Homework Help

Psychoanalytical Criticism & MacbethSigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theories are...

user profile pic

kirstens | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted April 15, 2008 at 1:51 PM via web

dislike 4 like
Psychoanalytical Criticism & Macbeth

Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theories are often applied to literature in order to more fully understand characterization, motivation, and conflict.  Shakespeare's Macbeth can certainly be analyzed from this perspective.  In Macbeth, is Macbeth more in touch with his Id, Ego, or Superego?  Why?  How might this affect his decisions or his beliefs?

6 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

alexb2 | eNotes Employee

Posted April 15, 2008 at 3:25 PM (Answer #2)

dislike 0 like

This is a great topic. A lot of Shakespeare's plays are ideally suited for Freudian analysis, but Macbeth might be the most fun. As the play progresses, you can literally see the battle and interaction between the Id, Ego and Superego.

I believe that Macbeth is in touch with different aspects of his personality at different times in the play. His lust for power comes from his Id, although that is driven by the Witches, who might be considered a sort of external manifestation of Macbeth's Superego. Meanwhile his Ego tries to hold on desperately to anything it can, but has a very difficult time what with the out-of-control Id and confused Superego. 

I'm interested to hear what others think! 

user profile pic

alexb2 | eNotes Employee

Posted April 15, 2008 at 3:43 PM (Answer #3)

dislike 0 like

Some related links: Superego, Id, Ego.

user profile pic

kirstens | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted April 19, 2008 at 4:49 AM (Answer #4)

dislike 0 like

It is evident that Macbeth is having difficulty dealing with his emotions in the beginning of the play.  Should he kill Duncan or not?  Perhaps he should wait to see what happens... Whatever his musings in Act 1 are, it is clear that he is overwhelmed by self-doubt, paranoia, and fear.  In my opinion, this is the result of his connection to his superego.  He knows that his thoughts of murder are wrong.  He knows that Duncan is a good man and kin.  He knows that fate should be trusted.  But his wife, a woman completely in touch with her id and completely out of touch with her superego and, thus, ego, convinces him through bullying and tears that he should kill as planned.  Therefore, he begins to rely on his id as a determining factor in what to do. 

As the play progresses, his superego and ego become more and more distant, until, at last, they vanish.  Look at his reaction to Lady Macbeth's death.  "She should have died hereafter..."  The woman he loves has just taken her own life and all he can say is "she would have died at some point".  It is insensitive and shocking.  The reason for this lack of emotion?  His id has taken over and clouded his ability to feel emotion and rationally look at situations.  There is little evidence of superego and ego, if any at all. 

user profile pic

sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 20, 2008 at 8:24 PM (Answer #5)

dislike 0 like

I think Macbeth is the prime example of Freud's description of the inherent conflict between the three.  He doesn't represent one in particular - they all exist equally in his brain.  His soliloquys show us his superego.  His fear shows us his ego.  His actions show us his id.  Some of those actions are ego-based as well (the murder of the guards, for instance).  He begins to slowly lose control because he can not reconcile the three forces.

user profile pic

pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 29, 2008 at 5:41 PM (Answer #6)

dislike 0 like
Psychoanalytical Criticism & Macbeth

Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theories are often applied to literature in order to more fully understand characterization, motivation, and conflict.  Shakespeare's Macbeth can certainly be analyzed from this perspective.  In Macbeth, is Macbeth more in touch with his Id, Ego, or Superego?  Why?  How might this affect his decisions or his beliefs?

Clearly Macbeth is driven by his id, the pleasure to satisfy his hidden desire to be king.  Even though  this desire may have been deep in his heart for a long time, the witches prophecy has elevated the desire to an immediate need. 

But after the murder, Macbeth is in a state of torment with his conscience spinning and in the control of the superego.  Macbeth has disobeyed the rules of society and now is haunted by his conscience and ego ideal which according to Freud are the source of feelings of pride, accomplishment and value.  Combine this with the forces from the conscience and Macbeth is awash in guilt.

Macbeth should have listened to his conscience before he committed the murder.  Because once he steps outside the bounds of morality and law, he kills again and again and begins to descend into madness.

His conscience, his guide, tried to encourage him to follow the rules and to not engage in the indulgence of gratifying his desires. 

Freud's theory says,  "however, immediately satisfying these needs may be, it is not always realistic or even possible to do so. If we were ruled entirely by the pleasure principle, we might find ourselves grabbing things we want out of other people's hands to satisfy our own cravings. This sort of behavior would be both disruptive and socially unacceptable." (psychology.com/od/personalities-theories)

user profile pic

litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 14, 2012 at 1:34 AM (Answer #7)

dislike 0 like

Macbeth has absolutely no self-control.  His passion and paranoia are going crazy.  The id is telling him that he should get whatever makes him feel good, and what makes him feel good is taking power.  Killing seems to make him happy too, because that's how he hangs on to power.  Macbeth is well aware of his unbridled ambition, and he does not want anyone to know.

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.(60) (Act 1, Scene 4, p. 18)

Macbeth has no problems with his ego, and not as much with his superego as you’d think.  He does not necessarily think too much of himself, but he wants power.

Sources:

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes