Thursday, October 27, 2016

Macbeth: Rated B for Blood... Lots of It (Like, Really--People Die Left and Right)

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Sam and I were assigned to read Shakespeare's Macbeth and discuss it on Slack. While our Slack conversation addressed/covered a wide range of topics relating to theme, plot, meter, and rhetorical devices, we talked quite a bit about Macbeth's rather complex character: he's so violent, but so remorseful; so logical, but sometimes so irrational; so heroic, but so doggone evil. "Stars, hide your fires;  / Let not light see my black and deep desires: / The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be,/ Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see" (1.4.55-60). WHO IS THIS GUY?
Screenshot from my eBook--(1.7)
If I were to write a paper about Macbeth, I would want to explore his remorse--the instances where it almost seems like he is going to change and do the right thing... and then doesn't. I'd like to break down the different rhetorical moves in the text that influence his ultimate tragic downfall and see if there is some kind of pattern (i.e., I want to know which appeal--logical, emotional, credible--seems to work on him the most, thus helping me better understand his character). Some possible parts of scenes I could analyze are:
  • (1.7) Macbeth's thoughts laying out logical reasons (logos) for why he shouldn't kill Duncan: he'd damn his soul to hell, it's not nice to kill guests, and Duncan is a pretty good guy. He decides he won't do it.
  • (1.7) Lady Macbeth's attack on Macbeth's manhood (pathos) that drives him to change his mind.
  • (1.7) Lady Macbeth's explanation (logos) of how they can frame the murder on the guards. This kind of seems to set him at ease. Not at ease, but not as stressed. Well, he is still stressed because he's about to commit cold-blooded murder... I don't know. In the end he still does it.
  • (2.1) Macbeth has a vision of a bloody dagger that he claims is a representation of his dark thoughts (pathos/ethos?), possibly suggesting the murder is inevitable (or maybe it's a warning?). Either way, he goes through with it. 
  • (2.2) Macbeth is disturbed by the fact he couldn't say "Amen." This is depicting his accountability to God (ethos) and causes him to comprehend the seriousness of his transgression, racking his soul (pathos). 
  • (2.2) Lady Macbeth tells him not to think about his murders and it won't bother him as much (logos?). Yeah, good lucking sleeping with murder on your conscience... (But as far as we know, he does go back to bed... #somepeople)
That would be a great start, and there are tons more instances throughout the play that I could look at (such as when the ghost of Banquo pays him a visit). Heck, I could write a book on this. I would also analyze the form (iambic pentameter or prose) used to see if there is a connection regarding form and persuasiveness. Or is that too unrelated? I think I could tie it in. 

Types of research I would tie in are articles such as this one. It thoroughly explains the role of guilt/remorse and provides tons of solid examples. Some informal research could be this video from YouTube, or possibly this one (both from the Slack channel discussion). They show the dagger vision scene and how the vision impacts his decision.

What do you guys (well, girls and Chris, Garrett,and McKay) think? Suggestions?


  1. Kevin, I think that analyzing Macbeth's guilt would be a really interesting topic and there are so many resources out there. Even just a simple google search yields tons of helpful results. One that I thought was interesting was this article:
    It kinda summarizes what you were saying but what I liked about it is that it also mentions that Macbeth's actions are driven by his wife and then it talks about how his wife's guilt is tied to his own. Pretty cool comparison to make.

  2. Your comment about how Lady Macbeth was able to set Macbeth at ease made me think of her influence on him and I found this website:
    Basically it is a character sketch about her that could be helpful.

  3. I thoguht about Macbeth a lot while reading Richard III. At one point Richard says, O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me" at the only time where he really feels remorse. I wonder if looking into this play might give you some insight into motivation. Richard clearly think conscience is just cowardice.

  4. I was reminded of Richard III as well while reading this post! Probably because Mary and I just finished it, but oh well. You could draw some awesome comparisons between Richard and Macbeth, if that's a route you want to take. They both have evil plots, but Richard carries his out (or tries) 100% of the time and Macbeth holds himself back occasionally. Here's a great article that explains their relationship in depth: Good luck!

  5. A rhetorical analysis of Macbeth's remorse is a great starting point if you were to develop this. You should extend this beyond just logos/pathos/ethos and look especially at language as it reflects his mental state. Not hard to do with speeches like the "tomorrow and tomorrow / sound and fury" one. Your classmates' suggestions are solid - Leah's suggested source is very apt, and bringing in comparisons with someone like Richard III could be very fruitful. A solid start to build on if you wish.