As an author writes out their piece of literature they effectively connect actions and objects to create long lasting effects. Every piece of literature contains symbols that represent something thus creating a range of associations beyond itself.
This symbol can be an action or just a simple object. All objects hold a purpose and when analyzed in depth can unfold a multitude of different meanings and connections. In William Shakespeare’s “Tragedy of Macbeth”, the dagger signifies more than just a weapon of death, it signifies Macbeth’s state of mind, loss of morality, and the driving force of Macbeth’s fall into insanity.The use of the daggers in King Duncan’s murder bring forth numerous amounts of unfortunate circumstances, one of the primary ones being Macbeth’s unstable state of mind. For instance, in the dagger soliloquy, Macbeth is initiating his hallucination phases and says, “Is this a dagger which I see before me// The handle toward my hand? Let me clutch thee// I have thee not, and yet I see the still”(2.1.46). It is obvious that he is talking to an inanimate object that is not present, this is strategically placed there for the purpose presenting the progress of Macbeth’s mental disorders.
Showing Macbeth following an imaginary dagger is just one way of attempting to alleviate the severity of his crime, as it is suggesting it is rather an action deriving from a mental illness as opposed to a personal choice. Apparently the poor man can not even help himself as he can not even seem to control his own senses. By expressing that his “eyes are made the fools o’ th’ other senses, Or else worth all the rest” (2.1.
45-46) he is implying that his eyesight must not be working. If he can not seem to have at least a minute amount of sense control then it is without a doubt he is not in a stable state of mind. In this same scene, there is a change in the rhythm of the whole play, Shakespeare goes back and forth between lines with the use of iambic pentameter. The shifts in iambic pentameter in this scene represent his mind going back and forth debating whether or not to go forth with crime. He feels like he has no absolute control of the actions that have taken over his soul. Consequently, the use of this imaginary dagger scene strategically leads to the revelation that Shakespeare must want us to view Macbeth as a tragic hero and not a villain. Subsequently, not only is there a sense of illness demonstrated through Macbeth’s hallucinations, but this dagger is the representation that Macbeth’s rationality has abandoned him.
Macbeth understands that the envisioning of the dagger may as well just be a result of all the exhaustion of his brain, which makes the dagger a simple illusion. However, in spite of that realization, the dagger has an enormous impact on him, thus making Macbeth feel greatly disturbed. When imagining the dagger, all he can think of is the throne he may be bound to inherit, but he knows there is no absolute rationality to the crime he is about to commit. It is apparent he refuses to think about the lasting effect on others he has lost all the human like qualities of compassion. This dagger scene allows readers to envision more than just a murder, on the contrary, it is noted that his brain is oppressed with literal overwhelming fear. His rational thought has been to overwhelmed it has just left him. It even goes as far as he not even wanting to think of his crime, opposingly instead of taking full responsibility and “knowing his deed”(2.
2.74) he would much rather let the guilt take over and act unconscious as if he did “not know himself”(2.2.74). He is now confounded and stuck between the guilt and temptation about the murder of King Duncan. His “heat oppressed brain”(2.1.
40) can take no more and endows him with a lack of rationale thus enabling in him a sense of eagerness and excitement about this murder. . Initially, Macbeth is a man of high values and great morals as he is trusted by King Duncan. After having used the dagger to kill his own people, the loss of morality is demonstrated. He has no positive values because he who has the valor to kill is capable of anything.
He had no respect or gratitude for the king, enough to at least allow him to leave. Instead of being the fearful man he started off as he has now switched roles with Lady Macbeth and cares only about reaching superiority. His morals instantaneously vanish as it is not just one person he murders but rather multiple people in the kingdom, Macbeth though of it as a simple task as he does describe how, “there lay Duncan,//His silver skin laced with his golden blood;//And his gash’d stabs look’d like a breach in nature//For ruin’s wasteful entrance: there, the murderers//Steep’d in the colours of their trade, their daggers”(2.3.111-115). Indeed, no one in their possible right minds can just kill an additional two more people to cover up for his malevolent actions. If Macbeth can put aside his morals and believe his actions are a validity for is reigning he deserves no mercy or respect and is not worthy of being king.
Last of all, the bloody dagger depicts his future endeavours and the driving force into Macbeth’s insanity. Although he has left the daggers in the hands of the “presumed” murderers he still holds with him the blood that they left behind. This blood will haunt him and Lady Macbeth until their last days because “fair is foul and foul is fair”(1.1.11-12) and what they thought was the correct thing to do turns out is the worst of their mistakes.
Consequently, these violent acts will leave them with sleepless nights, worrisome days, suffering, and so much guilt that they will not be able to bear themselves. The daggers also foreshadow Lady Macbeth’s death as she kills herself because she can not live with the guilt of the crime they have committed. This additional death only contributes to more of Macbeth’s insanity because he is left lonely without any support and never ending “tomorrows” with endless suffering. Having to bear all that weight on his shoulders on his own and realizing all he has “signifies nothing”(5.5.28) will lead to his final fall of insanity into his manic cycle. It is without a doubt that a simple object can represent a range of associations beyond itself.
After deep analysis and observing beyond its literal inanimate self, the dagger went beyond just being a weapon. With the daggers used in the murder of King Duncan came guilt, deception, suffering, insanity, amongst others. In all, this dagger signified the suffering and final results of the “Tragedies of Macbeth’s” life.
Although these tragedies continued in the path of his endless tomorrows, the sweet and glory of the throne didn’t last much as death came by and swept him by his feet as well.