An analysis of Act V scene i in Macbeth, focusing on the result of Lady Macbeth's ambition turned to madness.

Essay by majestik1High School, 12th grade January 2005

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In Shakespeare's Macbeth, Lady Macbeth slowly drives herself towards insanity and a guilt-ridden conscience. Initially, Lady Macbeth is a ruthless, power-hungry agitator, manipulating her husband to murder innocent threats to their ascent to the Scottish throne. Afterward, however, her resolve dissipates as the toll of murders and the increased suspicion by the onlookers weighs on her conscience. By the end of the play, the repercussions of Lady Macbeth's unrestrained ambition results in her overwhelming guilt and madness, signified by her sleepwalking episode where she imagines an irremovable bloodstain on her hands in Act V scene i.

Lady Macbeth's evil deeds drive her towards insanity where she sleepwalks, a symbol of her guilt and paranoia overtaking her feeble mind. It is ironic that Lady Macbeth cannot rid her pain and guilt through sleep in this scene, when in the banquet scene she tells Macbeth, "You lack the season of all natures, sleep," indicating that sleep will remedy all of his problems (III.iv.142).

But in actuality, sleep does not relieve her of any stress; it only brings her greater pain and torment. In addition, Lady Macbeth's inability to sleep was foreshadowed by the voice that Macbeth imagined after he killed Duncan, prophesizing "Sleep no more, Macbeth does murder sleep" (II.ii.34-35). The experience of guilt and suffering she pays for as a result of her unrelenting ambition governs her soul such that the natural divisions of night and day crumble. Lady Macbeth appears to be awake, as "her eyes are open ... but their sense are shut," signifying her delusional state (V.i.27-28). Lady Macbeth once desired darkness and evil: "Come, thick night And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell," to allow her to transform into a wicked being (I.iv.51-52). Ironically, now that her ambition is lost and guilt...