Mental illness affects approximately 1 in 4 people, including Macbeth from Shakespeare’s famous play, The Tragedy of Macbeth. Illnesses like schizophrenia and psychopathy impact about one percent of the population. In the play, Macbeth expresses worrisome traits of both of these disorders. Schizophrenia and psychopathy are both extremely deteriorating to the mind and he very well could have suffered from not just one, but both of these illnesses. He has the tendencies to be a psychopath while also having the tendencies to be a schizophrenic, particularly because of the hallucinations and paranoia.
With all of that, he also fit almost all of the criteria to be considered insane in a courtroom. Macbeth was an all around mentally ill and unstable character. However, while there is still a chance that he could have been fully aware of his actions, Macbeth had a mental illness because he had schizophrenic traits, psychopathic traits, and he also fit the criteria to plead insanity. First off, Macbeth was mentally ill because he had schizophrenic traits. He saw things that were not there.
As stated by Geiman in Seeing Through the Eyes of Schizophrenia, “People with schizophrenia typically experience ymptoms such as auditory hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech and odd or unusual behavior” (2). A symptom of schizophrenia is being delusional and seeing hallucinations, and an example of when this happened is when he was going to kill king Duncan. When he was going to go through with the deed of killing the king, he imagined a dagger in his mind that wasn’t actually there. When he saw it, it confirmed that he had to kill the king and it almost led him to kill king Duncan.
In his famous dagger soliloquy, Macbeth said, “Is this a dagger which I see before me.. rt thou but a dagger of the mind, a false creation, proceeding from the heat oppressed brain? ” (II. ii. 33. 39). Macbeth fabricated a false dagger to help show him that he needed to kill king Duncan. Another instance that shows his schizophrenic traits is when he hallucinated Banquo’s ghost. Before the banquet, Macbeth had Banquo killed because he felt he was a threat to him. Because of the guilt of having his best friend killed, when the banquet came around, he saw an apparition of Banquo. In the play, the ghost of Banquo sat in Macbeth’s seat.
When he is told to sit down, he hinks that there are not any seats and Banquo is sitting in Macbeth’s seat. He starts freaking out and Lady Macbeth tries to convince the guests that this is a normal occurrence. This shows schizophrenia because Macbeth is seeing something that is not really there. Another symptoms of schizophrenia is paranoia. A schizophrenic tendency in Macbeth is how paranoid he was, especially after he killed King Duncan. After killing the king, he suffered extreme paranoia. He flinched at every single noise he heard in fear of getting caught for the crime he had just committed.
Along with schizophrenia, he also showed signs of being a psychopath, which could explain his actions even further. Second, Macbeth showed psychopathic traits. One of them is that he is deceptive and manipulative. O’Toole stated in Looking Behind the Mask that, “Many psychopaths are pathological liars who will lie for the sake of getting away with it” (16). He lied a lot to save himself, even though he was really bad at it and Lady Macbeth had to save him a lot when he got caught up in lies. For example, when he killed the king, he lied about that and said that it was the guards who did it.
This example also ties into how irresponsible Macbeth was. Generally, psychopaths are irresponsible. He is irresponsible because he uses his power carelessly. He abuses his power to throw away lives, like Banquo’s, without any consequence. When Macbeth killed for the first time, he was scared of the repercussions. However, after that, he wasn’t scared anymore because he knew he wouldn’t have to take responsibility for what happened. Macbeth is also a predator, which is another trait of psychopathy. O’Toole states that, “Psychopaths use what they can to their advantage” (17).
Macbeth often takes advantage of situations to use them to his benefit. With the help of Lady Macbeth, he was able to take the upper hand of the situation when it came to killing the king. They were hosting a party at their castle and knew everyone was going to be drinking so Macbeth and Lady Macbeth seized the opportunity to be able to frame the guar psychopathy is narcissism. Macbeth showed his narcissism when he took the witch’s prophecy. He did not care about anyone else and did whatever it took to claim the throne. In a way, the witches inflated Macbeth’s self worth and made him eel superior.
They made him feel invincible when he first saw them and when he returned to them. The wicked sisters said, for Duncan’s death. Another attribute to “for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth… Macbeth shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him” (IV. i. 80… 94). The witches are saying that everyone who is born from a woman cannot harm Macbeth. In theory, everyone is born from a women so nobody can harm him. They are also telling him that he will never be defeated until the trees uproot and walk up the hill.
In nature, trees do not uproot themselves and they can’t walk like a human does. The witches are essentially telling him that he is undefeatable. These words inflate his self worth and superiority, which contributes to him being so narcissistic. Besides having a lot of symptoms of schizophrenia and psychopathy, Macbeth also has a mental illness because he fits the criteria to be considered insane in court. Lastly, although mental illness and courtroom insanity are not synonymous, Macbeth had a mental illness because he was separated from reality and he fit the asis to plead insanity in a courtroom.
For starters, the expression, the courtroom definition, and the psychiatrist term of the word “insanity” are all different and all have different connotations. In order to be considered insane in today’s court, you have to be completely separated from reality. As described by Vaknin, “A perpetrator should go unpunished – and be hospitalized instead – only if he is found to be completely divorced from reality by diagnosticians from both sides, a far cry from today’s insanity defense” (2). To prove that a suspect is in act separated from reality, a few things have to be proven.
The first thing to be proven is if the suspect had a diminished capacity. Macbeth showed that he was mentally impaired when he brought the daggers back instead of putting them with the guards and smothering them with blood. Although he knew that he was killing, he was not stable enough to carry out the entire crime. After the first crime, he could not control his behavior anymore. It became out of hand and he wasn’t able to control it anymore. He felt the urge to kill; which proves that he had an rresistible impulse which could no longer be controlled.
In a way, he also lacked criminal intent. While he intended to kill, he did it because he believed that killing the king was what he was meant to do. Macbeth was extremely delusional and misinformed when it came to his crimes. The witches are the ones who initially misinformed him but his wife, Lady Macbeth, fueled the fire of misinformation by almost forcing him to become who he was. All in all, Macbeth was an extremely mentally ill character from Shakespeare’s play, The Tragedy of Macbeth.