Macbeth by William Shakespeare

We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

In 1606, William Shakespeare presented one of his most famous tragedies to King James the first of England and sixth of Scotland. It was called Macbeth. It is well known that Shakespeare did not write all of the plots in his plays, but that he “stole” them from other play wrights. Macbeth, however, is an exception. It is a partly true story about a thane (Macbeth), and his best friend Banquo. In the historically correct story, Macbeth was indeed the Thane of Cawdor, as in the play, and he wanted to become King. The way in which the play varies is in the murders that take place.

It was in fact Banquo who was the most to blame in all the deaths. But as King James was related to the real Banquo, Shakespeare changed the plot to make Macbeth and his Lady the guilty party. Shakespeare also added the parts of the three witches into his play. He did this with the knowledge that the King was very interested in witchcraft, and that he had just written a book on the subject. Macbeth chose a Scottish play as King James was the current King of Scotland. He also chose the topic of regicide because of the recent events that had occurred in the Houses of Parliament – the Gunpowder and treason Plot by Guy Fawkes.

At this moment in time, Macbeth (also known as The Scottish Play) has lasted nearly 4 centuries and is still being performed, read and studied today. The tragedy of any play depends on the realistic portrayal and development of the characters in it. In this instance, Macbeth, and Lady Macbeth. Each character was responsible in some way, but who was the most responsible? After all, Lady Macbeth was under the influence of witchcraft and Macbeth was under her influence. In the second scene, the Captain of the army that Macbeth belongs to is praising him. He quotes the following line: “Brave Macbeth.

Well, he deserves that name. ” Macbeth has not appeared yet and still the audience have a picture in their minds, of a tall, strong and ambitious man. As a reward for the bravery shown by Macbeth, he is promoted to Thane of Cawdor. Meanwhile, Shakespeare shows the audience the witches’ powers as they curse a woman’s husband after she wouldn’t give a chestnut to one of the witches. Because of the great reaction to such a small thing, the witches are made out to be very powerful and strong. In act 1 scene 3, Macbeth and Banquo are walking when they come upon the witches.

These three women are called “the Weird Sisters” by Macbeth just before they tell him of three prophecies about himself: The first is that he will be Thane of Glamis (which is already true); the second is that he will become Thane of Cawdor and the second is that he will be King. This greatly disturbs Macbeth but it does not prevent him from following his great ambition and wanting to be King. Throughout the play, this is what seems to be Macbeth’s greatest weakness – his ambition. In order to become King, Macbeth will need to kill the current ruler, King Duncan, and drive the Kings sons away.

The previous Thane of Cawdor betrayed the King but was sentenced to an honourable death. Macbeth believes that if he betrays the King, the worst that will happen is that he too will be given the same honourable death. This shows a dramatic irony when, at the end of the play, he suffers a most indignant death. After the prophecies were given, Macbeth returned to his Lady and told her of them. By this time, Lady Macbeth was already under the witches’ spell and after Macbeth shies away from his ambition, she suggests that he should kill the King.

Macbeth eventually agrees. He performs a speech to Lady Macbeth which states the reasons why he doesn’t feel right about the crime: He is with the King on noble trust, to protect him. Macbeth is Duncan’s cousin and loyal subject. Duncan does not deserve this fate. The murder will be hard to commit with all the guards around. Theses reasons show that he is good and loyal and it seems to be that Lady Macbeth is the more evil of the two. At the end of his speech, Macbeth states “We will proceed no further with this business. ” and refuses to murder his King.

However, Lady Macbeth senses a weakness in him and uses emotional blackmail to come around him. If Macbeth had been stronger and stood his ground, he would not have had a part to play in the King’s death. When he gives in to his Lady, he shows a great lack of strength. This weakness and his drive for ambition makes Macbeth seem very responsible for the murder. But it must also be considered that Lady Macbeth is in no way totally innocent. She may have been under a powerful influence but she also had some of her husband’s ambition and they seemed to share the weakness for power.

Lady Macbeth is the one who has the initial idea to kill the King and it is also she who devises a plan to drug Duncan’s guards so that Macbeth can easily enter the Royal chamber and murder the King. In act 2 Scene 1, Banquo realises that Macbeth is plotting something, but decides that he wants no part in it. On his way to commit the murder, Macbeth performs a soliloquy showing his doubt in killing Duncan. He also sees a floating dagger which symbolises his regret and guilt that he will feel later in the play.

