Shakespeare shows a high level of regret in both plays by raising the emotional turmoil sensed by Macbeth and Othello. The climax of this repentance highlights the mental state of distress of both of the main characters, and is followed by a dramatic conclusion. Shakespeare presents Macbeth as regretful by portraying his desire to be king as damaging from the start. This is evident in the play when Macbeth says: “will all great Neptunes ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?” This use of language is regretful. Many bad things then go on to happen to Macbeth, providing that he was wrong to murder the king and this was against the laws in Jacobean times. Macbeth’s reference to “Neptune” conveys a sense of prayer to the language and the question mark suggests doubt at his actions. Neptune is the God of the sea, and the Jacobean audience would have known this. However, as this was not the Christian God, the audience would have also viewed this with suspicion. This also shows that Macbeth feels regretful because it suggests that this is something that will not go away easily; all the water in the ocean will not make his hands clean. Shakespeare makes Macbeth’s guilt and regret apparent with a direct link to the metaphor of having blood on your hands.
This heightens Macbeth’s internal disturbance by the constant pressure laid on by Lady Macbeth. The metaphor is used throughout the whole play as Lady Macbeth sees a “spot” on her hand and, at the end of the play when Macbeth’s downfall is imminent, it is said that “His secret murders” are “sticking on his hands.” The outcome is inevitable because Macbeth will not wash his hands clean and the audience knows that this will end in his own death creating drama and tension. Before in the play, the murder of the king is not shown because in the Jacobean Era, murdering the king was against the law. Similarly, Shakespeare presents Othello as regretful. This is evident in the play when Othello says: “oh fool, fool, fool!” Othello calls himself a “fool” when he finds out the truth and knows that he was tricked by Iago and is regretful for killing his wife. The use of the word “fool” shows the audience that he was not very clever as he was tricked quite easily. However, it was easy for Iago to deceive Othello due to his gullibility. This may have been due to the fact that as an outsider, he did not belong in the society. It also highlights the fact that Othello was easily confused because of Desdemona’s betrayal of her own father. Othello felt that Desdemona could betray Othello as well. The evidence in support of this fatalistic belief was overwhelming. It had links to Othello being a Moor and Desdemona’s seemingly pernicious friendship with Cassio. The Jacobean audience was aware of this dramatic irony and possibly knew what was going to happen next.
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