Macbeth Essay, Research Paper
How exactly does Macbeth arrive at the decision to murder King Duncan?
In Shakespeare’s time witchcraft was punished by death. The King at the time when the play was written James I was interested in witchcraft and he wrote a book about it called “Demonology.” Shakespeare probably wrote the witches into the play because of the King’s interest. If someone was accused of being a witch then they were thrown into a lake with weights attached and if they floated they were a witch and would be killed, if they didn’t float then they weren’t a witch but would be dead anyway. The witches are first seen talking about meeting with Macbeth:
“Upon the Heath,
There to meet Macbeth.”
We then hear about Macbeth and how he helped defend Scotland:
“For brave Macbeth (well he deserves that name.)”
We then here that he was fearless and defended his country. We learn of his valour, strength and of his courage. This shows Macbeth to be a war hero ad makes the King treasure Macbeth and think of him highly. This makes us think that the only thing that could provoke him to kill the King would be when the King started to be a bad and evil King, however we soon see Macbeth’s fatal flaw appear
Macbeth and his best friend Banquo are riding over a moor when they stumble across the witches who are talking about what they have been doing since they last met. They then proceed to give a prophecy to Macbeth:
“??, hail to thee Thane of Glamis.”
“??, hail to thee Thane of Cawdor.”
“??, that shalt be King herafter.”
Macbeth and Banquo laugh of the prophecy and Banquo asks about what will happen to him. Macbeth then wishes to hear more because he can’t understand how he could possibly become Thane of Cawdor or King:
” Stay you imperfect speakers, tell me more:”
This scene shows us that Macbeth has no ambitions to become King or Thane of Cawdor. Soon, Ross and Angus arrive and proclaim Macbeth as Thane of Cawdor. This scene has set the seed of ambition in Macbeth although he is able to ignore his ideas. This scene also shows us that the witches have started the ball rolling, as it brings out Macbeth’s fatal flaw, his ambition is suddenly brought to the fore front of his thoughts.
Macbeth then writes a letter to his wife Lady Macbeth. In the letter he tells her about the witches’ prophecies and about his promotion to Thane of Cawdor. She reacts very differently to the way Macbeth and Banquo reacted, it would also have been surprising to Shakespeare’s audience. She is immediately thinking of Macbeth being king and her being Queen. She thinks that her husband is to kind to become king:
“Art not without ambition, but without
The illness should attend it.”
She also asks for all the good inside her to be removed so that she can convince Macbeth to kill the King. She is then told that King Duncan is going to visit the castle and she decides that this will be:
“?.the fatal entrance of Duncan.”
So she has decided that Macbeth will kill King Duncan while he is visiting the castle. Lady Macbeth appears to be extremely ambitious and tries to remove all the good inside her so that she can fulfil her ambitions:
“Unsex me here.”
All she now has to do now is convince Macbeth that it is the right thing to do, Lady Macbeth is shown by Shakespeare to be very manly because she is the one telling Macbeth to kill the King.
Lady Macbeth suggests Macbeth should kill the King while he is at the castle:
“Duncan comes here tonight,”
“?look like th’ innocent flower,
But be the serpent under’t.”
Lady Macbeth seems to have convinced Macbeth to kill the King as they end the conversation. Macbeth’s character has changed from when we first met him in the play. When we first met him he appeared not to be someone who was very ambitious or at least who hid his ambitions well, now he has become very suspicious of other people because he is worried of being found out. Also deep down in his heart he can’t kill the King without an outside influence which take the forms of the Witches and his wife.
When Duncan arrives at the castle he describes it as being very pleasant, this is a piece of dramatic irony because he is going to be killed in the castle which he has just described so nicely. A couple of lines later we see another example of dramatic irony because Lady Macbeth welcomes Duncan very nicely:
“All our services,”
Lady Macbeth is saying that she wants Duncan’s stay at Macbeth’s castle to be as pleasant as possible, here she is doing what she told Macbeth to do, which is look innocent in front of the King but be evil when not in his presence.
Macbeth obviously has not been totally convinced by his wife’s speech because we then seem him contemplating whether he should murder the King; we see this in the form of a soliloquy where he is talking to the audience and no one else. He thinks of reasons for murdering the King:
“It were done quickly: if th’ assassination
Could trammel up the consequence,”
and against murdering the King:
“So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angels, trumpet tongu’d against.”
He convinces himself that he shouldn’t murder the King and when his wife comes in he tells her:
“We will proceed no further in this business.”
Lady Macbeth is shocked and tells him that he is a coward in her eyes if he doesn’t kill King Duncan:
“And live a coward in thine own esteem.”
Yet again Lady Macbeth convinces Macbeth to kill the King. She then tells him that they will not fail because of the plan she has come up with:
“?his two chamberlains
Will I with wine, and wassail, so convince,
Lady Macbeth then suggests that they use the guard’s daggers to kill the King the blame will be laid on them. Lady Macbeth is again showing how she is willing to do anything to kill the King; she also shows her influence over Macbeth and what he does.
Macbeth then kills the King and he can’t believe he actually killed the King. We again see his wife’s influence as she calms him down and makes him go back into the room and place the daggers on the guards. Again, we see the influence of Lady Macbeth on Macbeth because she calms him down
The witches prophecy sows the seed of ambition in Macbeth but it is Lady Macbeth who convinces Macbeth to kill the King. Lady Macbeth is the one who comes up with the plan to kill the king; she is the catalyst for Macbeth’s downfall as it is she who convinces Macbeth to do the deeds.