Macbeth is a tragedy play by William Shakespeare that highlights the disastrous effects of political ambition on people who seek power just for the sake of it. It tells the story of a Scottish general called Macbeth who is told by three witches of a prophesy that he will one day take over the reign as the king of Scotland. Fueled by ambition and encouraged by his wife, he murders the current king and assumes the throne for himself. These actions make him to be consumed by guilt and fear of the loss of power. He soon becomes an iron-fist ruler who commits even more murders as a way of shielding himself from suspicion and antagonism. The violence and resultant civil war quickly takes its toll on Macbeth and his wife, resulting in insanity and death. This essay looks at how Shakespeare in Macbeth presents Macbeth as being responsible for his own downfall.
Shakespeare portrays Macbeth as a tragic hero who triggers his own downfall through his selfish and evil ambitions. Despite being influenced by the three witches and his wife Lady Macbeth, he is still responsible for what happens to him. At the start of the play, Macbeth is depicted as a noble and courageous general of Scotland who bravely led his men to win the war. He proves himself to be hero by displaying courage and advanced fighting skills. He receives flattering praise from his captain, who is impressed by how brutal he is towards the enemies of Scotland. His attributes are soon recognized king Duncan, who rewards him accordingly. However, Macbeths violent and brutal character spurs him to kill the king. Despite being influenced by the witches and his own wife into murdering Duncan, he is actually fuelled his ambition and deep desire to attain power.
First, Macbeth is spurred by the three witches who predict that he is going to become king. He blindly believes the prediction without confirming it or seeking any proof. Although the witches prophesy are somehow to blame for influencing Macbeths decisions, they did not actually suggest that he murders King Duncan. The thought of treachery and murder must have crossed his mind considering that his guilt is noticed by one of the witches called Banquo. As much as his black and deep desires scare the hell out of him, he does not openly speak about them. All in all, he does send a letter to his wife telling her of the situation. Upon receiving the letter, Lady Macbeth encourages him to commit murder as she sees it as the only way for him to achieve his ambition of becoming the king of Scotland. She manipulates him by accusing him of not sufficiently being a man, while also claiming that she would murder her own baby if it would make her get what she wants. Yet Macbeth, despite being strong both physically and mentally, fails to curtail the murder plot not bearing in mind the fact that his conscience warns him of the grave consequences of such an action. Rather than listen to his conscience, Macbeth stifles his guilt and goes on with the plan.
In Macbeth, a long chain of events take place the ultimately lead to the demise of the main character. Although this chain was put into motion by the prediction of the witches known as the Three Weird Sisters, it is Macbeths own final decision that was the real cause of his death. He did have a choice whether or not to do all the things he did. He was not compelled to listen to his wife and murder King Duncan, nor did he have to wipe out Macduffs family. William Shakespeare put a lot of emphasis that the main character was not a mere puppet being manipulated by his wife and the three witches. Rather, just like any other human being, had a choice on which decisions to make in his life. As much as it may appear as if the prophesies were more like riddles manipulated by the three witches, they were totally truthful and honest. It is Macbeth who misinterpreted the predictions; he did not have to believe them, let alone do anything about them. Lady Macbeth may have been quite a manipulative, convincing, and influential person who managed to convince her husband to commit the first murder; that of Kind Duncan. However, the issue of morals comes to mind. Macbeth should have asked himself whether it was worth taking someones life order to take over power. He did not do that; instead making a conscious decision to go ahead with the plot to kill the king. He also made up his mind to order the murder of Macduff and Banquos family while not under any distress at all to do so. Macbeth could have chosen not to do what he did. All in all, despite his conscience reasoning with him not to go the way of death and destruction, he goes ahead and wipes out several characters; a situation that set him on the path to his downfall.
The three witches happen to be the first characters to be introduced in Macbeth. As much as they were the main cause of the title characters actions, they did not actually coarse him to do any of those things. A prevalent stereotype about witches is that they are depicted as ugly and wise women yielding evil powers. William Shakespeare used the exact same traits in the play by describing the witches as the Three Weird Sisters. They play the role of informants who convey a message to Macbeth under the instructions of the main with called Hecate. This message is what inadvertently causes him to kill King Duncan as well as the Macduff and Banquos families. The truth is that they did not actually say to him that he should murder anyone. What they really said is that he would become the Thane of Cawdor, and afterwards be the King.
When Lady Macbeth was manipulating her husband to go ahead with the murder plot, it is evident that she did not actually mean what she claimed. She stated that she was willing to kill her own baby in order to get what she wants. Such a graphic perception of the extent to which she would go would have been more acceptable in modern times than when Shakespeare was writing Macbeth. At the time, women had no influence whatsoever over their husbands. It was very unlikely that any argument or threat that they put forward would be taken seriously, let alone put into consideration. Men had the final say on everything, meaning that the threat claimed by Lady Macbeth would not have been much persuasive.
Despite Macbeth being a high ranking military man who was strong in his opinions and beliefs, he definitely turned out to be a victim of his own character. In fact, his weary conscience had warned him of this looming downfall. A good example is the vision of a dagger that he saw just before King Duncan was murdered. It horrified him as he is heard saying, "Is this a dagger, which I see before meThe handle toward my hand? (Act 2, Scene 1: 33-35). This incidence clearly shows that Macbeth, albeit unconsciously, is aware his future deeds are wrong. His failure to act on the warning signs in this scene makes him twice as haunted by the fury of his conscience. Another example is the scene whereby; following the vicious killing of King Duncan, both Macbeth and his wife hear sounds that turn out to be purely of their guilty conscience. Also, in the scene after Banquo is brutally murdered, Macbeth is haunted by a bloody ghost of the victim. It rises and invades his conscience as revenge for its killing, leaving Macbeth with a feeling of unease. This is evident by Macbeths outbursts at his feast when he screams at the ghost. All these highlights of his guilty conscience show that his downfall was indeed no ones fault but his own. He failed to heed the advice of his conscience early in the story; something that comes to haunt him in the later scenes as he is wracked by intense guilt.
I totally agree with the statement that, in Macbeth, William Shakespeare presents Macbeth as being entirely responsible for his own downfall. Any arguments that he was influenced by the three witches or his wife are false as they did not actually make him murder King Duncan. Macbeth was in total control of himself and he refused to heed the warning signs of a looming disaster from his conscience. He let his ambition and greed for power get the better of him; a situation that led to his eventual downfall.
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