Macbeth: Act I Essay, Research Paper
During Act 1, the audience is presented with many views of Macbeth and it is difficult to decide whether he is good or bad. Macbeth is a complex character and it is too difficult to decide whether Macbeth is simply good or bad; the question has to be looked at in more detail.
Macbeth is introduced to the audience as the Thane of Glamis; soon afterwards he becomes Thane of Cawdor due to his help in the battle against the Norweigians, as he is a member of the Scottish army. Macbeth is the King’s kinsman as well and is therefore in line to the throne, though this is only a distant claim. He is clearly important as he is summoned to the King’s court and the King then stays a night at Macbeth’s castle.
At the start of the play, Macbeth is revealed as a brave and courageous fighter. The Captain tells the King (Duncan) about Macbeth’s bravery in battle:
“For brave Macbeth (well he deserves that name)
… with his brandish’d steel …
carv’d out his passageo
The King, who clearly already has an high opinion of Macbeth, describes him as a “valiant cousino and a “worthy gentlemano, and he shows he respect for Macbeth by awarding him the title Thane of Cawdor. At this moment, Macbeth is seen to be loyal to the King by fighting for him, and is therefore very patriotic.
However, Macbeth is not a totally bloodthirsty warrior, as one might have expected from the descriptions of him in the previous scene. His first line in the play, “Such foul and fair a day I have not seeno, shows that Macbeth does not enjoy killing people but is prepared to do so if it is necessary – showing he has a conscience. It is this conscience that throws up many objections to him killing the King – objections which nearly stop him from doing the deed. This shows that he is not easily won over to evil. Lady Macbeth describes Macbeth as “full of the milk of human kindnesso, although ironically she is using this as a point of criticism.
Another good point for Macbeth is the trust he places in his wife, in an age where women were almost invariably thought as inferior to men. He is prepared to share all his secrets, since he tells her everything he has seen with the witches in his letter to her. This also shows Macbeth’s absolute trust in his wife, for such a letter could have been considered treasonous and led to Macbeth’s death. Lady Macbeth is addressed in the letter as “my dearest partner of greatnesso, showing that Macbeth is also prepared to listen to his wife.This is again not normal behaviour and it shows his love and respect for her. Macbeth is also a good friend to Banquo, who clearly also has respect for him when he describes his friend as “worthy Macbetho.
Macbeth is not easily won over to evil; ironically when he first meets the witches he is more scared than Banquo. Indeed, it could be said that all the evil done by Macbeth is done under the spell of the witches. (”Banquo: … why do you start, and seem to fear/Things that sound so fair?).
One of Macbeth’s most important qualities is his ambition and determination. Once he has decided, he does not deviate, and each step subsequently re-affirms his initial choice. For example, when Macbeth hears the prophecies of the witches, his ambition from then on is to become King and do whatever it takes to become so. Macbeth’s ambition fuels this determination to succeed and with this goes a violent and ruthless nature. One of the tragedies of the play is that Macbeth’s ambition, which could have been put to many good uses, is used to make evil.
The meeting between Macbeth and Banquo and the witches is the first signs of evil that the audience sees in Macbeth. The audience has just heard several glowing descriptions of Macbeth in battle. When he appears, he does not seem the bloodthirsty warrior that has just been described. After hearing the witches’ prophecies, Macbeth is unsure whether to believe them, and whether they are good or bad:
” This supernatural soliciting
Cannot be good, cannot be ill. If ill,
Why hath it given me earnest of success…
If good, why do I yield to that suggestion
Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair …”
This is the first example of Macbeth’s weak-mindedness and indecision. A even clearer example is shown later when Macbeth is talking himself out of killing the King, having just decided with Lady Macbeth that he will. However, with some persuasion from his wife, he is soon won over again. This shows that Macbeth can be weak, and he allows first the witches prophecies and then his wife’s ambition for him to undermine his integrity.
This episode show that Macbeth is too eager to please other people – he needs Lady Macbeth to love him and cannot cope when she mentions “green and paleo and tells him that “such I account thy loveo if he cannot kill Duncan. One of the reasons that Macbeth gives himself for not killing Duncan is that he has recently bought “golden opinions [of him] from all sorts of peopleo.
Of course, Macbeth is a traitor and is also disloyal. He gives an image of being a hypocrite: in public he behaves one way and in private with Lady Macbeth & the witches in another. This is perhaps best shown in I.4, when Macbeth is paying homage to the King and his son. In the court, Macbeth says to the King:
” The service and the loyalty I owe,
In doing it, pays itself…”
Meanwhile, Macbeth is secretly thinking of how he can become the next King. Outside the court, on his own, he says, “Stars hide your fires/Let not light see my dark and deep desires…o. Another example of this decietfulness is seen in I.5, when Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth to “…look like the innocent flower/but be the serpent under’to.
Macbeth’s determination to kill the king shows a reckless and greedy lust for power. It is possible that the King could have made him more directly in line of the throne as a reward, as Duncan told Macbeth that the Cawdor title was “in earnest of a greater honouro.
To conclude, Macbeth is a character who could have achieved a lot of good, but sadly weaknesses in his character lead him to become evil, although this could partly have been down to the witches. It is too easy and not fully explanatory to call Macbeth good or bad: he is a complex and changing character with good and bad points within it.