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To what extent is Macbeth responsible for his own downfall Essay

There are many factors, which can be taken into account when deciding to what extent Macbeth was responsible for his own downfall. Macbeth was affected by three categories of influence, which were: the witches, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Throughout the tragedy, the three categories evolved in different ways, effecting Macbeth and bringing various consequences to his life. For example, the appearance of witches in Act 1 made Macbeth come back to them in Act 4 in order to find out his future; and King Duncan’s murder caused Macbeth guilty conscience immediately after he committed the murder.

The audience experience various feelings throughout the play. The witches, who are to have a profound influence over events in the play, meet in foul whether, and speak of thunder, lightning, fog, and filthy air. The audience associate that with evil and that introduces ‘Macbeth’ as a dark and dangerous play. There is a hidden historical context in the play, as in Shakespearean times people and King James the first of England were all very much fascinated with witchcraft as they believed in their powers and were afraid of them. This is why Shakespeare decided to include them in this play.

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In Shakespearean times, only men acted in theatres, so therefore they played both men and women. As men played witches it made them look like ugly women, and that confirms the stereotype of witches being ugly women. In Act 1, scene 1 the witches say a certain phrase: “Fair is foul and foul is fair” and it suggests that ‘evil’ is the theme of the play. These words are quite confusing because they contradict each other, is that what the play is about? Later on the audience hears Macbeth say his first lines, which are those exact same words “So foul and fair a day I have not seen”- Act 1, scene 3.

The witch’s words are in Macbeth’s mouth, does that mean that the audience are to associate him with the witches and their evil. These words introduce the idea of the play being the reality but also an illusion. Not everything is as it seems. The audience come across a very important question at this stage: Is Macbeth in control of his own destiny? There was a symbol in the play, which was a number – number three.

There were three witches and they gave Macbeth the three cautions to look out for further in the play: ‘beware Macduff’ p. 4, line 71, ‘beware of the power of a man for none of woman born’ p. 55, line 80, and ‘everything will be alright until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against’ p. 55, line 93. Their dance when they hear Macbeth’s drum, is made up of steps in groups of three- a magical and a symbolic number. Before the witches tell Macbeth the future, there is a dramatic irony in the play, because the audience already know that King Duncan made Macbeth ‘Thane of Cawdor’. At this point, the audience know far more than the characters do.

Nevertheless in the middle of scene 3 in Act 1, Macbeth does find out his future from the three witches and he comes to a stage at which he does not know what to do next: to leave it and get on with his life or do something about the situation. However, Macbeth acts on his own impulse: “Come what come may, time and the hour runs through the roughest day. ” – Act 1, scene 3, line 147.

Witches do not ever attempt to persuade Macbeth into doing anything. When they disappear, he looked for them, as he wanted to find out more – “stay you imperfect speakers, tell me more. – Act 1, scene 3, line 70. The witches only appear once more in the play in Act 4, scene 1, but they are always present in Macbeth’s mind, and their words will always be in his thoughts, they make him believe his greatest prize in near. The witches have chosen the precise moment to approach Macbeth – when he was full of triumph after the battle. Macbeth fell under their spell; however, their spell is nowhere near the same as the spell Lady Macbeth did in Act 1, scene 5, in order to become more confident and reassure herself: “Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts… Lady Macbeth is a very complicated character.

At the very beginning of the play, she dominates Macbeth in her relationship with him. To the audience she is everything Macbeth is not. At first she appears strong: “Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be what thou art promis’d. ” – Act 1, scene 5. She knows that she will have to urge Macbeth on to become king. The context here is theological and philosophical. Immediately after she receives the letter from him telling her about his success, she becomes obsessed with the news and immediately hatches a plan.

She is determined for him to become more than he is destined to be. “Yet do I fear thy nature; it is too full o’ the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way. ” After she reads the letter, her speech is full of evil and darkness: Act 1, scene 5 ” Thou wouldst be great, art not without the illness should attend it. ” By ‘illness’, Lady Macbeth means ‘evil’ that must accompany ambition, but her metaphor seems appropriate: Macbeth ‘catches’ evil, as if it was a disease. .” In all respects though, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are very much in love and she is his ‘dearest partner of greatness’.

Furthermore, the audience lose their impression of Lady Macbeth being strong. There are two factors, which give away her insecurity and weakness. The first one was when in Act 1, scene 5; she started doing a kind of spell: “make… and it” lines 42-6, in order to block up pathways by which remorse can reach her heart, so that no natural feelings of conscience could make her hesitate in her future plans. At this point she wanted to stop being a woman – “Unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty… she said “Come to my woman’s breasts, and take my milk for gal. ”

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She did not rely on her inner strength, but she relied on external forces. She has also been drinking in Act 2, scene 2. The second factor that makes the audience realise Lady Macbeth’s insecurity is something that the audience have to realise themselves. Why Lady Macbeth, did not kill king Duncan herself? The answer is quite simple and it is what kills her in the end. She is much too scared and insecure to face her fears.

