William Shakespeares Macbeth Essay

Published: 2019-10-20 18:00:55
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In William Shakespeares Macbeth, it is apparent that the character Macbeth is largely responsible for his own fate. Although other characters play some role in Macbeths final downfall, it is apparent that almost all underlying contributions to his fate can be traced to Macbeth himself.

It is obviously apparent that Macbeths fatal flaw is his ambition. We see in Act I Scene ii that Macbeth is very noble and loyal to his king. Initially this is apparently because Macbeth is a good person who has his countrys best interests at heart, however later in the play we see that his loyalty falls from his country to himself. This is possibly because Macbeth has always had his own interests at heart, as being loyal to the king allowed him to excel as a nobleman, and gain an additional title to his current one of Thane of Glamis. It could be said that Macbeth was loyal to Scotland when he needed to be for the sake of his own interests, but later, after the witches spoke to him and he was told that he were to be king, Macbeths interests altered and thus so did his loyalty.

The witches we see in Act I scene iii inform Macbeth that he is Thane of Glamis, he will be Thane of Cawdor and he shall be King hereafter. We see nowhere before this point that Macbeth has any intentions of becoming king, however after he is informed by three unnatural looking beings that he shall be king, the idea remains with him. If Macbeth did not have these ideas already, the chance of him believing the witchs prophecies is substantially remote. The fact that the witches are so odd in appearance may also have some bearing on Macbeth trusting them, as the fact that they are so unnatural makes Macbeth feel although they are indeed supernatural beings, and thus have supernatural powers.

We find, however, that Macbeth takes a lot of poetic license in interpreting the prophecies of the witches and therefore we can hold him accountable for his final downfall. This is illustrated through the fact that the witches only tell him that he shall be king, and do not elaborate on this in any way. From this Macbeth apparently believes that it is his right to be king, and therefore kills Duncan as a matter of urgency in order to gain his throne. This same idea is present in Act IV Scene i when Macbeth sees the apparitions shown by the witches and is told

Macbeth, Macbeth, Macbeth, beware Macduff;

Beware the Thane of Fife¦

¦for none of woman born

Shall harm Macbeth¦

Macbeth shall never vanquished be, until

Great Birnham wood to high Dunsinane hill

Shall come against him.

As we see later in the play, all of the prophecies presented here are easily carried through, however not in the way that Macbeth interpreted them, which was in their most literal sense. It can therefore be said that Macbeths method of interpreting the apparitions may be reasonable, however his interpretations do not have enough foundation to safely base his life upon, as we see Macbeth do.

For these reasons, it could be said that the witches are a catalyst for Macbeths behavior, and therefore do not influence Macbeths behavior other than through prompting it to occur sooner than it would have initially without the witches interaction. This argument can be supported through when Macbeth says in Act I scene iv

Stars hide your fires,

Let not light see my black and deep desires.

This speech occurs immediately after Macbeth learns that Malcolm, Duncans eldest son, has been made Prince of Cumberland, and hence will be king succeeding Duncan as king. We may assume that Macbeth was expecting to be named Duncans heir, and when this does not occur, Macbeth is understandably a little upset, however I feel that this speech shows us an insight into Macbeths thoughts that allow us to conclude that his thoughts are darker than could be generally expected in this situation. This I feel is strong reason to assume that Macbeth was considering taking action to gain the throne before the witches mentioned anything, and the witches therefore merely pushed the thoughts into stronger action.

It is highly likely that if Macbeth did not want to be king in the first instance, he would not have actually gone through with committing Duncans murder, as this is an extreme step to take and there were many other ways that he may have become king, especially as he was viewed so highly by Duncan when he was alive. If Macbeth was not so intent on becoming king then he would have taken much more time considering the consequence of the actions that he was going to undertake and would have probably decided against killing the king. The only time that we see Macbeth think about what he is about to do is in Act I Scene vii, and this is a remarkably small scene for such contemplation.

