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«Wendy M. Bustamante Missing Lady Macbeth’s Sickness unto Death Kierkegaard’s Allusions to Macbeth for Concepts of Sin, Gender, and Despair My ...»

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The more complicated matter with regard to sin and despair (especially in terms of the gender distinction) is the distinction between the sin of despairing in weakness and the sin of despairing in defiance. Despair of the forgiveness of sins is “traceable to the one or to the other formula for despair, despair in weakness or the despair in defiance…But here weakness and defiance are the opposite of what they usually are (since here the point is not just about being a 56 Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Wordsworth Editions. London: 2005. II, 3. [88].

57 Kierkegaard, Sören. The Sickness Unto Death. Princeton University Press. NJ: 1983., 110.

58 Ibid.

59 Ibid.

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traceable either to weakness or defiance, it is traceable to either feminine or masculine forms of despair. Yet, Anti-Climacus tells us that weakness and defiance do not look the same with regard to the category of sin. Defiance looks different in this new category because “here it is indeed the defiance of not willing to be oneself, what one is—a sinner—and for that reason wanting to dispense with the forgiveness of sins.”61 Defiance falls under what was earlier established as the feminine form of despair—not to will to be oneself. Lady Macbeth, whom I’ve argued ought to be considered as the paradigm of inclosed feminine despair not to will to be oneself, becomes then, the figure of defiance. Defiantly, she does not will to be a sinner—at least not consciously.

If Macbeth’s despair over his sins could move into either the despair in defiance or the despair in weakness, it seems it would have to be despair in weakness. Just as defiance took a turn in the opposite direction from the masculine to the feminine, “Weakness takes the same opposite turn, for it is in this case “to despair to will to be oneself—a sinner—in such a way that there is no forgiveness.”62 Macbeth’s despair over his sin results in the kind of sinner who cuts himself off from grace. Having cut himself of from grace, he has cut himself off from forgiveness. The despair of the forgiveness of sins that is traceable to weakness means both to despair to will to be oneself and to be offended and not to dare to believe.63 Macbeth is offended by anyone who would remove the mark of his sin or relieve him of his suffering by taking his crown and forcing him to atone. Macbeth can neither do as his wife does and deny his sin and his self, nor will he welcome grace and forgiveness into his midst.

60 Ibid., 113.

61 Ibid.

62 Ibid.

63 Ibid.

–  –  –

Lady Macbeth as an essential counterpart and perfect point of discussion for the ideals of masculine and feminine forms of despair in The Sickness unto Death. The next task at hand is diagnosing Anti-Climacus. If Lady Macbeth is the perfect counter-ideal in discussions of despair in weakness and despair in anxiety, why does Anti-Climacus neglect her? I suggest it is because he has so much in common with her in terms of despair. He does not reference her because he relates to her too closely. Explicitly reflecting upon her despair might draw too near to reflecting upon himself. Lady Macbeth, as I have inserted her into the conversation of despair, suffers from despair in weakness not to will to be herself. She is in despair over the earthly, the external rather than the eternal. Anti-Climacus presents a similar disposition. He is boastful and belittling like Lady Macbeth. He hardly turns inward. He is always other-regarding and diagnosing. If he were willing to turn inward, he would not neglect Lady Macbeth. If he related more closely to Macbeth, he would have done nothing but self-reflected. Macbeth was perfectly accessible to him because Macbeth is a complete externality, one Anti-Climacus might feel as passionately about as Lady Macbeth.

If Lady Macbeth and Anti-Climacus both suffer from inclosing reserve and Lady Macbeth kills herself, not having found a confidant, I’d like to think that perhaps Anti-Climacus is just self-reflective enough to have found himself a confidant in his readers. If he had not neglected Lady Macbeth, I might have thought so. He did neglect her, though. In doing so, he neglected the obvious counter-figure for the feminine. This might mean he did not really trust the reader as his confidant. He was unwilling to reflect upon a figure that would bring him so close to reflecting upon himself. Or, perhaps, he neglected her intentionally, so the reader would detect the missing counter-figure and discover that the figure of the feminine is Anti-Climacus.

–  –  –

Kierkegaard, Søren, Howard V. Hong, and Edna H. Hong. The Sickness unto Death: A Christian Psychological Exposition for Upbuilding and Awakening. by Søren Kierkegaard; Edited and Translated with Introduction and Notes by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong.

Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1980, http://libezproxy.tamu.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=c at03318a&AN=tamug.26264&site=eds-live.

Shakespeare, William and Cedric Watts. Macbeth. William Shakespeare; Edited by Cedric Watts Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions, 2005, http://libezproxy.tamu.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=c at03318a&AN=tamug.2988743&site=eds-live.

Bustamante 17

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