Washing away or Bathing in Blood – Who Was More Insane?

After watching both the stories of Macbeth and Julius Caesar in action, I have decided that Shakespeare’s tragedies are the most twisted; in the sense that the characters-who are of course human, execute the rather revolting murders of other humans. In society, people describe kind acts as humane, but wouldn’t murder be also part of what makes us individuals, humans? It is evident that history can repeat itself; humans have taken away more than gave. People have gave their time to revenge and war than to do simple acts of kindness everyday. Is it not that what society deems as morally wrong or horrifying, really not part of being human? Humans are capable of succeeding in both sides of the spectrum-light and dark. Darkness lingers in every individual’s heart; no matter how small or large, it exists. However, by taking a modern psychologist point of view, humans can determine the motives of others and what we perceive as “psychopathic.”

As we had studied last year, Macbeth succumbed to the idea of glory and power, but carried the murder of King Duncan out in secret. This led Lady Macbeth to plumage into a tortuous state of sleep walking and murmuring out her guilt. She continuously washed her hands of the non-existent blood that she thought was there.

Image result for macbeth and lady macbeth

However, in Julius Caesar, Brutus wanted to show the death of Caesar to the world; he thought it was the most noble act in honour of his name. Brutus and his companions bathed their hands and faces in blood and declared it as the prevention of Caesar’s tyranny.

In both stories, the the king/leader of the story are murdered cruelly, however each perpetrator decided to react to it in different ways; Macbeth-keeping it in secret and going insane from keeping it inside for so long, and Brutus-declaring the truth of Caesar’s death, thinking it was the right thing to do.

So the question is, who would be considered more psychopathic?

For this, I searched up some criteria that would lead psychologists to believe someone as psychopathic, and the dictionary definition is: A person suffering from chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behavior.


Psychopathy criteria:

  • Uncaring-lack of empathy and feeling of disgust; coldheartedness
  • Irresponsibility-Blaming things on others
  • Shallow emotions-lack of feelings of shame, remorse, guilt, fear, and embarrassment
  • Insincere speech-lying, untruthfulness
  • Overconfidence-“grandiose sense of self-worth”
  • Narrowing of attention-impulsive, problems with passive avoidance and processing emotions
  • Selfishness-egocentricity, “parasitic lifestyle”
  • Inability to plan for the future-lack of realistic long-term goals
  • Violence-“very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression”

According to the PCL (Psychopathy Checklist), most of these symptoms are made up of what psychopaths feel. Could this determine whether Macbeth or Brutus is a psychopath?

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On first impression, I thought that Brutus would be considered more of a psychopath, because he didn’t hide the murder as most people would do. In fact, serial killers are able to get away with murder because of the preparations they do before the homicide and do everything they can to erase any trace of evidence of the murder.  However, Brutus does the exact opposite– he does not hide the truth of Caesar’s death, but displayed it to the entirety of Rome. Due to his trustworthy nature, it led Brutus to believe that what he did was “noble”. This leads me to the conclusion that, although murder is morally wrong, Brutus never believed Caesar’s death to be unethical.  Therefore, Brutus does not fit into much of the symptoms of the psychopath. Besides the insincere speech, indicated where he refused to tell his wife, Portia, about the murder of Julius Caesar, Brutus does not seem to possess the qualities of a psychopath. As Anthony described him, he is a “noble man.”

However, there is a lot of evidence of Macbeth becoming like a psychopath. For example, Macbeth is uncaring; after having been told that Lady Macbeth has died by committing suicide, he is unfazed, and does not even react to her death. In fact, he does not bother to even see her body, and carries on to fight the war with Macduff. Macbeth’s murder of King Duncan demonstrates his selfishness-he wants to be in power and would murder someone to achieve his ambition. Macbeth is also indicative of insincere speech because he lied to everyone to become king, blaming the guards and killing them in an act of fake revenge. In the battle of Dunsinane, where the witches have given the prophecy that, until the forest moves, he would win the war;  Macbeth blames his failure on the witches, concluding that they tricked him, which indicates the characteristic of irresponsibility. He is also violent in the ways he wants to succeed in keeping his position as king, as he holds no hesitation to murder Macduff’s family.  He displays shallow emotions when he decided to kill Banquo, his close friend, and does not feel any remorse in hiring assassins to get rid of him. In the battle with Macduff, he is overconfident in himself because all men are born from a woman’s womb-another one of the witches’ prophecies-but is killed because of Macduff who was C-sectioned out. In conclusion, Macbeth, in my opinion and applying data, is more psychopathic.