This also symbolises that Macbeth is not evil yet as he is feeling guilty long before he has done anything to harm the King. In act 2 Scene 2, Lady Macbeth says that she intended to kill Duncan herself, but could not do it. When she drugged the guards, she even had a little drink herself but could still not harm him, as he reminded her of her own father. This made her out to seem more innocent than first thought. While Macbeth is in the chamber committing the murder, Lady Macbeth is stood outside keeping watch, meaning that she is still partly involved in the scheme.

When Macbeth returns having done the deed, he still carries the daggers with him. He says to his Lady “I’ll go no more. I am afraid of what I’ve done. Look on’t again, I dare not. ” This forces Lady Macbeth to go back into the chamber and place the daggers in the guards’ hands, getting her own hands dirty with blood. On seeing the Dead King, her power and drive given to her by the witches fades and she begins to see what an awful thing she has done in making Macbeth kill Duncan. Now that both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are guilt-ridden and Macbeth will be King, they could have sat back and had no further part.

This is exactly what Lady Macbeth did, but her husband could not rest until he felt completely safe. Now Macbeth’s ambition, drive and evil side is beginning to show great strengths. Upon finding the body of Duncan the next morning, Malcolm, the King’s son and heir flees to England to ensure his safety. In a state of panic, Macbeth Murders the King’s guards and speaks in a very poetic manner. This makes his guilty side show through and so Lady Macbeth, staying loyal to her husband, takes on one final act to help him and faints to bring Macbeth away from the limelight.

From now onwards, she has no part in the murders and starts to go slowly insane with guilt. The events that follow make Macbeth very guilty of the tragedy as he evolves from a man who is scared and guilty to a man who is power-driven and blood-seeking. When Macbeth’s crowning ceremony comes around, Macduff does not attend as he is very suspicious of the new King. Macduff simply returns home in disgust. Now that he is King, Macbeth needs to get Banquo out of the way as the Weird Sisters told Banquo that his children would be Kings. Also, Banquo knew of the murder plot against the King.

Macbeth is overfriendly with Banquo and tricks him with a friendly conversation into telling him where he and his son are going away to for a while. At this point, Macbeth has all the necessary information to kill Banquo. This plot was taken on entirely by Macbeth, showing that his evil side is strong enough for him to plot on his own and that he no longer needs encouragement from his Lady. Macbeth has two of his old enemies’ commit the murder of Banquo and his son Fleance, but Fleance flees with the help of his father before he is harmed.

This is not known to Macbeth. Lady Macbeth is terribly upset when she hears of Banquo’s death, as she knows that it was her husband who killed him. She begins to have nightmares and her guilt and regret show through her false persona of Macbeth’s strong willed Lady. This can perhaps be seen as an alter-ego to the person she became whilst under the witches spell. Through her mental suffering, Macbeth seems to become increasingly evil. Instead of the hallucinations that Macbeth saw before Duncan’s murder, a “ghost” of Banquo appears to Macbeth at the feast.

This suggests that guilt is haunting him in the form of his victims but his evilness is taking over. At the end of this scene, Macbeth realises that Macduff is not there and is now his enemy, and must be killed. (“I am in blood steeped so far… “) because Macduff knows all about the malicious murder plots, and as Macduff is a good honest man (much as Macbeth used to be), he may tell someone of Macbeth’s betrayal. At the same time, Macduff sees that he is now an enemy of Macduff and so he flees to England, the current location of the King’s son.

Hecate, the leader of the Weird Sisters had now planned to make Macbeth feel so secure that he will plan another crime. But by now, Macbeth has made the decision to become completely evil, and will quite happily kill to gain more power. At this point, Macbeth can be seen as a very immoral man. When his wife plotted the crime against Duncan, she was under the Witches’ powerful influence. It is this same influence that Macbeth now has inside him. The power given by the Witches can be seen as another persona that Macbeth had buried deep inside, waiting for a slight persuasion to make an appearance.

The Weird Sisters give Macbeth three more prophecies: Beware of Macduff (Again, this is already known) No-one of woman born can harm him He will be safe until Dunsen wood comes to his castle. The final two prophecies give Macbeth a huge amount of security and so he decides that although he has missed his chance to kill Macduff, he is quite happy to openly send murderers to kill Macduff’s family and decides not to delay in his crimes n e more. Act 4 scene 2 shows Macduff’s wife and children in a very loving scene. This adds tension as the audience knows that they will be killed.