Her excuse for not committing the murder herself is that Duncan looks too much like her own father, and it is a bad excuse: “He resembled my father as he slept. ” Nevertheless, she feels that if Macbeth commits the murder under her supervision, it will not be quite so bad and she is not going to suffer due to her guilty conscience: “look like the innocent flower; Only to look up clear, to alter favour ever is to fear. ” Lady Macbeth appears much stronger in words than in actions. Lady Macbeth has a significant impact on Macbeth’s behaviour. She is the one he comes to for advice.

He sends her a letter to excite her interest in Act 1, scene 5: “They met me in the day of success; and I have learned by the perfect report, they have more in them than mortal knowledge… ” He talks to her after killing Duncan: Act 2, scene 2: “I have done the deed. Didst thou not hear a noise? ” Macbeth utterly admires her and always seeks praise like a child from a mother: “He hath honour’d me of late; and I have bought golden opinions from all sorts of people, which would be worn now in their newest gloss, not cast aside so soon. ” Act 1, scene 7.

He wants to enjoy the praises he had earned (‘bought’) as though they were new clothes. This proves just how insecure he really is. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth can also be compared to Adam and Eve from the Bible. Eve is the dominant one, who eats the apple; Lady Macbeth is dominant as she takes control. Adam is innocent and before the murder, the audience is under the impression that Macbeth is too. Lady Macbeth is very good at hiding her emotions in order to conceal Macbeth’s mistakes and this extends her complexity. She is able to obtain a ‘poker face’, which she uses to deflect other’s attention.

This is in district contrast with Macbeth who is the opposite, as he cannot hide his emotions. Lady Macbeth acts very differently when she is around king Duncan: Act 1, scene 6: “All our service, in every point twice done, and then done double, were poor and single business, to contend against those honours deep and broad, wherewith your majesty loads our house… ” Lady Macbeth persuades Macbeth to act the same too, while they were plotting against king Duncan: Act 1, scene 5: “look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t. ”

She faints and succeeds in drawing attention from Macbeth when Duncan is found dead: Act 2, scene 3: “Help me hence, ho! ” She also distracts the lords while Macbeth sees the ghost of dead Banquo and starts going out of his mind: Act 3, scene 4: “Think of this, good peers, but as a thing of custom: ’tis no other; only it spoils the pleasure of the time. ” At that point, Macbeth makes an error of judgement and Lady Macbeth has a go at him: “Fie, for shame! ” So, has Macbeth the strength to cope with his freedom? The answer is no. Lady Macbeth knows how to control and persuade Macbeth.

Usually she insults him in various ways to make him realise what he is doing wrong: Act 3, scene 4: “You have displaced the mirth, broke the good meeting, with most admired disorder. ” This proves how well she knows Macbeth. She knows that he is very ambitious and honourable. Nevertheless, throughout the play, what the audience come to realise is that she has no regard for morality. When things get a bit out of control, Lady Macbeth refuses to understand Macbeth’s doubts and hesitations, which is why their relationship changes so much over such short period: “A foolish thought to say a sorry sight.

Act 2, scene 2. Their relationship can be described as very loving as from the play the audience can find out how much they care for each other. It is also mysterious and changing. Their relationship as a husband and wife, is more like a mother and child or even a teacher and pupil. Macbeth is the child and the pupil, who learns from his mother and his teacher Lady Macbeth. However, as the child grows older, he leaves his mother’s nest and becomes independent. This is when Macbeth becomes the king and no longer consults Lady Macbeth in his further plans and actions.

This is the point at which their relationship changes completely. Even though he still loves her, he does not find the need to share with her anymore, for example he did not talk to her about the murder of Banquo: Act 3, scene 1. At this stage in the play, Macbeth himself changes too. Before the murder of Duncan, he was in total capitulation. Now he is in dominance. As the child or pupil – Macbeth leaves his mother or teacher – Lady Macbeth behind; she misses him a great deal: “How now, my lord! Why do you keep alone?.. ” Act 3, scene 2.

This triggers off her lack of strength due to her constant conscience of guilt, and she starts loosing her mind, seeing images of blood on her hands: Act 5, scene 1: “That Thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now? What, will these hands ne’er be clean?… I tell you yet again, Banquo’s buried; he cannot be undone. To bed, to bed. ” It is clear to the audience that in the beginning Lady Macbeth and Macbeth have very different characters and personalities. However, further in the play we come to realise that they are very similar and there is a strong link between their personalities.

