Macbeth’s soliloquy in Act II scene i is a turning point; a key moment in the play. It is rich in Gothic imagery which depicts violence, horror and disruption.
The soliloquy begins with with Macbeth hallucinating that there is a dagger in front of him: “Is this a dagger which I see before me,” This is the first time in the play that Macbeth hallucinates and the beginning point for many delusions to follow. This is also the mark from which Macbeth’s character starts to disintegrate. We see in him the transition from a brave, loyal subject to a fearful, lying insomniac.
Proceeding in the soliloquy, Macbeth hints that the handle of the dagger invites him: “The handle towards my hand?” This shows that he wants to absolve himself from the sin he is about to commit, and reflects a vague human still in him.
The next limes are: “Art thou not fatal vision, sensible/ to feeling as to sight?” In these lines, Macbeth calls the vision “fatal.” The reader realizes here that his conscience is still alive. He sees the dagger as the symbol of regicide and believes it to be destructive, not only for Duncan, but his own self and sanity too. It will be with the dagger using which he murders Duncan, that he will murder his human self and his sanity. These lines foreshadow that.
Then its: “Or art thou but/ A dagger of the mind, a false creation,/ proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?” These lines emphasize the theme of appearance versus reality and indicate how totally Macbeth believes in vision only from now on. He veils himself the reality from himself of his own person. He here forsakes the Macbeth he was, and instead begins to believe in the Macbeth that his Lady and his Ambition show him.
The “heat oppressed brain” again indicates an exhausted perturbed and agitated brain which is drained because of the prophecies it is obsessed with, the murder it is preoccupied with, and the transgress it is inching towards. It reflects the inner conflict taking place in Macbeth and like friction creates heat, so does this conflict produce a “heat oppressed brain.” “Mine eyes are made fools o’ th’ other senses” again suggests the appearance versus reality theme.
Macbeth now adds “gouts of blood” to his already horrid illusion, and almost as if he is half afraid of it, he shuns it. He realizes that is an illusion and his dying conscience refers to the murder as the “bloody business.” The lines that proceed also emphasize the disturbance of Macbeth’s brain. He knows well that he is wrong and compares himself to Tarquin: his ambition calls to him while his conscience tries to told him back, and his ambition is the stronger of the two.
Macbeth believes that Nature bears witness to all acts. He says: “Thou sure and firm set Earth/ hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear/ Thy very stones prate of my whereabouts.” This is something reflective of the lines pronounced by in earlier in the play in which he says: “Stars hide your fires/ Let not light see my deep and dark desires.” These lines also indicate the involvement and intervention of Nature and Fate in all that follows in the play.
As the bell calls to Macbeth: “The bell invites me,” Macbeth heads for the murder, kills his conscience and submits to Evil.
Showing the struggle of Macbeth’s brain, this soliloquy constructs and conveys an atmosphere of confusion and prevalent Evil. The dark and the supernatural are clearly reflected here: “Witchcraft celebrates Pale Hecate’s off’rings” and the mood of Evil that was set at the beginning of the play by the “weird sisters” is focused and enhanced here as the stage is set for murder.
Macbeth is alone here in the most decisive struggle of his brain and this foreshadows how he will forever be alone , not trusting, and confused. The character Macbeth takes up in this soliloquy or the cloak he puts on is the character he remains throughout the rest of the play.
It can be safely said that the “New Macbeth” is born in this soliloquy and the mood set in act I sc. i is strongly emphasized and built upon.