“A dead butcher and his fiend-like queen” is spoken by Malcolm on line 98 in Act 5 Scene 7 as Malcolm announces the beginning of a new reign, he uses this phrase to describe Macbeth and Lady Macbeth at the end of the play. The true definition of a butcher is someone that slaughters and dresses meat. Though a butcher is a ruthless, fearless, murdering person whose job it is to kill and slice up animals, a butcher is also a highly skilled tradesman.
Macbeth on the other hand, has almost none of these characteristics, thus it can be argued that he is not a butcher in any sense. But his wife, Lady Macbeth is a cruel, wicked and inhuman person, a person motivated by an irrational enthusiasm to cause harm or pain to another living thing. She shares these evil characteristics with the fiends and demons of hell. Thus it can be argued that she is in fact a fiend or demon from hell. Through the course of this essay I will be studying the darker sides of these two characters and judging if these characters really are a ‘Dead Butcher and His Fiend Like Queen’
Macbeths fear and moral compass are both factors that disassociate him with a butcher. For at the start of Act 1 Scene 7 Macbeth divulges his deepest and darkest thoughts and emotions with the audience, he shows fear, for he uses powerful and emotive words such as “bloody” and he constantly refers to heaven and hell, showing that he is scared of being trapped in “Deepest damnation”. This emotion of fear is an emotion seldom associated with a butcher or harbinger of death. During this soliloquy Macbeth cannot decide whether to kill Duncan or not. Macbeth would prefer if the murder could be done quickly and without consequences.
He says, “If it were done” “then ’twere well it were done quickly”, “trammel up the consequences”, Macbeth uses these phrases to show his want for the deed to be done quickly and without consequence. He knows that the murder would be wrong and he believes in judgement, for he says “we still have judgement”, “still” shows that he believes he has yet to be judged. “Bloody Instructions” shows he doesn’t want to spoil his clean record with the stain of murder. Macbeth shows that he would end up suffering for his crimes, by saying “Bloody instructions” “plague the inventor”, “bloody and “plague” are powerful words that show that Macbeth has knowledge that he will be “plagued” by his “bloody” sins.
The term “even-handed justice” shows that Macbeth believes in even and fair justice, thus by killing the King, justice will be served and he will be punished. By saying “commends th”ingredience of our poison’d chalice to our own lips” Macbeth acknowledges that if he kills Duncan, it will be his own end. He knows Duncan is his “kinsman” and that he is Duncan’s host and “subject”, and these are “strong both against the deed”. He should therefore protect Duncan, not kill him. He then goes on to say that “I have no spur, to prick the sides of my intent”, he is slowly loosing interest in killing Duncan because he feels that to do the murder would “prick” him rather than help him.
At the start of the play, a man is publicly executed for his treachery, thus Macbeth knows the price of treason. This is a moral dilemma for Macbeth, though he is a decisive man, for he is the leader of Duncan’s army, it makes him hesitate. If Macbeth truly were a butcher as the statement says, he would not be having the doubts and the hesitations that he is experiencing; a true butcher is a man with no fear or hesitation when killing other animal.
Simply from hearing Macbeth express his doubts and worries, and seeing the reluctance that Macbeth shows when faced with the act of murder, serious doubts are raised whether Macbeth is capable of such a thing as to kill another man and keep a sane mind, let alone killing a man that has befriended him and respects him. Thus it can be argued that this is another reason why it would be difficult to brand Macbeth as a “Butcher”
After Macbeth battles with his conscience, he persuades himself not to kill Duncan because of Duncan’s kindness and good will towards him. He feels Duncan “Hath borne his faculties so meek”, meaning he has exercised his royal powers so modestly. Macbeth knows he would be condemned to “deep damnation” if he kills the king. Macbeth admits that it is only his selfish ambition driving him.
By this he acknowledges that he has been using the witches as his security and his mental aid. Their predictions that he is to be king make him feel safe, and lay his mind to rest, as if nothing can get in the way. Although he knows he is going to be king, he does not want to wait all of his life for the honour. He wishes the crown upon himself prematurely, and this selfish drive pushes him toward his goal. By realizing his shortcomings, he once again shows an emotion and drive that is not possessed by a “Butcher”. A skilled tradesman does not acknowledge his shortcomings and then resign because of them, he uses them in a way to further benefit his cause and goal. Macbeth fails to do this, thus a further reason is born to contribute to the argument against Macbeth label of a “butcher”
When Lady Macbeth enters, he tells her; ‘We will proceed no further in this business’ he says that he will not murder Duncan. He does not however tell her the true reasons for his reluctance for murdering Duncan or share with her his doubts and concerns surrounding the murderous deed, but says instead, that Duncan has given him “new honours” and that he wants to enjoy the “golden” opinion of his fellows.
He uses this tactic of evasion because he does not want to admit to Lady Macbeth that he has been battling with his conscience and is unhappy about doing the deed of evil, he does not want to be seen as a weak or cowardly man. Lady Macbeth gives a strong and powerful combating speech to him, accusing him of being a coward and bringing into question his manhood. She says ‘Was the hope drunk’ and ‘And live a coward in thine own esteem’, “Drunk” and “Coward” are both powerful phrases that shows her beliefs that he is backing out because of his own cowardly emotions. She tells him that before she would go back on her own word, as he did, she would throw her own baby sucking milk at her nipple and ‘dash’d the brains out’.