«Wendy M. Bustamante Missing Lady Macbeth’s Sickness unto Death Kierkegaard’s Allusions to Macbeth for Concepts of Sin, Gender, and Despair My ...»
companions making,/ Using those thoughts which should indeed have died/ With them they think on? Things without all remedy/ Should be without regard.”35 Because what has been done externally has already been done, and the existence of the person it has been done to has been eliminated, for example, thoughts about those external actions which cannot be remedied and non-existent individuals are not worth thinking about anymore. Thinking about an individual that no longer exists is thinking along the lines of the eternal. She rebukes Macbeth’s reflections and rebukes him for reflecting.
A further distinction is made between despair over the earthly and despair over something earthly. The self in despair over the earthly in totality is the result of despair over something particular in the world so passionately that the particular thing becomes the totality of the temporal earthly world. Infinite passion over a particular externality becomes despair over the earthly. A passion this strong and total prevents a successful inward turn, and instead can only move through to the next step forward, despair of the eternal or over oneself.36 Lady Macbeth is certainly passionate about the earthly. She is passionate about her husband and his power over the earthly. It becomes difficult to see what she is particularly passionate about, but she is moved by the stirrings of nature, the events of her castle, and ambition of and for her husband. Her fluidity of passion from a particular, like her husband, to the totality of power seems illustrative of the fluid movement Anti-Climacus is describing with regard to despair over 35 Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Wordsworth Editions. London: 2005. III, 2. [10-14].
36 Anti-Climacus remarks in a footnote that the linguistic distinction between of and over is important. He denotes that over is to be used for despair regarding the earthly and of is to be used for despair regarding the eternal. That which is described with the term over is despair over that which does not release one from despair. For this reason, despair of the eternal is a distinct step forward from despair over the earthly. Despair regarding the self, on the other hand, calls for both terms since “the self is doubly dialectical.” Kierkegaard, Sören. The Sickness Unto Death.
Princeton University Press. NJ: 1983., 60-61.
If, however, a movement forward is made, it is a movement of consciousness about what the despair concerns. Anti-Climacus assures us that all despair is ultimately regarding the eternal self, “Despair over the earthly or over something earthly is in reality also despair of the eternal and over oneself, insofar as it is despair, for this is indeed the formula for all despair.”37 All despair is actually over oneself and of the eternal, but the person in despair over the earthly is not conscious that they are in despair as such. They believe their despair is externally driven and are bound to external gains and losses. The step forward toward despair of the eternal or over oneself marks the consciousness that earthly ties are weak ties and that when too much importance is given to the earthly, the self can be lost. Despair of the eternal and over oneself requires more self consciousness than despair over the earthly since such despair would be impossible without a consciousness of a self to be despaired over and its having had or having something eternal about it.38 It is a conscious step forward, but someone in despair of the eternal and over oneself continues to be in despair not to will to be oneself despite having a much qualitatively fuller self-consciousness than the lower forms. The linguistic distinction AntiClimacus offers us is that the despair over the earthly was despair in weakness, whereas despair of the eternal or over oneself is despair over weakness.39 The problem with this form of despair is that it is inclosed. Because he knows of his weakness and despairs over it, he hides it from the external world he values so much. The man in this kind of despair suffers from inclosing reserve. Inclosing reserve is the opposite of 37 Kierkegaard, Sören. The Sickness Unto Death. Princeton University Press. NJ: 1983., 60.
38 Ibid., 62.
39 Ibid., 61.
Inclosing reserve cannot usually be detected from without. The man suffering from inclosing reserve looks outwardly normal, and perhaps even upstanding.41 The greatest danger he faces is suicide if he remains in complete solitude about his despair over his weakness and continues and continues to spiral with passionate protection over his weakness. On the other hand, if he can find himself one confidant to share with, he will likely avoid suicide, unless he is thrown into inclosing reserve by a confidant. 42 It is worthwhile to think again of Lady Macbeth here. She manifests deep despair in her sleep and commits suicide, having never consciously confided in Macbeth or the audience that she was in any kind of despair. It seems as though Lady Macbeth depicts exactly what the danger is for the inclosed individual in despair not to will to be oneself.
There is, of course, a way in which this form of despair transitions dialectically into the masculine form of despair, despair to will to be oneself: defiance.
If this form of despair is not directed toward faith, it could possibly become “intensified into a higher form of despair and continue to be inclosing reserve.”43 If it is intensified, it is intensified into defiance and in fact, “the first expression for defiance is this very despair over his weakness.”44 Intensification serves as a kind of strengthening device, yielding despair over weakness into defying weakness. Despair in defiance, the masculine form, “essentially belongs within the qualification of spirit, while femininity is a lower synthesis.” Intensification of despair always correlates with consciousness. Intensification of despair in the case of despair over weakness means one has become conscious of not willing to be oneself. In addition to heightened intensity, rising consciousness of the self means higher consciousness of “what
their despair with externalities, but rather from the internal pressures from the infinite self. This kind of despair is conscious of the eternality of the self and therefore appreciates itself only in the most
form, a self with no relation to its creator. Defiance means that the self defiantly sees itself as its own master. This does not involve suffering from the weakness of not willing to be oneself, but rather from striving to will to be oneself to no avail, “The self is so far from successfully becoming more and more itself that the fact merely becomes increasingly obvious that it is a hypothetical self.”46 The idea being expressed here is that the self falsely posits itself as a master, but it is like a king without a country. Or, perhaps, like King Macbeth whose reign is tragic and short-lived. Recall again that the good King in Macbeth has an obvious relation to God and Macbeth defies God by turning to the prophecy of witches.
