By fighting for his country, Scotland, he achieved in return the respect that he deserved from the King. Macbeth was plagued with conflicting qualities; for example, one was the humane and courteous way he treated his wife, i.e. Macbeth referred to his wife (in his letter to her in Act 1, Scene 5) as my dearest partner of greatness. Also in this scene, he addressed her as My dearest love. On the other hand, this did not prevent him from acting in the opposite way in battle as a cruel warrior.
Once the witches had prophesised that Macbeth would be king hereafter (Act 1, Scene 3), Macbeth seemed to have been drawn in by this advance information i.e. he started, and seemed to fear. This reaction indicates that he was a very gullible being, who tended to believe what was said. Then again, if one were informed that one was to be king, then one might believe it, as it is a desirable privilege. This represents honest ambition, at this stage, without seeming to involve any nefarious actions on Macbeths part. Also, the mental images that would come into ones mind could heighten ones level of gullibility and boost ones self-esteem. This scene also tells us, as readers, that Banquo, on the other hand, is not so easily convinced, and to us, this demonstrates a stronger character. Banquo obviously doubted the witches predictions, as he questioned Macbeths response by asking, why do you start, and seem to fear.
Another important part of the story, which points out a particular frailty of Macbeths, occurs later on in Act 1, Scene 3, when Macbeth lied to Banquo. He pretended to Banquo that his dull brain was wrought to divert Banquos thoughts about him, by being devious as one might expect from a villain so that Banquo would no longer believe that Macbeth trusted the witches predictions. Even after finding that the first prediction of the witches was true, Banquo warned him, basically, that even if the witches told him some little truth, later they would deceive him.
Another example of Macbeths deceit against Banquo comes in Act 2, Scene 1, when Macbeth denied that any thoughts of the witches were in his mind: I think not of them¦ In the next scene (Act 1, Scene 4), irony and duplicity emerge. This happens because Shakespeare emphasised Duncans respect for Macbeth, with Duncan saying such things as worthiest whilst addressing Macbeth. However, as Macbeth later on in the story kills Duncan, this belies his true political intention of power seeking, and perhaps not solely of his own volition, but driven by his wifes ambitious self-interest.
Macbeth does not seem to be a villain, but rather a considerate man who actually has redeeming qualities. When he arrived home a few days after the battle, he advised his wife, Lady Macbeth, of the Kings arrangements to sleep at their castle that night. Shakespeare revealed her to be a ruthless schemer, who cared about nobody when it came to power. This is proved when she decided that they had to kill Duncan, to fulfil the witches prophecies. Later on (in Act 1, Scene 7), Macbeth is seen in the soliloquy, expressing his doubts to the reader. As readers, we see his good side when hes explaining that hes not a vagabond, by expressing his hesitancy to kill Duncan. One of his comments is, First, I am his kinsman and his subject¦then, as his host¦ What Macbeth is actually saying here is that he is a trusted member of Duncans kin and army, and also that Duncan is a guest protected by the law of hospitality. This would make the murder even more unholy, as its a form of criminal intent against the unsuspecting king prior to the deed. So here Macbeth is seen actively contemplating murder, on the one hand, while on the other, his conscience tries to inhibit the act.
Herein afterwards in this scene, Lady Macbeth uses her persuasive and guileful tactics on Macbeth to change his mind, and agree to go ahead with the murder. Her methods are simple and psychological, since they criticise Macbeths manhood. She manages to ridicule his conscience under her scornful attack by using phrases such as Was the hope drunk? and Art thou afeard¦ Thus, by so doing, she labels him a coward, and coerces him into changing his mind under her pursuing peer pressure and her curses. She then makes things even worse, by threatening to commit the act herself! Now this, to Macbeth a man really taunts him into an agreement against his better judgement. In such a fashion, women succeed.
After Macbeth murdered Duncan, he went downstairs and started talking to Lady Macbeth. He told her how he regretted his evil deed. He was a man of action, but was confused when he lost his sense of right and wrong. He carried on with the murder, but displayed guilt, remorse and fearful superstition afterwards. An example of his guilt came after he killed Duncan (in Act 2, Scene 2), whilst he was informing Lady Macbeth of his doings and what he heard from Malcolm and Donalbains room, next door.
He told her what they said during their sleep. His guilt was then admitted: But wherefore could not I pronounce Amen? I had most need of blessing, and Amen stuck in my throat. Evidence that he was full of remorse, came right at the end of Act 2, Scene 2, Wake Duncan with thy knocking: I would thou couldst! This sentence clearly indicated his regretful state of mind, and the quote supports the fact that Macbeth did have some redeeming qualities of conscience. He even has a trace of fearful superstition in his head, as he heard a voice cry, Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep, the innocent sleep. These mental images inside his own mind blatantly reflect that he is aware and stricken by them. Therefore, he is still able to discern between good and evil even after the foul deed has been accomplished.
When Macbeth kills the two servant guards in anger, he is seen to extend his evil deed and perhaps this can be considered as the point where he has become the complete villain. In spite of a nagging conscience in killing Duncan, he had to continue his evil ways to silence the two innocent guards: O, yet I do repent me of my fury, that I did kill them. Here is a further example of his commitment to evil in spite of conscience and so, his tendency towards malfeasance does not abate.
In addition to this unfolding character change, he also deceives all others, including Duncans two sons. He deceitfully assumes the role of the angry Thane, driven to lash out at the two guards, who, on the face of it, had killed the king. Once more, he shows duplicity in confessing another lie, Who can be wise, amazed, temperate and furious, loyal and neutral, in a moment? No man: the expedition of my violent love outran the pauser reason. So, his conscience is now being overtaken by his evil actions and reflects his weakness in becoming a pawn by acting out the will of his accomplice, Lady Macbeth, and exposes a diminishing personal integrity to the reader.
