How does fear influence Macbeth's actions?

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pbjessop's profile pic

pbjessop | College Teacher | (Level 1) Honors

Posted on

Macbeth, like many of today's leaders, is gripped by fear. Fear of failure, fear of losing power, fear of his wife, fear of retribution, fear of just about anything.  Fear is a very powerful motivator - it keeps us safe when riding our bikes, it keeps us wary when walking late at night. But fear may also paralyse us: from moving forward, from taking a healthy risk, from making a change in our life.  Fear is one of the first emotions we learn to express. 

Shakespeare has created a  character who is just like us (surprise surprise) in that he fears the mighty and the mundane.  He fears all kinds of things...those three witches, not being popular.  Macbeth is profoundly human in his fears -that means he is just like you and me. He is deeply affected by them. He may be afraid of different things than you, but you are both feeling fear of some kind and no doubt these fears will affect your behaviour.  Try this:  Make a list of everything you believe Macbeth fears (remember to jot down where you find these details in the play for later references) like the witches, like Duncan not giving him power, like his wife's anger,  his own insecurity.  Now, beside your list, write down what is making you afraid. We are not talking bone chilling, trembling - just kind of a dull ache in your gut, a kind of stone you are carrying around inside that you will feel really good when it is gone (say, that cutey not speaking to you in the cafeteria? your next calc test? your dad being P.O'd with you and not giving you the car? ) Big fears, little fears...any fear will do. 

Sit back and take a look at your two lists: Macbeth's and yours. Can you draw any connections between the lists? Does one of your fears maybe/perhaps/could be/possibly remind you of one of Macbeth's fears? Like say, Macbeth is afraid of his wife being angry with him. You are afraid of your Dad being angry with you...hmmm....see something in common there? Take one or two you think are really major fears from each list.  Now, focus on one fear: how does it affect your behaviour, how does it affect Macbeth's behaviour? Are you going to avoid the cafeteria, are you going to be bold and smile at that cutey? Are you going to hide from your Dad or go tell him you need to talk to him about the two of you? How is your fear going to affect your behaviour? What you do

Now, do the same thing for a fear from MacBeth's list. Ta-daa:  you have  a  good start on how fear effects Macbeth. You have also experienced empathy, one of the most valuable reasons for reading literature and especially Shakespeare. Putting yourself in somebody's shoes and walking around a bit is empathy. How does it feel to be them at that moment?  Good, not so good? All this empathy happens in your head  and it makes you a great human being.  Shakespeare knew we needed to feel for others to feel good about ourselves. Genius right?

mudkipzarecool's profile pic

mudkipzarecool | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted on

If you are wondering about the affect on his mind with his imaginary dagger, then here's the answer. 

You see, Macbeth is as much a person as any of us and Shakespeare mirrors a human's actions to fictious Macbeth's. Now, bearing this in mind, empathise with him and imagine you are about to kill Duncan, the King, with your life at stake. Macbeth suddenly enters a phase of precognition and he begins to see the dagger that he was going to kill Duncan with, this really a mental health based subject but Macbeth, with his fear-generated image, wrongly suggests that is a fore-sight (with some help from Lady Macbeth) and then he ends up becoming a trigger-happy killer

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