Is Macbeth guilty for the death of Duncan, and if so, why?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Macbeth depicts his guilty conscience immediately after killing King Duncan by hallucinating, commenting on his horrific crime, and expressing his regret. After Macbeth leaves Duncan's chamber, he looks at his hands and declares, "This is a sorry sight" (Shakespeare, 2.2.20). Macbeth proceeds to tell his wife that one of Duncan's chamberlains yelled out "Murder!" and mentions that he was unable to say Amen after one of the chamberlains sneezed. Macbeth also tells his wife that he heard one of Duncan's servants say, "Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep" in the middle of his dream (Shakespeare, 2.2.35-36). Macbeth even refuses to go back into Duncan's chamber to place the daggers by the dead servants because he is afraid of looking at what he's done. As Macduff is knocking on the door, Macbeth reveals his guilt by saying,

"Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood / Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather / The multitudinous seas incarnadine, / Making the green one red" (Shakespeare, 2.2.61-63).

If Macbeth did not feel guilty about committing regicide, he would not experience hallucinations or comment about his bloodstained hands. Macbeth's final comment before the scene ends once again reveals his guilty conscience, as he says,

"Wake Duncan with thy knocking. I would thou couldst" (Shakespeare, 2.2.75).

Macbeth feels guilty for serveral reasons: he is related to King Duncan; he was the king's host; and he knows that King Duncan was a morally upright leader, who did not deserve to die.

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is no doubt that Macbeth is guilty of killing Duncan. Shakespeare makes it very clear that he is the one who stabbed him. It is reasonable to ask, however, whether he was personally responsible for the crime or whether he was driven to do so by supernatural forces in the form of the witches. Shakespeare is not clear on this point, probably intentionally. It seems that Macbeth's ambition intersects with these evil forces in such a way as to make the murders possible. If Macbeth is a victim of fate, he does not seem an unwilling victim. It could also be argued that Macbeth was driven to commit the murder of Duncan by Lady Macbeth. But as Lady Macbeth points out, it was Macbeth who first conceived of committing murder to gain the crown. And he observes himself that it is his own "vaulting ambition" that drives him, not anyone else. Ultimately, that was his only reason to commit the crime.

diali | Student

yeah Macbeth is guilty for this crime because he didn't want to kill his kinsman but he has to do that cause of fate, supernatural elements and also for his ambition to accomplish but the most evident i would say is Lady Macbeth , she manipulated him and provoked him to murder King Duncan

diali | Student

yes he is guilty foe murdering Duncan but he did the crime because of manipulation of his wife who said that i would have killed Duncan if he not resembled my father while sleeping. And also his own ambition to become a king is noticeable