“Macbeth” by William Shakespeare is a tale of hungry ambition and violence. Set in Scotland during the Middle Ages it is a story of Macbeth a valiant warrior with a strong lust for ambition. The play is introduced with three witches creating a potion on a thunderous, gloomy night. When the witches meet Macbeth it is not a coincidence.
Early in the play, the other characters portray Macbeth as a hero and a brilliant warrior, even before he has made an appearance. Shakespeare uses this to his advantage so that we have no other choice but to think highly of him at the start but the reader’s opinion of him may change later on. The other characters hail him to have had a dazzling fight and won the battle for the Scots virtually by his own merits:
“For brave Macbeth – well he deserves that name –
Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel
Which smoked with bloody execution.”
We see how the protagonist claims the name of “Brave Macbeth” as he has fought a terrific battle for Scotland against Norway and it shows on his sword as it glistens with blood from his slain enemies. From this we see the other characters opinions are followed through as we can clearly see how great and bold warrior he is. From this it helps me admire his great courage and patriotism.
When Macbeth meets the three witches after returning from the battle with his best friend Banquo, he is told three prophesies: he will become, Thane of Cawdor, Thane of Glamis and also to become King. Macbeth knows that the Thane of Glamis has been killed and that he will inherit the title, but the Thane of Cawdor is still alive so surely he could not be. Macbeth thinks about all these things and is almost in a trance. Banquo curiously asks if they can tell his future for him as well and is told that all his sons will be kings. When the witches have vanished, Macbeth and Banquo wonder maybe if they have eaten something that has made them hallucinate and Macbeth is keen to hear more:
“Stay you imperfect speakers, tell me more
By Sinel’s death I know I am Thane of Glamis,
But how of Cawdor? The Thane of Cawdor lives.”
Macbeth wants to know more of what he so wants and questions them over their visions. The protagonist is clearly interested in the witches’ predictions and it makes me wonder what he will do to make these predictions come true.
When Lady Macbeth opens the letter we are given a chance to see a more personal image of Macbeth. The letter Macbeth sends before his arrival warns Lady Macbeth of what she might expect. He also tells his wife about these witches and their predictions. From this we can see Lady Macbeth’s character as she wants him home quickly, possibly to whisper bad things in his ear so that she may become Queen. This is also another chance for Macbeth to be manipulated into killing the king and also now we start to see a weakness in his character. Lady Macbeth fears that he is a too good of a person to kill King Duncan so Lady Macbeth asks spirits to come and make her manlier so perhaps she can do this deed herself.
“.Come you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the to top full.
Lady Macbeth is asking for the will power to Kill Duncan and to change everything about her feminine personality and even change the milk in her breasts to feed children to severe venomous poison. Shakespeare shows us how Lady Macbeth wants to be queen and she will do anything to get it. We are made to have an ill opinion of Lady Macbeth here and we can easily tell that she is very manipulative. From this it makes me feel a little sympathetic for Macbeth as Lady Macbeth seems to want to manipulate her way into power and in doing so affecting Macbeth’s feeling.
Macbeth and his wife discuss killing King Duncan and they try to come to a decision. We can already see Macbeth’s discomfort over killing him but Lady Macbeth is very insistent that he does it. Lady Macbeth taunts him, she even says how unmanly he is and how she could do it.
“This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air
Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
Unto our gentle senses.”
This is very ironic as little does the King know this is a household that is speaking of killing him. It is not until Macbeth hallucinates a dagger leading him to Duncan’s solitude that he decides to kill him. The dagger also relates back to appearance vs. reality and whether the witches are again manipulating him into killing Duncan. Lady Macbeth drugs King Duncan’s guards while Macbeth does his deed. The audience in the play is not made to see this horrific task but Macbeth walks out with blood stained clothes. He cannot go back into the room to smear the blood on the guards as he is ashamed of his deed:
“With all Neptune’s ocean was the blood
Clean from my hands?”
Macbeth is feeling sorry for what he has done and shows great remorse. Shakespeare I think is trying to make us feel some sympathy for Macbeth but it does not excuse his actions. He has killed someone he adores for sheer ambition. Macduff, Lennox and Porter arrive to find the King slain (Macbeth and his wife seeming oblivious to what has happened) and a great deal of panic and sorrow arises. The guards awaken in the midst of all of this and Macbeth kills them to stop them from talking. From this source of actions Macduff suspects something but Lady Macbeth faints to distract their attention. After Macbeth’s actions the reader is obviously not made to have favourable impressions of him.
Macbeth is named king and he remembers the witches’ predictions of Banquo and all of his son’s, and realizes he must kill Banquo – his best friend – also if he would like his sons to become kings. The witches predictions have been right so far and Macbeth knows that he has no choice in the matter, so Macbeth hired murderer’s to do his deed.
“O treachery! Fly good Fleance, fly, fly, fly!
Thou mayst revenge. O slave!”
We see Banquo’s pain and agony here as he tries to protect his son from being killed by the murderer’s. We also know how bad it is for Macbeth that Fleance had escaped as he was the most important one to be killed. A very important part in the play is when Macbeth joins his subjects for a feast and sees a spirit of Banquo sitting in his chair, everyone notices him talking to nothing and think strange of him, but, Lady Macbeth takes control and leads him away. Shakespeare shows us how Lady Macbeth can easily take control of difficult situations and take everyone attention away from Macbeth. From this scene the reader’s feelings towards Macbeth are sheer hatred as he seems to just be on a killing spree to make sure he gets what he wants. Fleance’s failed capture now worries Macbeth as everything the witches have said has been true and he thinks Fleance will become king. I have no sympathy for Macbeth here as he is getting what he deserves from killing his best friend.
Macbeth’s soliloquy towards the end of the play shows how he really feels. The soliloquy is the consummation of what Macbeth represents. His repetition of “tomorrow” also suggests meaningless succession of the days in hereafter. As Macbeth reflects he seems to realize the error of his ways but it is too late to change what he has done. Although Macbeth should have stopped his killing and just told the truth earlier. Macbeth’s weakness in character brought out his destruction and if he had not as easily manipulated things may have been different.
“I will not yield
To kiss the ground before young Malcolm’s feet,
And to be baited with the rabbles curse.”
This is Macbeth’s last stand as he tells Macduff how he will not surrender and how he cannot face to kneel before Malcolm with everyone judging him for what actions he has done. He knows if he goes to the king everyone will not understand how he was manipulated into it even though it does not excuse his actions and this was why Macduff had slain him.
As I have shown, Shakespeare’s point about Macbeth’s character and indeed every human’s character is that people always want more than they have already got given the chance. Shakespeare also hints that every human would even kill their closest friends to gain a huge achievement because of jealousy or sheer ambition. Although Macbeth felt sorry for his deeds it does not excuse what he has done and he should not have been so easy manipulated and in the end this was his downfall.