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The Psychology of ´Macbeth´

William Shakespeare was asked be King James to write a play to be performed at the castle. Shakespeare decided that Scottish history might be a good topic since the king was Scottish. He settled on a topic that dealt with assassination, murder, supernatural elements, and suspense with eleventh century Scottish politics. The play he wrote is entitled “Macbeth” and features characters that are so complex that their personalities are studied in college psychology courser today. This paper will analyze the psychological state of the character, Macbeth. This paper will show how Shakespeare used techniques of characterization to create a personality for Macbeth that began as good and ended as evil in the play. The techniques of characterization that will be discussed in this paper include: Thoughts, Action/Reaction, and Dialogue. The final technique, Direct Description, will not be discussed because playwrights, are unable, to use that technique due to the nature of drama.

In writing novels, plays, and show stories, authors use a number of methods to describe and show the character’s thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions. These methods of characterization include Thoughts and Feelings, Actions and Reactions, Dialogue, and Direct Description. This essay will demonstrate how one can be able to determine the personality of a new student in one’s class.

By knowing the thoughts and feelings of the new student, one can at least partially determine the student’s personality. If the first impression the new student gives another student is by looking sad, the student might think that the new student is sad. It is the same with other first impressions, reflected be actions and reactions, but that will be further explained later on. Lets say that one of the students died, and the new student did not look like he or she cared. That would make the other people think that he or she is not really interested in becoming a part of their social group.

Actions and Reactions are also effective ways things used to determine one’s personality. Thoughts and Feelings are followed by Actions and Reactions, since they make up the cause for why people act and react the way they do. If the new student would not say anything to anyone, the other students would think that he or she is shy and introvert. Or if he or she saw something controversial on TV, and said, “I can agree with that”, then it would create interest in some people, or maybe even disgust in other.

Direct Description can be used in real life when somebody is telling someone about another person. Writers use it to show the reader the character goals, characteristics, motives, opinion, etc, etc. Direct Description helps the reader or person the understand more easily a person’s personality, without meeting the person.

Another way of determining and understanding a new student’s personality, and the last in this essay, is Dialogue. By exchanging emotions, thoughts, opinions, or even facts, one gets to know actions, reactions, thoughts, and feelings done, thought and felt by the new student. Dialogue is used in real life and in plays to show all of the other methods stated above.
Although it is not used in all cases, it is according to the author of this essay, the most efficient way to communicate, either to a fellow student or to a reader.

These are the four elementary methods of describing and showing people’s personalities in real life and in fictional scenarios. Without them, it would be virtually impossible to transmit anything about one’s personality.

In the beginning of “Macbeth”, after talking to the witches, Macbeth’s thoughts on becoming are reserved. He thinks that he will not do anything to become the king; he says to himself that he will only be king “by chance”. An example of that is in act I, scene IV, when he talks to Banquo: “If chance will have me king, why, /chance may crown me, / Without my stir.” These lines clearly show his reluctance to be the king, even though he does not think being the king is bad. Another example of his goodness early in the play is in act I, scene IV. Here he reveals that he’s not happy with King Duncan announcing that Malcolm will be the king after Duncan, but he lays restraint on himself and does not entirely change his opinion on becoming the king. But already, he shows signs of thinking that Malcolm is in his way to become the next king after Duncan, but holds on to his opinion, as long as nobody pushes him.

In the soliloquy in act I, scene VII, it is obvious that that his mind has already changed. The witches, Lady Macbeth, and the fact that King Duncan is visiting, has brought some less than good thoughts to Macbeth’s head. He clearly expresses a nervous and stressful mind, facing the murder of his cousin and friend, King Duncan. He says that he would be happy if everything would be over quickly and without consequences, almost as if he knew that he would not be able to put up with the consequences. The consequences that he is so afraid of are clearly visible in his thoughts in act III, scene I, were Macbeth is already planning the assassination of Banquo and Fleance. In his soliloquy, he reveals that he’s getting more and more paranoid, due to the murdering. Banquo even says to him that he will obey and follow him anywhere, but still Macbeth does not trust him. He feels that he is not safe, illustrated by the words: “To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus- / Our fears in Banquo stick deep.”

One striking characteristic is his fear. In the beginning, his fear of the consequences of killing Duncan, later, his fear of Banquo, and even later, his lack of fear, due to the apparitions. This can be seen in act IV, scene I, where the witches show the fourth apparition, and he is scared by Fleance, since he knows that Banquo is already dead. In Macbeth’s last scene, in act V, scene VIII, he is not far from despair. All he has in mind is Macduff, and the first two apparitions, which were both about Macduff. Macbeth does not know that, and that is all that is separating him from losing it all. But when Macduff tells him about him being untimely ripped from his mother’s womb, Macbeth he says that he will not fight with him, as he understands that he has lost.

Good actions transmit a picture of a good character. In act I, scene II, where Macbeth kills the traitor Macdonwald, Macbeth is considered good by his fellow men. Although it is a killing, it is considered good by the people Macbeth will later be evil towards. A good reaction be Macbeth early in play is when he talks to Ross and Angus, after have seen the witches in act I, scene III. He is sincerely surprised by the title he is called, which is the Thane of Cawdor. So at this stage, he is still now infested with the ideas of a traitor.

A reaction connected to the murdering of Duncan is when he hallucinates for the first time in act II, scene II. He sees a dagger, with blood on it, pointing to Duncan’s room. Macbeth has still got a conscience, and is stressed out by the thought of the murder. Another sign of Macbeth’s conscience working is in act II, scene I. He is paralyzed of what he just have done, and he says to Lady Macbeth that he dares not do go back to Duncan’s chamber, where Duncan is lying dead. He is actually feeling bad for the kill, which is about to change.

The Macbeth seen in act IV, scene I, is in many ways different from the one seen earlier in the play. He is crazy for power, and nothing can be in his way for securing a safe place on the throne, without paranoia. But what he cannot see is that he is his own paranoia’s creator. He orders the assassination of Macduff’s family, to relieve himself from some of the pressure put on him, by the witches and himself.

A final reaction by Macbeth that show that he has lost all sense of reality, is in act V, scene V. His only reaction to his wife’s death is: “She should have died hereafter /…/ Signifying nothing.” By saying that, he reveals that he is tired of life itself.

In act I, scene III, Macbeth is surprised by the titles the witches are calling him. They are calling him the Thane of Cawdor, and the future king, and this is the fire that ignites a whole chain of events later in the play. Although Shakespeare has not revealed anything about Macbeth’s tragic flaw, this is the first step towards reaching it. Also, a thing he says in act I, scene IV, reveals that he is still loyal to Duncan in his mind. He says that he owes his loyalty to the king, and that is a reward in itself.

In act III, scene I, he has already killed Duncan, and he is on his way to kill Banquo. He tells the murderers to kill Banquo and Fleance when they leave in the dark. That reveals Macbeth’s now ruthless personality, trapped in an evil circle which only leads to more murdering. A truly weird dialogue takes place in act III, scene IV, when he hallucinates that he can see Banquo, sitting in his chair. The other persons at the banquet do not understand a thing, but Lady Macbeth excuses the whole thing as something he has had all his life. This reveals that Macbeth is still stresses out due to the situation he is in.

When the messenger comes in to Macbeth in act...

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Inactive member [2003-03-30]   Macbeth
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