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What are Macbeth's visions and hallucinations. What role do they play in the...

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pariwish58 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 13, 2012 at 5:32 PM via web

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What are Macbeth's visions and hallucinations. What role do they play in the development of his character?

please give me atleast 3 points i can discuss about in my essay. thank you.

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted December 16, 2012 at 8:08 PM (Answer #1)

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There are three very notable hallucinations that Macbeth experiences. One is the dagger that he sees floating before him just before he is about to murder Duncan. Just after he kills the king, he fancies he hears voices calling out that 'Macbeth does murder sleep!' (2.2. 33). Later, once he has become king, and arranged for the murder of Banquo, he sees Banquo's ghost. These visions and hallucinations all testify to the fact that he is slowly becoming unhinged. To begin with, he did not really have it in him to murder; he has to force himself to kill Duncan, and his hallucinations just before and after committing this crime demonstrate how disturbed he is over it. Once he begins his path of crime, however, he becomes ever more reckless, killing more and more, but this is essentially out of a sense of increasing despair - he feels he is beyond all salvation and this drives him slowly insane. This also happens to Lady Macbeth: her overriding sense of guilt and remorse manifests itself in her sleepwalking where she obsessively tries to scrub out bloodstains.

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mlsldy3 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted November 23, 2014 at 5:06 PM (Answer #2)

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Macbeth is a play about power and the insanity it can bring. We see both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, lose their grip on reality and it shows up in many forms.

One of the most significant visions we see is when the floating dagger accompanies Macbeth as he goes to murder King Duncan. Even Macbeth questions what he is seeing "Is this a dagger which I see before me?". We can see that Macbeth is having visions and questions the reality of what he is seeing. 

"Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible to feel as to sight? Or art thou but a dagger of the mins, a false creation, proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?" (Act 2, Scene 2)

The dagger is covered with blood, which represents the bloody course Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are headed down. The dagger is pointing like an arrow at the king's chamber. This is interesting as well, when a person's mind becomes splintered by insanity, sleep becomes useless. King Duncan was killed while he was sleeping restfully, while Macbeth is tormented and can't sleep.

Another example of how madness is shown in visions and not sleeping, is when Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking and has a hallucination of blood stains on her hands. She thinks her hands are covered in the blood of the innocent and she tries to wash it off, but it won't come off. Of course there is no real blood on her hands, but her splintered mind is seeing the blood stains. Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth slowly slip into madness, and the hallucinations and visions they see show us this.

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