Institute of Philosophical Practices
Oscar Brenifier, philosophy practitioner

Being someone

Macbeth, thane of Glamis, heroically won the battle over an army of rebels, loyally comforting the power of King Duncan. But horrid ghosts always haunt the soul of men. In this case represented by three witches, who predict to our hero that he will become thane of Cawdor and king of Scotland. Macbeth is first surprised, and doubtful, but soon after, learning he just acquired the first title, he is stunned. No more is needed, he decides to become king, and proceeds to murder Duncan, in spite of the horror such an idea provokes in him. His last doubts are anyhow overridden by his wife, Lady Macbeth, who confronts his quandaries by challenging his manhood, his own worth. She despises her husband moral dilemma, which indicates a lack of courage. She calls on the powers of evil to help her accomplish what « must » be done. As a cunning heiress of Eve, she plots, telling her husband he must treacherously pretend to be a loyal host when poor Duncan blindly comes to the castle.

Macbeth, fearing his own nothingness, needs to prove himself, he needs to make his mark upon the world. To be someone, to be honored, to have power, at any cost. He has to crush in himself the admittance of anything that stands beyond his measly self. Truth, good or beauty, are internal necessities he pretends to ignore, in his mad personal quest. The whole play dramatizes the damaging physical and psychological effects of ambition on those who seek power for its own sake. As the plot unfolds, Macbeth is forced to commit more and more murders. In order to protect himself from enmity and suspicion, he becomes a tyrannical ruler. Wracked with guilt, engulfed in a streak of violence, he suffers from an increasingly acute form of delirious paranoia. For example, after killing his old friend Banquo, he watches his ghost barging in during a banquet. He responds with a senseless diatribe, shocking the assembly with his growing insanity. Inevitably, a bloodbath and consequent civil war swiftly throw Macbeth and his wife into the realms of madness and death. One can then conclude as Shakespeare that life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, which signifies nothing.

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