macbeth can fade into the background. The nobles in the book become distracted, accusing the nightmares. The next few lines have "witchcraft [celebrate] . . . and . . .murder . . . move like a ghost" (II.i.63,4,9). Murder gets almost four lines of description about how he is going to kill another victim tonight. Murder personified gives people an idea to blame instead of having no one to blame. Before Duncan dies, the character, murder, is created by Shakespeare for the sole purpose of being a scapegoat. Macbeth is absolved from guilt because murder's actions are more pertinent and because Macbeth has nothing to do with "withered murder" (II.i.64).

Macbeth makes it impossible to put blame on himself. From lines 69 to 74, Macbeth speaks to the earth, pleading it to not give away his location. Shakespeare's use of apostrophe is appropriate; it allows Macbeth the opportunity to plead with the only witness to his crime. Macbeth's plea also shows that he is aware of the possibility for him to be blamed. To ensure his safety, Macbeth is willing to beg an inanimate surface for its silence. This not only shows his determination but also his desperation. Macbeth continues his monologue by saying, "While I threat, he lives" (II.i.74), reflecting that his courage is waning with each word he speaks. A bell rings, which is the signal for him to go kill the king, and Macbeth says, "The bell invites me" (II.i.75). The bell is the one who calls Macbeth to do the evil deed. Not only does this sentence place Macbeth at the mercy of the bell, but it also does not mention his wife, Lady Macbeth, who devised the idea. This dissolves all connections to the creation of the idea. The definition of "invites" is to politely invite to an event; but murder is not something to politely invite someone to. Here, Macbeth is trying to make it seem as if he has no idea what he is involving himself in. If accused he could plead innocence because he would have not known of the intentions of the bell. The bell, in this case, is the culprit who manipulates Macbeth. The last line of his monologue talks about the ringing of the bell summoning Duncan "to heaven or to hell" (II.i.77). Again, Macbeth uses a euphemism to talk about death by saying the bell "summons [Duncan] to heaven or to hell" (II.i.77). Macbeth makes the bell the murderer so that he can have no connection to the death.

The whole reason why Macbeth tries to keep blame from himself is because he knows he did wrong and has shame. Shame is a powerful force not only in Macbeth, but also in history. Ahab's response to the prophet Elijah's condemnation of his actions was to call Elijah the trouble maker (1 Kings 18:17), which shifted the blame from Ahab to Elijah. Ahab had done horrendous things against God, and Elijah was giving him God's words. Ahab did not want to suffer wrath from God, so he picked on Elijah. Shame seems to think it can defy logic by trying to cover up what logic can see. There is a constant struggle to uncover what shame has hidden, and the struggle will continue until there is no cause for shame.


Works Cited:

Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Ed. Barker, Kenneth L. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008. Print.