Macbeth was written around 1605 during Shakespeare’s so-called “Tragic Period.” It is a tragedy about a wealthy Scottish noble, Macbeth, who kills his king to gain the throne. During Shakespeare’s time, this was the worst possible thing that a man could do, and Macbeth was doomed to die a tragic death from the beginning. Macbeth and his wife begin to do strange things because of what their conscience. Macbeth thinks he has to kill two of his former friends because he believes that they threaten his new throne. His efforts, of course, fail, and he is eventually killed. The character of Macbeth is a classic example of a Shakespearean tragic hero. There are many factors, which contribute to the deterioration of the tragic hero Macbeth, of which three will be discussed. One of the three points that contribute greatly to Macbeth s degeneration are the prophecy that was told to him by the witches. Another contributing factor was how Lady Macbeth influenced and manipulated Macbeth s judgment. Finally, Macbeth s long time ambition and deception, which drove his desire to be king was another factor that contributed to his downfall. Macbeth’s growing character degenerates from a noble man to a violent individual.
It is false to say that the witches are responsible for the course of action in the play. In a sense it is true that the witches dictated the whole play of Macbeth, but they didn’t dictate it they just outsmarted or put ideas in the right people s heads. The witches changed the peoples thinking so that they could stay away from all the action.
The witches are very strange, spooky, and in a way magical. The witches seem to have god-like powers that could look into a crystal ball and prophesies everything but are they really who we are led to believe? The question states that the witches were RESPONSIBLE for the course of action, but of course they just put an idea into Macbeth’s head and he did the rest. Everything from Banquo’s death to the killing of Macduff’s family was not directly or at all prophesied by the witches. In fact all they really said was that Macbeth would be king, which they could have known if they knew that he was Thane of Cawdor and that if the king was killed at any time in the next 10 or so years. Macbeth will be king, Macbeth just sped the time of when the king would die and Macbeth would replace him.
When the witches told Macbeth of the prophecies, Macbeth was VERY interested, he kept thinking about it, and when he became Thane of Cawdor and the second prophecy was fulfilled, it just sharpened his belief in the fact that he would be king.
“I am Thane of Cawdor. If good, why do I yield to that suggestion? Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair, And take my seated heart knock at my ribs, Against the use of Nature? Present fears Are less than horrible imaginings: My thought, whose murther yet is but fantastical, Shakes so my single state of man That function is smothered in surmise, And nothing is but what is not”. (1.4.133)
So here it is Macbeth saying that now that he is Thane of Cawdor, he could be king just by removing Duncan of the throne (By murdering him). So the seed of thought of Duncan’s assassination was planted at the very beginning, almost when he heard the three prophecies.
Of course after Macbeth murdered King Duncan he couldn’t let anyone find out, partly because he thought what he did was half-wrong, and because he would be killed for treason. He knew that Banquo might have an idea that he killed the king because Banquo knew the prophecies and could easily find out that Macbeth killed the king for his personal gain. “To be thus is nothing; but to be safely thus. Our fears in Banquo stick deep, And in his royalty of nature reigns that, Which would be fear’d. ‘Tis much he dares, And to that dauntless temper of his mind, He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valour To act in safety. There is none but he Whose being I do fear; and under him My genius is rebuk’d, as it is said Mark Anthony’s was by Caesar. ” (3.1.48)
So as is pointed out by Macbeth, Banquo was very smart and Macbeth feared that he could put two and two together and then accuse him of King Duncan’s murder. However, the witches then appeared again in the play. It was around 3 quarters into the play when Macbeth visited them again and they told him some more prophecies. They said that he should beware Macduff beware the thane of fife! They said that none of woman born shall harm Macbeth, and that he shall not be vanquished until Great Birnam Wood shall come to Dunsinane. So this must mean that the witches must have had prophetic powers because the end of the play fulfills all of these prophecies. That means that they did have a very big influence on the course of the play because as soon as the first prophecies are fulfilled, Macbeth goes looking for more, and the witches again set the plot of the movie.
The conclusion that will be made is thus. The witches are responsible of the course of action in the play. They started the play off by making those prophecies, in fact Macbeth wouldn’t have even thought of killing the king if in fact the witches didn’t mention that he will be king before he dies. When Macbeth killed the king the murdering of Banquo and Macduff’s family followed mainly because of his suspicion that they might find out about that horrible deed that keeps coming back to him in dreams.
I have thought about the fact that Macbeth made his own decisions, and that the witches didn’t influence the play enough to say that they influenced the whole play. However, these are not good enough reasons compared to the points against that states they played Macbeth like a puppet, by planting ideas in his head that affected his way of thinking. After all, the play is called Macbeth, so what he did was the main part of the play.