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They are the two different sides of the same coin. At first, the audience pities Macbeth, because he is insecure and Lady Macbeth keeps taunting him when he tries to back down, but as they swap their personalities, they swap their characters and their relationship changes. We begin to pity Lady Macbeth as she starts losing her mind. Another question that the audience may come across at the end of the play, is ‘Did Macbeth always have the evil inside him, but just needed something to stimulate it, or has the evil been created in him by various characters and influences?

Shakespeare created Macbeth who was born with both good and evil inside him. Macbeth as well as everybody else had that evil in him, before he was promoted to be ‘Thane of Cawdor’ and the witches could only have so much power over Macbeth if he already had these thoughts of evil in his mind. So the major question is – what is Macbeth’s level of evil? Macbeth started as a good and loyal soldier and even though he was a brutal man who killed without mercy, he killed for his king and that was acceptable. He admired King Duncan: Act 1, scene 4: “The service and the loyalty we owe, in doing it, pays itself.

Your highness’ part is to receive our duties. ” Moreover, King Duncan was a good king: “He was a gentleman to whom I built an absolute trust. ” This is why when he murders him he regrets it a lot and starts backing off as he is afraid he will be punished: Act 2, scene 2: “This is a sorry sight. ” Macbeth also fears God, because in Shakespearean times people believed that king was chosen by God: Act 2, scene 2: “One cried ‘God bless us! ‘ and ‘Amen’ the other, as they had seen me with these hangman’s hands.

Listening their fear, I could not say ‘Amen’, when they did say ‘God bless us! ” Lady Macbeth tries to persuade Macbeth that the situation is not as bad as it seems and that he did the right thing but Macbeth is conscious of guilt throughout the play, right to the very end: Act 2, scene 2: “Consider it not so deeply. ” As Macbeth becomes the king, he turns into a cruel and an unjust ruler. As it is his first break from Lady Macbeth’s power, it becomes a liberating experience for him. They are no longer a ‘team’ as he takes over the planning of any further actions from Lady Macbeth, while she looses control and goes mad because feels she is just as responsible for the death of king Duncan as Macbeth is.

This drives her mad and in the end, she commits suicide because she is no longer able to deal with the consequences – physically, or mentally. This proves to the audience how weak she really was. When Macbeth found out about his wife’s death, he almost appeared as cold as she was. Macbeth became much more self-censored because he became aware that there is no possible cure from this disease – his guilty conscience. He also becomes aware that people start suspecting him for the sudden outbreak of murders of people, who were close to him, king Duncan, Banquo, and Macduff, only his family so far.

When the consequences of the murders of Duncan and Banquo are too much to handle for Macbeth, his instinct is to go back to the witches: Act 4, scene 1: “How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags! What is ‘t you do? ” They become his only hope. It is an admission that he cannot control things any longer and from this point in the play, the audience know that Macbeth is going to die. By the end of the play, Macbeth has turned into a completely different person. Has Shakespeare turned him into what he became? When comparing Macbeth as a King, to King Duncan, he was a much worse King then Duncan.

He treated his servants and guards with nothing but disrespect: Act 5, scene 3: “The devil damn thee black, thou cream-fac’d loon! Where gott’st thou that goose look? ” This is because his character is in pain and he utterly hates his life and this proves his massive insecurities. It is just that he is not strong enough to go back or go on with his life. Macbeth’s situation may be looked at as an external metaphor of a train. In the beginning, Macbeth is on a train and he has every opportunity to get off. Soon the train starts moving and Macbeth realises that he is on the wrong train and he can still get off, yet he does not.

As the train begins to gain speed, he does not attempt to get off and he is certainly incapable of going back. In all respects, the answer is obvious – Macbeth is clearly to blame for his own downfall. However, it must be considered that it is easy for the audience to form the opinion of Macbeth being an evil man, however Macbeth was inherently good. He was essentially a good man who was attempted to do evil. In all respects, he still is a good man because he had guilty conscience; an evil man would have no recall of any guilty conscience.

Shakespeare’s intensions in this tragedy were to explain to people what complex creatures we really are, and what complex relationships we may occur in and what situations we may find ourselves in. The play itself is full of complexities and contradictions to which the audience may refer, no matter what time it is. This is what makes ‘Macbeth’ a classic. Another one of Shakespeare’s intensions was to show what is good and what is evil. Sometimes in order to show something, the completely opposite must be shown, as that has a better effect.

This is what Shakespeare did. It is difficult to understand though, to what extent Lady Macbeth is present in the whole understanding of ‘evil’. Throughout the play, does Shakespeare want the audience to refer to Lady Macbeth as a good or an evil character? He showed us true evil that was both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, in order to make us realise what good must be. Nevertheless, whether it is a live performance, a written play, or a novel, the author’s success will always be hidden in his intensions and the way in which he communicates with his audience.

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