This is one of the classic lines of Shakespeare’s work, which was said to Macbeth by his wife, and which, nearly six centuries after its composition, still shines perfectly, depicting the depths of human nature; which becomes harsher and harsher in our cynical epoque. The question one could make is why this two line phrase includes such an enormous reality, and why on earth we are all hiding a serpent inside us.
Well, obviously, the answer cannot be given in a closed ‘yes’ or ‘no’ way. It is quite deeper than that and, to start with, I would like to call upon our good old friend Sigmund Freud and, in particular, his theory concerning the structure of one’s personality. In a few words, Freud suggested that our personality is fundamentally based on the following three aspects:
- Id, which contains our primitive instincts for survival and lust, and which is usually of a socially and legally unacceptable content. In Hollywood movies, it is often symbolized with the little red devil on the protagonist’s soldier,
- Superego, the silent voice that incorporates ideals, values and morals one has learnt from his society-family-surrounding environment in general. It is somehow the quest of man for moral perfection,
- Ego, the decision-making tool of the mind, the resistance between id and superego. It is our usual self, as we know it in its every day interactions.
Now, coming back to Macbeth, we understand that what Shakespeare tried to say, is that it is impossible for one to totally obliterate the Id part of his mind. No matter how mentally and morally developed one is, the “serpent” will always lurk in the dark corners of his soul, ready to attack when it feels threatened.
Macbeth started as a humble, friendly, peaceful man. However, when the three sisters, which symbolize fate, told him that he is meant to be the great and one King of England, when destiny confounded his soul with lures of power, his heart darkened and his id was becoming stronger and stronger, leading him to truculent acts. It cannot be neglected though that these actions were stirred up by his ambitious wife, who was charmed by the prerogatives, which accompanied political power and influence.
No matter how distant all these sound to us, and to our post-industrial society’s rules and laws, let us all think on our deepest sentiments, which merely last a second, and are immediately thrown into the trash can of our mind. These taboo-thoughts, that we refuse to admit to our very own selves. Think of the first moment you saw your younger sibling stealing your mother’s attention from you, think of the man that got the promotion you were aiming at, think of the exquisite, girl/boy that passed by you in the corridor today and the emotions she/he triggered in your mind for some brief seconds.
I bet you wouldn’t dare to share out loud your emotions on those moments, but don’t worry at all. As our good friends Sigmunt and William had said, it is utmost natural. It is your personal “serpent”, your Macbeth, it is your id, it is a (significant actually) part of yourself.
Learn it, live with it, use it.
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