Throughout the play, Lady Macbeth uses her ability to mislead others in many ways. First of all, she decides to use deception to push her husband’s ambition to be king. Hie thee hither, that I may pour my spirits in thine ear, and chastise with the valour of my tongue all that impedes thee from the golden round (1.6.20-23)
Lady Macbeth believes that, to be successful in his ambitions, Macbeth must rise above his goodness and accept her evil ways. She knows that the process of making her husband believe what she wants may not be easy. Lady Macbeth has to be cunning, and she is up for the challenge. The thought of being in power – the King and Queen of Scotland – drives her and she cannot be stopped. Lady Macbeth often has to reinforce her immoral beliefs to her husband, giving him a boost.
Was the hope drunk, wherein you dressed yourself? hath it slept since? and wakes it now, to look so green and pale at what it did so freely? From this time such I account thy love. Art thou afeard to be the same in thine own act and valour, as thou art desire? Wouldst thous have that which thou esteem’st the ornament of life, and live a coward in thine own esteem, letting “I dare not” wait upon “I would,” Like the poor cat I’the adage?”(1.7.35-42)
Lady Macbeth implies that Macbeth is being cowardly by not going after what he wants. She preys upon her husband’s pride to remind him of his ambitions. Once she has schooled her husband in the art of deception, she must help him uphold this image and the lies. This deceit always results in hazardous outcomes.
Deceiving others may seem difficult, but deceiving oneself leads to even bigger problems. Lady Macbeth is so occupied with trying to mislead others, while rationalizing the deception to herself and her husband, that she does not notice how much the guilt is building. She finally gets so caught up in the deception game, that she cannot take it anymore. Lady Macbeth’s worry that people are no longer falling for their deceptive ways, comes out in one of her mad ramblings in front of the doctor: ” What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?” (5.1.26-27). Though she is trying to be bold, saying that she does not care who knows what they have done, the statement proves that she does fear being detected. In the end, Lady Macbeth’s guilt about all of the lies overwhelms her. As a result, she goes mad, sleepwalking and rambling about the murders. “Wash your hands, put on your night-gown; look not so pale. – I tell you yet again, Banquo’s buried: he cannot come out on’s grave.”(5.1.44-45). The deception that Lady Macbeth once prided herself on, lead to the self-deception, which eventually lead to her death when she committed suicide.
Although Lady Macbeth is the most talented deceiver, Macbeth is also lead into committing his own deceptions. He begins to learn from his wife, and, in turn, proceeds to deceive many others. Deceiving his friends becomes a frequent habit, and Macbeth is forced to continue his lies and stories.
Do not muse at me, my most worthy friends; I have a strange infirmity, which is nothing to those that know me. Come, love and health to all; then I’ll sit down. – Give me some wine: fill full. I drink to the general joy of the whole table, and to our dear friend Banquo, whom we miss; would he were here. (3.4.84-91). This falsehood is evident, as Macbeth is trying to fool his dinner guests about the reasons for his strange behavior. Pretending that everything is fine eventually does not work, and as the play continues, so does the deception on many different levels.
Macbeth appears to be in over his head when his mind starts to play tricks on him on more than one occasion: Is this a dagger I see before me, the handle toward my hand? Come let me clutch thee: I have thee not, and yet I see thee still. (2.1.33-36)
art thou but a dagger of the mind, a false creation, proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain? (2.1.37-39)
Macbeth’s state of mind is not that of a normal man. He is trying so hard to go against his nature, convincing himself that deception is the only way to be king. The deceit does take its toll: “O! full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!”(3.2.36). Macbeth becomes imprisoned by his illusions caused by the build up of denial and self-deception.
Banquo’s ghost is an example of these illusions. ” Take any shape but that [Banquo’s] and my firm nerves shall never tremble: or, be alive again “(3.4.103-104). Macbeth’s inner struggle is coming out and, because his mind is in such a state, he can no longer control his behavior. Like his wife, Macbeth’s own inner deception has made him crazy. Macbeth goes from being a noble warrior with honest ambition, to someone that cannot even control his own thoughts anymore, due to all of the deception.
In conclusion, the prophecies given to him by the witches, Lady Macbeth’s influence and plan, and his intensified ambition and deception, all contributed greatly to the degeneration of his character that resulted in his downfall and eventual death. Therefore the character of Macbeth displays strong signs of a tragic hero, making him the ideal classic example. From the end results of the play, we can clearly see how deception ruins lives. Shakespeare shows the audience that misleading others – and oneself, is not honorable nor the way to get ahead. Lady Macbeth’s ability to seduce her husband into having immoral thoughts, leading to immoral actions to gain power, does not pay off. Macbeth’s learned corruption and deception also affects him negatively, and the quest to be king is tragic. Self-deception is the worst kind of deceit. We see this in the life of Macbeth and being overwhelmed with quilt causing insanity and leading to death. This summarizes that the flaws in Macbeth s own character are what really destroyed him. Of course, evil deception of any kind is clearly harmful and a valid moral lesson can be taken from this play.