Do you agree that Macbeth himself bears the greatest responsibility for the events in the play Macbeth

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I disagree with this statement, because Lady Macbeth and the witches had a great deal to do with the murders in this play. I think that Lady Macbeth and the witches are slightly more responsible for the events in the play Macbeth, than Macbeth himself, because they all influenced him to carry out the deeds, and he might not have done them if he hadn’t have been under their influence.


Supernatural forces are definitely a major factor in the play Macbeth. I believe the witches had a great influence on Macbeth throughout the play. In the opening scene the witches signal their intention to confuse appearance: “Fair is foul, and foul is fair”. Macbeth then echoes this line in his first line of the play: “So foul and fair a day I have not seen”, which gives us a warning that Macbeth senses that something is not right, his open expression of his thoughts lead us in to believing that events are going to take a strange unexpected turn.

The witches influenced Macbeth’s decision to kill Duncan by their prophecy saying he is going to be the next King. “All hail Macbeth! That shalt be king hereafter.” At first Macbeth dismisses their prophecies. The witches make their claim all the more believable by saying the following statements, “All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Glamis” Macbeth already knows he is Thane of Glamis.

“All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor” The reader/audience already know that Macbeth has become Thane of Cawdor but gives the audience credence to their prophecies, but Macbeth doesn’t yet know and he is still bemused by their statements. When he finds out that this statement has come true, he wonders maybe if there was some truth, to what the witches said, and that maybe he might just be “king herafter…”

The witches call up three apparitions. The first apparition tells Macbeth to beware of Macduff: “Macbeth, Macbeth, Macbeth: beware Macduff, beware the Thane of Fife. Dismiss me. Enough.”

After this, the second apparition appears, which is a bloody child. “Be bloody, bold and resolute. Laugh to scorn the power of man, for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth.” The apparition informs Macbeth that no man born from a woman, naturally, can harm him. Later on in the play Macbeth finds out that “Macduff was from his mother’s womb untimely ripp’d”

Finally the third apparition appears as a crowned child, with a tree in his hand. The third apparition says that Macbeth will never be defeated until Birnam forest moves to Dunsinane. “Be lion-mettled, proud and take no care who chafes…Macbeth shall never be vanquish’d be until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill shall come against him.” The third apparition represents Malcolm, the rightful king of Scotland, who approaches the palace of Dunsinane camouflaged with three branches of Birnam wood, later on in the play. Macbeth cannot conceive that a forest would literally move as foretold by the witches and this appears to have been dismissed by Macbeth until he recalls the prophecy later on in the play when the advancing army are camouflaged by branches and appear as a moving forest.

The witches have shown Macbeth the apparitions, and by doing this they have cunningly manipulated his mind and given him food for thought. They convince Macbeth that this is his fate, which eventually causes him to be over confident. The witches’ prophecies are somewhat cryptic and therefore ambiguous to Macbeth, he will be king – but how? Duncan will have to be removed, he understands the threat from Macduff – “beware Macduff” that much is clear but the second apparition gives him a sense of false security when he learns that “for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth”. The third apparition must have really confused him but he took this as further evidence of his invincibility “Macbeth shall never be vanquish’d be until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill shall come against him.” It was inconceivable to Macbeth that a great forest could be uprooted and transport itself to Dunsinane.

Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth also bears a great deal of responsibility for the events in Macbeth. First entering the play, after she has just read the letter Macbeth has sent to her she says: “Glamis thou art and Cawdor, and shalt be what thou art promis’d”. This line is unambiguous about what she thinks they should do. She clearly suggests what she intends and because of this we know that she is going to contribute to Duncan’s death.

Moments later she is already planning the murder of Duncan, and is calling upon supernatural forces to give her the power to kill Duncan without any remorse. “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.” In this speech, there is no confusion, as Lady Macbeth is clearly willing to do whatever is necessary to seize the throne. The line “unsex me here” (“take away everything that makes me a woman”) – suggests the length to which she will go – she is prepared to risk her feminine nature, and everything else to become queen. This speech shows the audience that Lady Macbeth is the real steel behind Macbeth and that her ambition will be strong enough to drive her husband forward.

“O, never shall sun that morrow see” – This line shows us that Lady Macbeth is definitely planning Duncan’s murder, and he will not see the morning light, and never will do.

“Leave all the rest to me” – Clearly states that Lady Macbeth is taking over, and is in control of planning Duncan’s death. She has taken over Macbeth’s thought, which was not to kill Duncan, because he found no reason to.