So, is it not that what everyone does, part of what makes us humans? Isn’t what any human does, part of what humans are? Including psychopathy, crime, murder, betrayal, greed, and all the sins that we have committed, is part of the history of human species. But, we are also loving, gentle, brilliant, talented, creative, and all the glory of humanity, is part of the history of human species.

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4 thoughts on “Washing away or Bathing in Blood – Who Was More Insane?

  1. Kelley!

    This blog post was a rather interesting read; it really gave me a new perspective towards character analysis. I love that you added a very realistic take to both Macbeth and Brutus, extracting them from their respective plays and transforming them from fantasy characters to relatable human beings. Well, as relatable as murder and psychopathy can be…

    You brought up a very complex point in the first paragraph that really made me think. Personally, I have never really considered murder to be an aspect of humanity; in my idealistic world, it represented instead an inability to be truly human, a lack of basic compassion. Those who committed murder were anything but human, as that was a title they didn’t deserve. I guess in some ways, murder and inhumane acts are also an aspect of humanity, albeit a darker one. That was a very interesting context in which to compare Brutus and Macbeth.

    Also, I really love how you brought psychology into this! I think that often times, we become so enraptured by fancy words, fantasy and pretty language that we forget to hold the character up to a human standard. Adding in the criteria was really useful in getting others to understand where exactly you were coming from. The psychology aspect adds a lot of depth and clarity, and it really aids in understanding a character and their motivations. I think that Macbeth displayed psychopathic tendencies more clearly than Brutus as well. On the flip side, however- what if Brutus was just putting on a mask of fake charisma in order to get those around him to trust him over Caesar? He was spectacular at stirring the crowd to believe he had done what was best, that he cared for Rome more than his friend. I think Brutus is just as much of a psychopath in this way as Macbeth was openly. You’ve really made me think much more deeply about these characters instead of just accepting the version of them I was always taught. Thank you for that!

    As for areas of improvement, there are some small errors here and there. I would suggest reading over the first paragraph in order to help it flow better. I loved hearing your ideas on the characters, so personally, I would have enjoyed a more in-depth analysis looking at the other aspects of the character, like how you did with the relationship portion. Other than that, Kelley, thanks for an amazing read (and making me low-key want to analyze everyone I know for psychotic tendencies).



