Manipulation and Regret in Macbeth Regret can be a powerful motivator. A guilty person full of regrets often lives in a world of fear. As George Sewell said, “Fear is the tax that conscience pays to guilt. ” Sewell’s quote shows that fear is a direct consequence of guilt. In Shakespeare’s classic play Macbeth, the main character lives in this world of fear because of his intense regret of the murders he has committed. There is a popular modern saying, “behind every great man there’s a great woman. ” Lady Macbeth motivates her husband to do things he will eventually regret.
Throughout the play she plants ideas in his head and causes him to commit murder in order to acquire the throne. The beginning of Act 3, Scene 2 provides a glimpse into their relationship. Lady Macbeth is a cunning and manipulative character, and Macbeth follows her blindly because he loves her. As the play progresses, Macbeth resorts to murdering more people as a consequence from murdering Duncan. His character changes dynamically from innocent at the play’s beginning to guilty from multiple murders. This passage from Macbeth relies on literary devices to explicate the dynamic between Macbeth and his wife.
In Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy in lines six through nine, the alliteration of “destroy,” “destruction,” “dwell,” and “doubtful” represents the dark tactics that she uses to manipulate her husband. When Macbeth arrives in line 10, her diction changes from heavy consonants to lighter, condescending tones. Soft phrases like “how now” and “sorriest fancies” show that her shift in tone when he arrives indicates her ability to get Macbeth to do what she wants. Macbeth makes an allusion, another literary device, when he states: “We have scorched the snake, not killed it” (3. 2. 0). Macbeth compares Duncan to a snake in order to convey the message that Duncan remains a threat to the throne. Macbeth uses a metaphor to describe Duncan’s death: “Duncan is in his grave. / After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well” (3. 2. 25-26). Life is compared to a fever, and death is compared to sleep. A sick person finds relief from sleep, just as Duncan finds relief from life through his death. He personifies regret when he says, “Treason has done his worse” (3. 2. 27). In this situation, Macbeth equates himself with treason, therefore personifying an act.
He betrayed Duncan and shows remorse by calling himself a traitor. Macbeth further uses irony as he finishes speaking about Duncan. The irony lies in the fact that nothing more can harm Duncan because Macbeth committed the ultimate act of harm by killing him. “Nothing / Can touch him further” (3. 2. 29). The fact that nothing can further harm Duncan is a relief to Macbeth, as though Macbeth truly cared about Duncan and feels relieved that he will never have to worry about Duncan again. ?Macbeth uses vivid natural imagery when he describes to Lady Macbeth how he is feeling: Light thickens; and the crow Makes ing to the rooky wood. Good things of day begin to droop and drowse; While night’s black agents to their preys do rouse – (3. 2. 56-60) Macbeth is comparing how he is feeling inside to night arriving in the woods. Innocence, or “good things of the day,” begin to droop and drowse. The alliteration of droop and drowse conveys a feeling of sadness as the day leaves. At nighttime, “black agents” come to scavenge for weaker prey. Macbeth feels like his innocence has gone with the day and he has become a scavenger looking for those weaker than him and conquering them.
This specific passage also reveals the deceptive nature of Lady Macbeth, as well as the gullible nature of Macbeth as he follows her blindly. On line 40, Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth “you must leave this. ” Lady Macbeth understands that he feels a horrible guilt for killing Duncan and she knows what to say to make him feel better. There is an element of comfort to their relationship. Because Macbeth receives comfort from Lady Macbeth, she can get him to do what she wants. She wanted Macbeth to kill Duncan so that he would be able to obtain the throne.
Lady Macbeth and her husband have a stable, yet abusive, relationship because she is able to subtly manipulate him without his knowledge. Macbeth is a character who is consumed with fear. Ironically, his fear stems from his relationship with his wife but he is blind to that fact. People in relationships change the longer they are with someone. Macbeth is a much different character from the beginning of the play to the end. As he implied in the imagery of lines 56-60, he is the wood. As the story progresses, the light leaves the wood and everything becomes dark. The light symbolizes Macbeth’s innocence.
In this metaphor, Lady Macbeth is the initiator of the darkness. She takes all that was good and innocent from Macbeth and manipulates him into becoming a dark and twisted character, a “black agent” of the night. As the light leaves the wood, the fear begins to creep in. The darker Macbeth’s character becomes, the more he is filled with fear and regret. Lady Macbeth ultimately realizes she created a monster of Macbeth and commits suicide at the play’s conclusion. The regret from her manipulation motivates her to take her own life. Regret can be a powerful motivator.