Guilt is defined as an emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes or believes that he or she has violated a moral standard and bears significant responsibility for that violation. Throughout William Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth, guilt is a recurring motif of great significance due to its psychological effect on the lives of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. At the beginning of the play, Macbeth is characterized as a loyal, strong, and valiant. With persuasion from his wife, whose desire for Macbeth to become king is great, Lord Macbeth carries out the murder of King Duncan. This evil deed sets off feelings of guilt in Macbeth and Lady Macbeth which cause the characters to mentally disintegrate.
Before Macbeth has even committed the murder of King Duncan, he begins to feel guilt and is hesitant to commit the crime. He leaves the banquet due to his guilty thoughts and states, "Stars, hide your fires! Let not light see my black and deep desires" (I.iv). Macbeth knows that his thoughts about killing King Duncan are wrong, and he feels guilty for thinking this way. Realizing what a good leader King Duncan has been makes Macbeth feel even more guilty about the plan to kill the king. The quote, "First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, Strong both against the deed; then, as his host, Who should against his murderer shut the door, Not bear the knife myself" (I.vii), reveals that Macbeth knows that as King Duncan's host, it is his duty to protect the king rather than to murder him. But as a result of Lady Macbeth's persistence, he goes ahead with Duncan's murder, which increases Macbeth's guilt and begins his downward spiral psychologically. .
While Macbeth is waiting for Lady Macbeth to give him the signal to proceed with the murder, Macbeth's feelings of guilt for the crime he is soon to commit cause him to see hallucinations of a blood-stained dagger and he says to himself, "Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand?" (II.