Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Macbeth and Grief

This post is inspired by Macbeth Uncovered:

Great questions from the Teacher Viewing Guide:
  • Is the play’s action driven by Macbeth’s human-ness or by supernatural evil?
  • Does Lady Macbeth turn her husband into a killer, or does he possess that power himself?
  • What is the psychology of grief?

The last question resonates after our discussion yesterday about Malcolm and Macduff.  When you think of Macbeth, you think of ambition and murder, but it's also a play about grief for those left in the wake of those violent deaths. 

How does Macduff respond to the news of his families death? 

How does Malcolm cope with his grief? 

End of Act IV Scene III - Macduff learns his family has been murdered:

Your castle is surprised; your wife and babes
Savagely slaughter'd: to relate the manner,
Were, on the quarry of these murder'd deer,
To add the death of you.
Merciful heaven!
What, man! ne'er pull your hat upon your brows;
Give sorrow words: the grief that does not speak
Whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break.
My children too?
Wife, children, servants, all
That could be found.
And I must be from thence!
My wife kill'd too?
I have said.
Be comforted:
Let's make us medicines of our great revenge,
To cure this deadly grief.
He has no children. All my pretty ones?
Did you say all? O hell-kite! All?
What, all my pretty chickens and their dam
At one fell swoop?
Dispute it like a man.
I shall do so;
But I must also feel it as a man:
I cannot but remember such things were,
That were most precious to me. Did heaven look on,
And would not take their part? Sinful Macduff,
They were all struck for thee! naught that I am,
Not for their own demerits, but for mine,
Fell slaughter on their souls. Heaven rest them now!
Be this the whetstone of your sword: let grief
Convert to anger; blunt not the heart, enrage it.
O, I could play the woman with mine eyes
And braggart with my tongue! But, gentle heavens,
Cut short all intermission; front to front
Bring thou this fiend of Scotland and myself;
Within my sword's length set him; if he 'scape,
Heaven forgive him too!
This tune goes manly.
Come, go we to the king; our power is ready;
Our lack is nothing but our leave; Macbeth
Is ripe for shaking, and the powers above
Put on their instruments. Receive what cheer you may:
The night is long that never finds the day.

The Five Stages of Grief:

From Kubler-Ross Foundation

Popularly known by acronym DABDA:

  1. Denial — As the reality of loss is hard to face, one of the first reactions to follow the loss is Denial. What this means is that the person is trying to shut out the reality or magnitude of their situation, and begin to develop a false, preferable reality.
  2. Anger — "Why me? It's not fair!"; "How can this happen to me?"; '"Who is to blame?"
    Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy. Anger can manifest itself in different ways. People can be angry with themselves, or with others, and especially those who are close to them. It is important to remain detached and nonjudgmental when dealing with a person experiencing anger from grief.
  3. Bargaining — "I'll do anything for a few more years."; "I will give my life savings if…"
    The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow undo or avoid a cause of grief. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Other times, they will use any thing valuable as a bargaining chip against another human agency to extend or prolong the life they live. Psychologically, the individual is saying, "I understand I will die, but if I could just do something to buy more time…" People facing less serious trauma can bargain or seek to negotiate a compromise. For example "Can we still be friends?" when facing a break-up. Bargaining rarely provides a sustainable solution, especially if it is a matter of life or death.
  4. Depression — "I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"; "I'm going to die soon so what's the point?"; "I miss my loved one, why go on?"
    During the fourth stage, the grieving person begins to understand the certainty of death. Much like the existential concept of The Void, the idea of living becomes pointless. Things begin to lose meaning to the griever. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and sullen. This process allows the grieving person to disconnect from things of love and affection, possibly in an attempt to avoid further trauma. Depression could be referred to as the dress rehearsal for the 'aftermath'. It is a kind of acceptance with emotional attachment. It is natural to feel sadness, regret, fear, and uncertainty when going through this stage. Feeling those emotions shows that the person has begun to accept the situation. Often times, this is the ideal path to take, to find closure and make their ways to the fifth step, Acceptance.
  5. Acceptance — "It's going to be okay."; "I can't fight it, I may as well prepare for it."
    In this last stage, individuals begin to come to terms with their mortality or inevitable future, or that of a loved one, or other tragic event. This stage varies according to the person's situation. People dying can enter this stage a long time before the people they leave behind, who must pass through their own individual stages of dealing with the grief. This typically comes with a calm, retrospective view for the individual, and a stable mindset.

More From WebMD:

Think about how Shakespeare captures these 5 stages throughout the play. 

It never fails to amaze me how well Shakespeare captures the human condition - it's truths and complexities. These are not flat characters, but full beings in their range of emotions. 

Through empathizing with these characters, we learn what it means to be human. 

Perhaps a little awareness can help you or a friend...

A breakup is a kind of dying — here's how we grieve.

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