Lady Macbeth doesn’t think Macbeth will go ahead with the plan, because he is not strong enough and is too kind. “It is too full o’th’milk of human kindness.”

Lady Macbeth then gives Macbeth some advice: “Look like th’innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t” Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth that he must look innocent, so no-one gets suspicious about their plan – which shows us what a cunning, deceitful character she really is.

I think that at some point Lady Macbeth and Macbeth had a child of their own that meant a lot to them, and it died. I think this because when Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth the plan is off, she tries to get back at Macbeth by saying: “I would, while it was smiling in my face, have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums and dash’d his brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this” She is manipulating Macbeth, by saying that if she’d promised to do something she would not back out, and would have gone on with deed. She also tells him that a real man wouldn`t be hesitating “what beast was`t then…be so much more the man”. These lines cause Macbeth to agree to Lady Macbeth’s plans, not because he wants to but because she has questioned his manhood.


Macbeth was a weak person from the beginning of the play, because he couldn’t stand up to his wife, Lady Macbeth. He is not completely responsible for what happens, because the people around him such as the witches and Lady Macbeth have a deep and convincing, powerful influence upon him.

Macbeth first enters the play in Act I scene III where his first line is an echo of the witches “so foul and fair a day I have not seen”. When the witches tell him, he will be “King hereafter”, he does not believe them and doesn’t really contemplate killing Duncan until he speaks to Lady Macbeth and she puts the idea in his head.

Later on Macbeth is talking to himself about killing Duncan. “If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly” – If the business of the murder was ended as soon as the deed was performed then it would be a good thing to have it carried out quickly. He then continues to persuade himself that there are reasons not to proceed, such as Duncan’s goodness – “His virtues will plead like angels”. Macbeth seems to resolve not to kill Duncan, but this resolve will only last until his wife returns and once again convinces him, by the strength of her will, to go ahead with their plot. Once again this is showing us that Macbeth doesn’t want to go ahead with the plans, and that Lady Macbeth (once again) forces or manipulates him. Macbeth knows that he is motivated by “vaulting ambition” – e.g. he is likely to jump too high and will fall, but this doesn’t stop him from carrying out the deeds.

After Macbeth has killed Duncan, he has changed – instantly feeling guilt for what he has done. “I am afraid to think what I have done; look o’nt again, I dare not” Macbeth does feel guilty of what he has done, and doesn’t want to think about what has happened. He probably would not have performed the deed if he hadn’t been convinced and manipulated into doing so.

“Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red.”

The enormity of Macbeth’s crime has awakened in him a powerful sense of guilt that will hound him throughout the rest of the play. Blood, specifically Duncan’s blood, serves as the symbol of that guilt, and Macbeth’s sense that “all great Neptune’s ocean” cannot cleanse him – that there is enough blood on his hands to turn the entire sea red – will stay with him until his death.

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The evidence that Macbeth is weak is clearly illustrated in the play. He believes the witches prophecies but then debates the issues and at one point we believe that he will not carry out this dark deed when he wrestles with his conscience and dismisses all thoughts of killing Duncan, he feels that ambition is not enough justification for killing the king. He can at this point foresee the consequences of committing the act and we realise that he does have a sense of honour and duty to the king at this moment in time.

The chink in Macbeth’s armour was Lady Macbeth; she had power and influence over him and was driven by a stronger sense of ambition that blinded her to the consequences of murder, she was devious, cunning and above all else manipulative. She cold-heartedly masterminded the murders and convinced Macbeth that it was right to do so.

Added to Lady Macbeth’s deviousness there is the power and potency of the witches prophecies which also contrived to sway Macbeth’s decisions, they foretold the future and predicted the outcome but created a false sense of security in Macbeth, he believed it was his destiny to become king and that he would in the process become invincible. Their ability to conjure the apparitions would clearly have shaken any person, we must remember that this happened at a time when there was no TV or video and that a great deal of credence was paid to such people. Some might argue that the witches’ prophecies were knitted in to the play to warn Macbeth of the consequences of his actions but we also know that Macbeth was also conscious of the consequences and so I believe that their part was to influence him and to play a part in making things happen.

Finally, had Macbeth been a stronger person he would not have allowed Lady Macbeth to convince him to murder Duncan, he would have dismissed these thoughts altogether and argued against it and determined not to do it. Additionally a stronger person would have dismissed the witches’ prophecies as hocus-pocus, a load of nonsense and would not have allowed what happened to prey on his mind and be influenced in such a way.

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