Macbeth Insanity Quotes

What are two quotes in acts 4 and 5 that show how Macbeth has become insane, with an explanation of the quotes?

Quotes showing Macbeth's descent into insanity in acts 4 and 5 include "I have supped full of horrors" and "I'll fight, ’til from my bones my flesh be hack'd." The first quote describes Macbeth's fragile mentality after his mind relives the horrors he has caused, and the second quote shows his irrational and violent tendencies.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I don't think that Macbeth actually goes mad at any point in the play. He certainly becomes more violent, blood-thirsty, and tyrannical, but there's no sense that he's lost his mind; he always knows exactly what he's doing and why, even if there seems to be no rhyme or reason...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

I don't think that Macbeth actually goes mad at any point in the play. He certainly becomes more violent, blood-thirsty, and tyrannical, but there's no sense that he's lost his mind; he always knows exactly what he's doing and why, even if there seems to be no rhyme or reason to his actions.

So in order to answer this question we need to look for relevant quotations that illustrate Macbeth's descent, if not into madness, then into self-delusion brought on by his increased feeling of invincibility.

One such example comes in act 4, scene i, just after Macbeth's clapped eyes on the apparition of what looks like a bloody child. The apparition tells Macbeth that no man born of a woman will ever harm Macbeth. Macbeth responds by downplaying the threat of Macduff:

Then live, Macduff. What need I fear of thee?
But yet I’ll make assurance double sure,
And take a bond of fate. Thou shalt not live,
That I may tell pale-hearted fear it lies,
And sleep in spite of thunder.

Macbeth is so obsessed with the witches' prophecies that he's starting to feel untouchable. Though this may not be a sign of madness, it's certainly a sign of dangerous arrogance and hubris. Macbeth's complacency about the threat of Macduff is misplaced indeed, as Macduff will be the man who finally kills him.

In act 5, scene 5, even as Macbeth approaches his doom, he's still firmly in the grip of self-delusion. This is especially dangerous as it's robbed him of the fear that he ought to have for his enemies:

I have almost forgot the taste of fears.

The time has been my senses would have cooled

To hear a night-shriek, and my fell of hair

Would at a dismal treatise rouse and stir

As life were in't. I have supped full with horrors.

Direness, familiar to my slaughterous thoughts

Cannot once start me.

Macbeth is so deluded that he feels himself protected by the witches' prophecy. Horrible things have become so familiar that they no longer startle him. For a man in his position, about to be attacked by his enemies, that's a very dangerous attitude indeed.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One could argue that Macbeth does not actually become insane, but he certainly becomes unstable by the end of the play. One sign that Macbeth is becoming unhinged is his frenzied determination to kill Lady Macduff and her children after he finds out that Macduff has fled. This is a cruel and irrational act: they are no immediate threat to him and murdering them can only further establish in the mind sof his already restless subjects that he is an unmitigated tyrant. However, he will not wait, demonstrating that his passions are getting the better of his judgment. These murders are the result of angry bloodlust. He states:

The castle of Macduff I will surprise,
Seize upon Fife, give to th' edge o' th' sword
His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls
That trace him in his line. No boasting like a fool.
This deed I’ll do before this purpose cool.
In act 5, as troops approach the castle, Macbeth, who has worked himself into a frenzy by insisting on wearing his armor well ahead of the needed time, engages in the bravado of an unstable person, which reveals his dire circumstances. He is saying something akin to, "Bring them on! They can lay a siege, but I'll laugh. If so many of men hadn't deserted to the other side, I could have beat them":
Hang out our banners on the outward walls.
The cry is still “They come!” Our castle’s strength
Will laugh a siege to scorn. Here let them lie
Till famine and the ague eat them up.
Were they not forced with those that should be ours,
We might have met them dareful, beard to beard,
And beat them backward home.
I would argue that Macbeth is not insane but frenzied and overwrought. He is trying to deny that his dream is unraveling.
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Macbeth does begin to slowly lose his mind in Act 3, when he murders Banquo and sees his ghost.  In Act 4, Macbeth goes to see with witches again.  This demonstrates that they are beginning to grab hold of his mind.  In Act 4, Scene 1, Macbeth tells the witches:

I conjure you, by that which you profess,

Howe'er you come to know it, answer me: (enotes etext p. 58)

It is a source of mental instability that he is so obsessed with the witches’ prophecies, and believes that they can tell him the future.  He then acts on what they tell him.

In Act 5, Scene 2, Macbeth refuses to believe the reports he has been getting of soldiers coming to Dunsinane.

Bring me no more reports; let them fly all!

Till Birnam Wood remove to Dunsinane

I cannot taint with fear. (p. 80)

He believes that he is safe as long as the forest doesn’t move and Macduff was born of woman.  This is strange thinking and full of self-delusion.  It only gets worse as Lady Macbeth dies and things get harsh.  When he gets the news that there is an overwhelming force against him, he decides to go down fighting instead of cut his losses.

I'll fight, ’til from my bones my flesh be hack'd.

Give me my armor (p. 81)

He puts on his armor before it is needed.

Finally, his encounter with Young Siward, where he dismisses the lad as not born of woman, and his reaction to Macduff telling him he was “from his mother's womb untimely ripp'd” (p. 88) shows that Macbeth has really lost it.

 Accursed be that tongue that tells me so,

For it hath cow'd my better part of man!

And be these juggling fiends no more believed,

That palter with us in a double sense,

That keep the word of promise to our ear (25)

And break it to our hope. I'll not fight with thee. (p. 88)

So Macbeth has lost his mind as his greed and ambition got the better of him, and he allowed the witches to manipulate him.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team