By showing this to the audience, they see the true evil side of Macbeth and will regard him as a real villain from now on and hate him more than ever before. A messenger comes to call at Macduff’s home, telling his wife that three men are coming to her house. This delays her leaving and the family is killed by Macbeth’s assassins. From now on, nothing that Macbeth can do or say will change the audience’s opinion towards Macbeth. In Act 4 Scene 3, Malcolm is told by Macduff all about Macbeth and his murderous nature.

Malcolm wants to kill Macbeth but by killing the King, he will be regarded as being just as evil as Macbeth. He turns down Macduff’s proposal of seizing the crown, but uses this as a test. If Macduff persuades Malcolm to take the crown, it will show that Macduff is truly on his side. By showing Malcolm in a good and intelligent light, Macbeth is seen to be inadequate in comparison to the rightful King. In Act 3 Scene 1, Lady Macbeth is seen with a doctor.

She is insane from guilt and regret. She refers indirectly to Duncan’s and Banquo’s deaths and pretends to be washing her hands. A sign of guilt). Seeing her in this state makes the audience sympathetic towards her and again, this makes Macbeth seem increasingly evil because if he had completed the job of Duncan’s murder properly, and not bought the daggers down, she would not be in her deteriorated state. By Act 5 Scene 3, Macbeth is sick of his life as King. He is regretting ever killing Duncan and wants his old life to be returned to him. In the scene that follows, Lady Macbeth commits suicide. This bestows a huge amount of guilt and remorse onto Macbeth as he may be seen as responsible for yet another death.

Someone as close to him as Lady Macbeth passing away due to his ambition and drive lets him know that there is no going back. But he has no time to mourn. Macbeth is getting very tired of his life. The audience may be starting to respect him again at this time, especially when he decides that he wants to die an honourable, respectful death in his castle. In the past, brave Captains of ships would insist on going down with their ship. Macbeth may be compared to one of these brave men.

In Act 5 Scene 7, Macbeth says “They have tied me to a stake. I cannot fly. This shows the despair that he is feeling and that in his mind, he is ready for death. He has gone from being a great hero of the people to a great villain because of his flaw: his ambition and now, his bloodlust. Just like all of the tragic heroes in Shakespearian times, his flaw has led to a great downfall. This justifies Shakespeare in killing Macbeth off. Malcolm and Macduff return to Scotland eventually to bring Macbeth down and put Malcolm on the throne. They assemble an army in Dunsen Wood and shelter themselves with branches and leaves to provide sufficient disguise.

Therefore, when they advance to the castle, it seems as though Dunsen Wood is moving towards Macbeth, just as The Weird Sisters had prophesised. Macbeth sees this and runs for cover in his castle, ready to die a hero. He kills several men in the army which proves that he is still willing to murder to save himself. He then moves out into the courtyard, where he finally meets with Macduff. Macbeth’s honest and true side is beginning to return as he declares that he will not fight Macduff, as he has killed enough of Macduff’s family already. However, Macduff forces him to fight, even though Macbeth wants to stop.

This shows that even though Macbeth was completely evil, he is tired and there is still a certain amount of goodness in him. According to the Weird Sisters, no person of woman born can harm Macbeth. This is when Macduff reveals that he was born by means of a caesarean section procedure. Macbeth continues to fight but is easily overthrown by Macduff. Good triumphs over evil. This is also the instance in Macbeths own mind as his good side triumphs his evil side at the end of the play. As the crown is placed on Malcolm’s head, Macduff describes Macbeth as “A dead butcher with a fiend like wife. ” So who was more to blame?

Macbeth himself or his Lady? In my opinion, Lady Macbeth was more to blame as she started the chain of murders by plotting against Duncan. Indeed, she was under the Weird Sisters’ influence, but it was she who went on to influence Macbeth. If she hadn’t used emotional blackmail to force him into Duncan’s murder, the other murders could have been prevented. The most evil character was most definitely Macbeth. He very quickly transformed into a heartless murderer and even though he began to regret his actions towards the end of the play, he had still done some awful things and no amount of regret and guilt could ever fix it.

Tagged In : ,

Get help with your homework

Haven't found the Essay You Want? Get your custom essay sample For Only $13.90/page

Sarah from CollectifbdpHi there, would you like to get such a paper? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out