Though the self might be imagining itself to be what it is not, if it acts upon itself in despair, it is despair to will to be oneself, rather than not to will be oneself.47 But through all its acting, it defiantly denies hope and help from the eternal. Not only does he not accept it, “He is offended by it, or, more correctly, he takes it as an occasion to be offended at all existence; he defiantly wills to be himself, to be himself not in spite of it or without it…no, in spite of or in defiance of all existence, he wills to be himself with it, takes it along, almost flouting his agony.”48 He remains stubbornly in a life of despair because he prefers it to the help of others.
He suffers and does not want to be helped, at least not by way of the eternal. Further intensification of this sort of despair in defiance is in danger of becoming demonic.
45 Ibid., 67.
46 Ibid., 69.
47 Ibid., 70.
48 Ibid., 71.
threat of harm. The demonic is deeply offended by that which could alleviate his suffering. In a demonic despair that despairs to will to be oneself, defiance turns into a blatant hatred of existence. It is no longer simply the defiance of willing to be oneself, but rather a malicious rebellion against the whole of existence. His torment becomes his evidence that existence is torment and he refuses to let it go. Both the person suffering from the feminine form of despair and the masculine is offended by the eternal, but it is important to note the difference. In despair in weakness, the person is “offended and does not dare to believe”49 and in despair in defiance, the person is “offended and will not believe.”50 This distinction is affirmed in Anti-Climacus’ discussion of despair with regard to sin.51 The point of consciousness where sins of despair enter the conversation is at the “point the intensification of the consciousness of the self is the knowledge of Christ, a self directly before Christ.”52 The self knows to be a self in relation to Christ and therefore is no longer ignorant with regard to the eternal as seen in earlier forms of despair with lesser consciousness, but the self before Christ still comes before Christ either in despair not to will to be oneself or in despair to will to be oneself. The distinction between the two is carved out by the one being 49 Ibid., 113.
51 Before moving onto the discussion of sin, I want to return to a footnote by Anti-Climacus that was mentioned earlier. In the same footnote where Anti-Climacus denies trying to say anything against the possibility of men suffering from feminine despair and women suffering from masculine despair, he expresses a difference between the separation of the feminine and masculine in his part one of the book and his part two. Having written an extensive discussion of female devotion versus male devotion, Anti-Climacus explains, “The above pertains to the relation between masculine and feminine despair. But it is to be borne in mind that this does not refer to devotion to God or to the God-relationship, which will be considered in Part Two.”51 The reference above is a reference to the discussion of how general distinctions between male and female devotion relate to their respective masculine and feminine forms of despair. Anti-Climacus claims that the distinct types of devotion do not correlate in relation to god in the same sense that they correlate with a relation to the self in despair. “In the relationship to God, where the distinction of man-woman vanishes, it holds for men as well as for women that that devotion is the self and that in giving of oneself the self is gained. This holds equally for man and woman, although it is probably true that in most cases the woman actually relates to God only through the man.” It seems worthwhile to make a note of this vanishing distinction, since my intention is to work with the reference to Macbeth, which occurs in Part Two.
52 Ibid., 113.
linguistic divide between of and over seems to parallel the distinction clarified in Part One of The Sickness unto Death. Anti-Climacus tells us that the correct use of over is in reference to external things or to the self, whereas the of is always used when referencing the eternal. Since forgiveness is in the realm of the eternal and sins refer to the self or the external, this distinction appears to parallel the earlier note on the matter.
Anti-Climacus quotes Macbeth when discussing despair over one’s sins, “Despair over sin is an effort to survive by sinking even deeper.”53 This description resonates with the first Macbeth quote Anti-Climacus brings into the discussion of sin, “Works arising in sin gain strength and power through sin.”54 This line is psychologically masterful for the discussion because Macbeth is a paradigm for despair over one’s sins. Macbeth relieves himself of his despair by immersing himself further into it. His enemies become anyone who could take the crown that his sin was meant to obtain. His crown is his sin and he is offended by anyone who could possibly rid him of it. Banquo becomes his enemy because his kin might possibly be, according to the prophecy of the witches, a king. The mere possibility that this prophecy could mean that Banquo’s son Fleance might take Macbeth’s crown is threatening enough for Macbeth to have both Banquo and Fleance murdered.55 In despair over his sin, Macbeth is carried away with sin.
Anti-Climacus quotes Macbeth’s lines (from after murdering King Duncan), “For, from this instant, there’s nothing serious in mortality; All is but toys, renown and grace is dead.” This is another point at which Macbeth wishes for death as opposed to his spiritual suffering from his deed. The line that precedes the lines quoted is, “Had I but died an hour before this chance, I had 53 Ibid., 110.
54 Ibid., 106.
55 Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Wordsworth Editions. London: 2005. III, 1. [50-75]
directly to his sin. Had he died before the sin, he would have been better off than living through it, but since he continues to live, he lives with it and chooses to embrace the continuation of it.
Anti-Climacus suggests that this kind of consciousness is evident in the use of the words renown and grace, “The masterful stroke is the double turn in the last words (renown and grace [Ruhm and Gnade]). By sin, that is, by despairing over his sin, he has lost all relation to grace—and also to himself.”57 Macbeth breaks with two things by despairing over his sin—the good and repentance.58 He breaks from the good when he loses his relation to himself and from repentance when he loses his relation to grace. The self he maintains, is lost in despair because, “His selfish self culminates in ambition. He has now in fact become the king, and yet, in despairing over his sin and of the reality of repentance, of grace, he has also lost himself; he cannot even keep on going by himself, and he is no closer to enjoying his self at the height of his ambition than he is to grasping grace.”59 Macbeth did not enjoy the means by which he achieved the end of his ambition, nor did he enjoy obtaining his end. All of his ambition was shrouded in despair over his sins.