It is said that ambition is the key to success. In the case of William Shakespeare, the most illustrious playwright to cross the threshold of the world of drama, it is the key to ones downfall as depicted in his blood-spattered tragedy Macbeth, written in 1606, during the English renaissance under the monarch of James I.
Shakespeare was inspired to compose his greatest gore drama Macbeth as it most clearly reflects the playwrights close relationship with the sovereign, claimed to have descended from the lineage of the historical Banquo. Although Macbeth is not one of Shakespeares most complex plays, it is universally acknowledged as his most passionate and poignant play, ever written.
The protagonist in the play, Macbeth, is a dichotomy of good and evil, a tragic hero, a man whose power of mind and body are distorted to evil. Shakespeare has fastidiously explored the intellectual and supernatural predicaments faced by Macbeth visibly emphasizing the moral declination, as his aberrant nature succumbs to the forces of evil. In this lies Macbeths tragic stature.
Macbeth is initially introduced as a man of valor, a loyal subject of his king, a mighty soldier, covered in the blood of his countrys enemy.
“For brave Macbeth-well he deserves that name-
Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution,
Like valors minion carved out his passage
Till he faced the slave-”
Shakespeare carefully builds up a flamboyant picture of his disposition as a true hero, whose actual existence on the battlefield has been decisive on each juncture. The king as a commemoration of a special favor bestows Macbeth the title of the traitor, “Thane of Cawdor” which deepens an effect of satire later on in the play.
We see the evil trait in the valiant soldier unleash after the apparition of the witches, prophesizing a lucid image of Macbeth as they greet him with three titles: Thane of Glamis, which Macbeth is fully aware of; Thane of Cawdor, which is true at this point, but which Macbeth has not been told of; and King, which has not yet to befall.
“All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis!”
“All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!”
“All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!”
It is at this turning point, where we are taken into the vicissitudes of darkness as Macbeth is plunged into a profound pensive thought. We see the possibility of evil sinking down through his mind, predominating his probity, reinforcing it with consuming ambition and physical courage.
As the premonition foretold by the witches regarding the title of “Thane of Cawdor” proved to be accurate, Macbeth began to deem in the prophecy of kingship. Here, we are taken into a series of soliloquies where Macbeth struggles with his conscience over the possibility of regicide, rising to a crescendo of passion revealing feelings of terror and dread. He is not wholly committed to the powers of darkness as he still has noble feelings and understands the magnitude of what he is proposing. By the use of euphemisms, Shakespeare emphasizes that murderous thoughts are alien to Macbeth.
“if it were done when tis done, then twere well
It were done quickly. If the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease success-that but this blow
Might be the be-all and end-all”.
This conscientious soliloquy is conveyed in a haphazard manner, “the horrid deed” abhors him because he realizes regicide is a cardinal sin. However due the profound effect of degradation and constant goading by Lady Macbeth who feels that Macbeths scruples are mere cowardice, Macbeths inner conscience transforms. She dwells on Macbeths lack of buoyancy, summoning forces of malevolence within herself, to drive Macbeth towards the fruition of the witches prophecies. Thus, Macbeth spurs and stirs to stimulate his ambition to such an extent, committing the murder by his own inclination with the help of his wifes accusation of inadequacy.
However, immediately after committing the murder, we see the gradual deterioration of Macbeth by the lines,
I have done the deed. Didst thou not hear a noise?
I heard the owl scream and the cricket cry. Did u not speak?
As I descended?
Shakespeare utilizes Macbeth to portray the terrible effects that ambition and guilt can have on a man who lacks strength of character. Macbeth, a