The next person who could be said to be partially responsible for Macbeths fate is his wife, Lady Macbeth. We see when we are introduced to Lady Macbeth that she is a very strong person whom has very strong intentions. This can be seen through her quote in act I scene v where she says

Come you spirits

That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,

And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full

Of direst cruelty; make thick my blood,

Stop up th access and passage to remorse¦

This quote very strongly tells of Lady Macbeths nature and why she is so influential on Macbeths actions. It is apparent that Lady Macbeth possesses very little of the femininity expected by a lady at the time the play was set, and she is therefore well respected by Macbeth as equal in their marriage, which would have been unheard of at the time the play was set. This means that Lady Macbeth has obviously had considerable past influence on his actions, and therefore he is likely to listen to and respect her opinions. From this we may conclude that her character is very strong and is good at being persuasive and taking charge, which goes on to say that she, too, is a catalyst for Macbeths actions, as she initiates the action and Macbeth carries it through.

Consequently, we can see that later the input that Lady Macbeth puts into the actions of Macbeth decreases. This is possibly because Lady Macbeth is becoming a lot less emotionally stable because of her input into Duncans death, as well as the strong alteration in the character of Macbeth, which is a direct result of her forceful ways before Duncan was murdered. Because of this, we may assume that Lady Macbeth is not capable of making large decisions.

It is highly likely that this is also because Lady Macbeth has pushed Macbeth into a spiral of killing and dealing with the consequence and therefore not a lot of thought is needed to be put into the conduct of Macbeth by the end of the play. We see through the murder of Duncan that Macbeth loses his morals as the play goes on, and by the last scenes he has no hesitation at the thought of murder. This is likely to be because Duncan was the divine appointed king and through killing Duncan first Macbeth started at the top and thus killing others, such as Banquo, did not seem as bad to him, we also see that Macbeth has no interaction with Lady Macbeth over the issue of Banquos murder which is testimony to the fact that Lady Macbeths influence in diminishing.

Although her character changes into a less dominant person later in the play than she was initially, we can see that the beginning of the play is where the most change in the character of Macbeth occurs and therefore this is where the character of Lady Macbeth is so important.

It goes without saying that the most influential person on Macbeths actions in Macbeth himself. The choices that Macbeth makes throughout the play have an obviously detrimental effect on his fate and this is supported by the fact that at the beginning of the play Macbeth was loyal, honest and trustworthy. By the end of the play he was lost almost all of these traits and therefore we may assume that the extraordinary choices that he makes from the beginning of the play are responsible for this. Initially, we see that the first choice Macbeth made was to listen to the witches prophecies, which lead his to interpret them in a particular way.

The way that Macbeth interpreted the prophecies was in their most literal sense, and so we can therefore assume, and are later shown, that there were other ways in which the prophecies could be interpreted. The fact that the witches only told Macbeth that he would be king and did not specify that Macbeth would need to interact with what is apparently the natural order to make this occur is testimony to the fact that Macbeth actually chose to murder and become king.

This also allows us an insight into the witches actions, for they presumably knew that Macbeth would need to act evilly in order to become king, and hence we may conclude that the witches were toying with Macbeth and his ambition. Further to this point we also find that Macbeth hides himself in a false sense of security after he sees the witches apparitions, as his interpretations lead him to believe that he is safe from everything until the forest uproots itself and that he cannot be harmed by anything born of a woman.

As these ideas seem remarkably unbelievable, Macbeth is obviously convinced about the fact that he is almost immortal. Through this Macbeth acts very confidently without thinking a lot, and tells us that the first thing he thinks shall be the first thing he acts upon. It is from this that Macbeth begins to disregard all advice that he is given and therefore does not take the necessary precautions to protect himself against the army that forms against him. From this we are in a way seeing once more a part of the old, loyal Macbeth, as we find that he fully intends to fight to the end, regardless of the fact that he has very little to actually fight for through the loss of his friends, his loyalty, his morality and his wife.

Through the above outlined reasons it is clear that Macbeth is responsible for his own fate. Macbeths choices directly effect the actions of others and in this way even the actions of others that effect Macbeth are in some way his fault. We see that Macbeth sacrifices his loyalty, morality, friends and country in order to gain and retain his kingship, which is a direct result of his ambitious nature. From this, we see that others turn against him and effect the way in which his life ended. There is an enormous difference in Macbeth from what was expected of him at the beginning of the play given his nature, and what actually happened. It is therefore fair to conclude that Macbeth is mostly responsible for his fate.

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