  2. Dear Kelley,

    I loved that you decided to do a compare and contrast of sorts between Macbeth and Brutus; there are clear parallels in these two situations, and it was a great idea to explore it. Reading this, I learned something, and I think that now – with the right prompt – and I could do a compare and contrast critical with Brutus and Macbeth. So, first of all, thank you for this insightful idea!
    Your idea that murder becomes part of one’s humanity really made me think. I’ve never considered it that way, before; I guess I thought of murder as being an act that chipped away at one’s humanity rather than contributing to it. It lead me to consider what humanity is – is it the ideal of the morally perfect human? Or is it the reality of what humans have the capacity to be, both good and bad? I really liked that you decided to work with such a complex and challenging concept!
    It was so cool to see how you took your knowledge of psychopathy and wove it into your writing. I’ve never done anything like that before in my own writing, so I appreciated that you did. It was interesting because I have never thought about Macbeth as a psychopath before – more so, I thought of Lady Macbeth as being psychopathic and Macbeth as merely being the receptacle for her will (at least at first). This was also really relevant for me, because I’m working with Macbeth in Drama, so I liked that by reading your piece I gained a new understanding of Macbeth’s character.
    In terms of improvement, I would look at your GUMPs. The first sentence of your piece – the sentence by which most readers are going to judge whether or not they want to continue reading – doesn’t make grammatical sense to me, and the syntax is somewhat confusing. There are a few GUMPs issues throughout the blog (mostly minor, though) that, when fixed, would improve the flow of your piece, because due to their frequency I wasn’t as focussed on the subject matter as I could have been.
    In the first paragraph, I think you could work to improve your clarity; I wasn’t totally sure what you were trying to say because the wording was somewhat confusing. Some sentences seemed to establish that “what society deems as morally wrong or horrifying [is] really not part of being human,” whereas at other points you say that even these darker deeds do contribute to one’s sense of humanity. I know what you were trying to say, but it could be worded more clearly. If you read over your pieces a couple times before you post them, that can help you to catch these issues, or maybe you could get someone with fresh eyes to edit your blog as well.
    I have one more little suggestion – because you began your piece with a broader discussion about humanity and what you believe that to mean, I would have liked to see you return to that concept when closing your piece, too. The circle effect can be very powerful when utilized, and will help your piece to feel more unified and coherent as well.
    As it stands, this was very thoughtful in its comparison of Brutus’ and Macbeth’s characters by examining what it means to be a psychopath, and because it’s something I would not have considered before, I’m glad that you made me think about it. Thanks for a great read!


  3. *Dearest Hijab and Ziyana,

    Thanks so much for writing huge paragraphs about my blog! I really enjoy reading your comments! 🙂 I’ll read it over again and fix the gumps. (Sometimes I have too many ideas in my head, and I can’t type fast enough for all the ideas to get out) I was also hesitating on how to end my piece, but I couldn’t figure out how; so thank you Ziyana for that idea!

  4. Kelley,

    This was such an interesting blog post to read–it took an approach to two brilliant plays that I never would have thought of, and for that I thank you, becaus ethis was truly such an interesting and thought-provoking read.

    Now, as someone who LOVES Macbeth (like I am for real a die-hard Macbeth fan and Lady Macb. is my gal) I really appreciated that you compared what is my favourite Shakespeare of all time to Julius Caesar, if for no other reason than the fact that I never would have made the connection between the two, nor would I have likened any of the characters you mentioned to being psychopaths.

    As Ziyana said in her comment, I too, had always imagined Lady Macb. to having the characteristics of a psychopath, or a sociopath at the very least. She was, afterall, the one who set into motion a whole slew of murderous events that would eventually lead to her inevitable mania and impending suicide. And, after reading your take on it, while I understand where you are coming from with Macbeth’s lack of compassion toward his diseased wife, I would still hold firm to the idea that it is truly Lady Macbeth who possesses these qualities because she was the instigator of the series of events that lead to the demise of so many people. Lady Macbeth was hungry for power She was ambitious, as was Macbeth, but the difference between the pair was the Lady Macbeth naturally had ‘the illness should attend it’, while Macbeth did not. It’s really a question of Nature vs. Nurture–it was in Lady Macb.’s nature, while Macbeth was nurtured by Lady Macb. to be that way. Psychopathy is based on a lack of empathy, and for that reason, I do believe that Macbeth was not naturally born in this manner, but was made to be this way by his wife, who was.

    In terms of Julius Caesar, however, I find your analysis of Brutus to be very interesting because you have a very different perspective of him than I do in a way that is very similar to the way I perceive him. (If that makes any sense at all) Your idea that Brutus is not a psychopath is quite insightful, and I have to say that I never thought about it in that manner, and after reading your interpretation, I have to agree with you.

    In terms of improvement, i would offer that there are several grammatical and punctuational errors that hinder the coherence of the piece, but are an easy fix overall.

    Thank you for writing such a though-provoking piece, and for bringing an idea and opinion to the metaphorical ‘table’ that are very different from things I have heard before–you have really opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking about these two plays. (But what about Hamlet, eh? Now THERE’S a psychopath for you!!! 😀 )



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