Macbeth Essay, Research Paper
In William Shakespeare?s Macbeth, the hero evolves tragically from ?valour?s minion1? who saved his country from invaders, to a ?tyrant2?, who had children murdered to secure his power. By definition, a tragic hero, such as Macbeth, is ruined by a fatal flaw. It is not the heart of an evil man, but rather political ambition and misplaced confidence, combined with a weakness to manipulation, that fuel this weak character?s demise.
Initially, Macbeth does not harbour malevolent intentions. He is ?Belloma?s bridegroom3?, a war hero viewed most admirably by his comrades and superiors. Loyal Macbeth lays his life on the line for his king and his country, hardly seeming like one who would commit regicide. In contrast to this display of fortitude, Macbeth exhibits weakness during his first encounter with the weird sisters.
Greeting Macbeth as Thane of Cawdor and king, the witches spark his restless ambition. Unlike Banquo, who declares one who trusts such prophecy ?takes reason prisoner4?, Macbeth is tempted by their news, and begs to know more. Upon receiving the title Thane of Cawdor, Macbeth?s impulsive side surfaces for the first time as he entertains thoughts ?whose murder is yet fantastical5?. However, he does not commit himself entirely to crime, hoping that ?chance may crown6? him.
The witches are not the only ones from whom Macbeth draws confidence. Motivated to the point of summoning evil to help her execute the murder, Lady Macbeth seems to be more focused on the task than her husband. The two implicate themselves in a plot to murder Duncan. Knowing Macbeth is filled with ?milk of human kindness7?, she appeals to his sense of manliness to motivate him to go through with the deed. This painless manipulation on the part of Lady Macbeth further illustrates how weakened Macbeth is by his ambition. His desires are so uncontrollable that the slightest justification of an evil deed will drive him to do it.
The ?sorry sight8? of bloody hands upon having murdered Duncan brings about the first hint of madness in Macbeth as his conscience grapples with his ruthlessness. This emotional vulnerability causes his craving for power to become insatiable. Acquiring a ?fruitless crown9? did not leave him completely satisfied; he wanted a line of kings. To beget fulfillment, Macbeth hires murderers to kill Banquo and his son Fleance. This murder is preceded by an act of manipulation of the recruited killers by Macbeth, who makes a veiled promise of favour to the two poor men. Exploiting their situation for the betterment of his, he is evolving from a selfless soldier to a greedy despot.
Although he comes to manipulate humans, he loses control of his mind. Disaster falls upon Macbeth as he is overcome by ?saucy doubts and fears10?, which drive him to insanity before his banquet guests. Feelings of dignity and the effects of humiliation are now things of the past as Macbeth now knows only the sensations of hunger for power and fear of retribution. The notion that ?blood will have blood11? has become increasingly prevalent, surfacing in the forms of ghosts and floating daggers. Macbeth is being tortured by his conscience, leading to more restlessness.
Macbeth?s desperate need to see the weird sisters once more can be attributed to a fear of his fate. They lead Macbeth to believe that he is safe in his throne. All his confidence is placed in their prophecies, illustrating that his ambition would even sell his soul to misleading witches in return for cryptic reassurance. Macbeth is now consumed by his vaulting ambition, becoming even weaker on his quest for power.
Towards the end of the play the well-respected warrior becomes the hated tyrant. Already having committed innumerable atrocities, he lowers himself further by having Macduff?s innocent wife and children killed in their own home. His former colleagues feel their ?country sinks beneath the yoke12? with each passing day as a result of Macbeth?s selfish leadership. They decide that ?Macbeth is ripe for shaking13?, planning to overthrow their former friend and king now that he is so emotionally unstable.
In the face of impending death, Macbeth shows self-disgust, remorse and loneliness. He is clearly dissatisfied with himself, declaring his lifestyle ?is fall?n into the sear14?. Macbeth has no ?honour, love, obedience, troops of friends15? or anything else a true king would have. Upon hearing the cries of women being attacked by the English forces, Macbeth confesses he has ?almost forgot the taste of fears16? as they are ?familiar to his slaughterous thoughts17? which numb him on a daily basis. It is now obvious that Macbeth feels he has changed drastically for the worse. Before the duel with Macduff, Macbeth rejects the idea of playing ?the Roman fool18?. The mere fact that he mentions suicide suggests it had been seen as an option in the past, a sign of a man knowing he could never satisfy his ambition. Despite his newfound understanding of his decline, Macbeth is not aware that he has been cheated by the witches until he is confronted by Macduff, who was ?untimely ripp?d19? from the womb. Macduff taunts Macbeth into a final fight, winning the battle over the usurper.
In Macbeth, Shakespeare created the perfect tragic hero. Macbeth?s downfall can be traced to his fatal flaw, ambition. His bottomless need for domination blinded him from common sense, made him prone to manipulation, and often drove him to insanity. Though the weird sisters instigated his charge towards the throne with their prophecy, and Lady Macbeth with her cunning appeal to his manliness, they are not the cause of his demise. They merely uncovered what sentiment was already there – a weakness for ambition. This weakness led him to commit murder and murder again, though he would never satisfy his need for power through self-justified crime. It is the reason why ?brave Macbeth20? became the ?dead butcher21?.
1. Shakespeare, William. Macbeth in Shakespeare?s Macbeth (Coles)
1981, Toronto, Canada. I/ii/19
2. ibid. V/vii/27
3. ibid. I/ii/55
4. ibid. I/iii/85
5. ibid. I/iii/139
6. ibid. I/iii/144
7. ibid. I/iv/16
8. ibid. II/ii/21-22
9. ibid. III/i/61
10. ibid. III/iv/25
11. ibid. III/iv/121-122
12. ibid. IV/iii/39
13. ibid. IV/iii/236-237
14. ibid. V/iii/23
15. ibid. V/iii/25
16. ibid. V/v/9
17. ibid. V/v/14
18. ibid. V/viii/1
19. ibid. V/viii/16
20. ibid. I/ii/16
21. ibid. V/viii/69