This change in Macbeth develops and is reflected in his fore-planning soliloquy in Act 3, Scene 1, while awaiting the two murderers to enter. He exposes his own discontent, even after becoming King. Fearing Banquo and his sons succession, any refraining influence of conscience is now deliberately put aside, To be thus is nothing¦our fears in Banquo stick deep¦to make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings! Rather than so, come, fate, into the list, and champion me to the utterance! By the end of this scene, Macbeths complete change of character is painfully evident, showing his complete absence of concern. At this stage, gone are any troubled thoughts so evident when either considering or enacting Duncans demise. Instead, an evil commitment is observed in his cruel remark as Act 3, Scene 1 closes: It is concluded: Banquo, thy souls flight, if it find heaven, must find it out tonight.
Macbeths mind, irrespective of conscience, is now refocused on action to rid himself of his last nagging fear of Banquos lineage superseding his own. It can be argued that from this point, Macbeth has indeed crossed the Rubicon. He was totally committed to whatever evil deeds the future might hold. He demonstrates this change of mind when replying to his wifes exhortation in Act 3, Scene 2, whats done is done. Also, his attitude and mental state is highlighted as he says: But let the frame of things disjoint, both the worlds suffer, ere we will eat our meal in fear, and sleep in the affliction of these terrible dreams that shake us nightly. Again, at the end of this scene, when Macbeth has planned Banquos murder, he keeps his wife in the dark about this: So, prythee, go with me.
During the banquet, in Act 3, Scene 4, Macbeth is advised of Banquos death and Fleances escape. This unsettles Macbeth. He feels trapped, but now I am cabined, cribbed, confined, bound in to saucy doubts and fears. Yet he successfully puts on a face for his guests, until Banquos ghost appears. Consternation rules and suspicion reigns. Macbeths superstitious fear and guilt return, yet his courage does not fail him when the apparition appears: Thou canst not say I did it. Never shake thy gory locks at me. Also When Lady Macbeth asked him, Are you a man?, Macbeth replies, Ay, and a bold one, that dare look on that which might appal the devil. The appearance of Banquos ghost sitting in Macbeths place signifies that Banquos descendants would replace Macbeths. Macbeth decides his delusions are a beginners fear and lack of experience: My strange and self-abuse is the initiate fear, that wants hard use: we are yet but young in deed. In doing so, he ignores the horrific effect of his outrageous crimes in his country, and reveals the depth of his treason and treachery.
It comes as no surprise to discover that Macbeth has a covert intelligence network, Theres not a one of them, but in his house I keep a servant feed. So Macbeths deviousness and villainous activity persists to support his grip on power over Scotland. Therefore, Macduff, in joining Duncans son Malcolm in England, realises only force of arms will recover the situation, since: Each new morn, new widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows strike heaven on the face, that it resounds as if it felt with Scotland, and yelled out like syllable of dolour.
When Macbeth went to consult the Witches after the Coronation feast, it was because he again followed his own evil self-interest: More shall they speak; for now I am bent to know, by the worst means, the worst. For mine own good all causes shall give way¦ This pursuit of self is matched by their own evil intention, to Set him up; As, by the strength of their illusion, shall draw him on to his confusion. He shall spurn fate¦and you all know, security is mortals chiefest enemy. Upon meeting the witches again, Macbeths chagrined reaction to the apparitions of the eight Kings with Banquos ghost following is to curse the event and experience a resurrected fear; Let this pernicious hour stand aye accursed in the calendar!, and ¦damned all those that trust them!
After this, Macbeth decides to act independently by matching thought to action, and eliminating Macduffs lands and family. This deed Ill do before this purpose cool. By doing so, Macbeth has now sunk to his lowest ebb in cowardly treachery against innocent victims. His motive is to punish Macduff for defying him, and lure him back to Scotland as a result of Macduffs anger. There, Macduff would clearly be in his grasp. Macbeth would then be able to kill him.
However, if one compares Macbeths despicable characteristics as a king only one quality emerges where it can be safely said he is comparable. This is his courage. In spite of his villainy, his physical courage in facing unpalatable situations of all kinds is never in question. Alas, who would connect him with the qualities that Malcolm (in Act 4, Scene 3) enumerates? ¦justice, verity, temperance, stableness, Bounty, Perseverance, mercy, lowliness, devotion, patience, courage, fortitude¦
Macbeth came to realise his own corrupt ways when he faces Macduff on the battlefield, Of all men else have I avoided thee: But get thee back, my soul is too much charged with blood of thine already. Macbeth reacts with Lady Macbeths death Stoically but without any true compassion. She should have died hereafter¦ Towards the end of the play, Macbeth has come to accept his defeat, yet on a personal level he still superstitiously clings to the three hags words, that no man born of woman can harm him, I bear a charmed life. Even after Macduff quotes the details of his caesarean birth, Macbeth is still courageously defiant: I will not yield¦and damned be him that first cries Hold, enough. Macduff calls to Macbeth, yield ye, coward, and Well have thee, as our rarer monsters are, painted upon a pole, and underwrit, Here may you see the tyrant. Here even Macduff labels Macbeth as a complete and utter tyrant!
In the end, Macbeths only virtuous quality proved to be his courage and it was this undaunted approach to all danger in life, which somehow endeared him in death, in spite of his evil ways, as a black hero.
However, his gradual change, after showing this virtue at the start of the play, does point to the truth of the adage, power tends to corrupt and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.
How many of us can discern the shadow of Macbeth in our own lives?
Thomas Way 10:C Macbeth English GCSE Coursework