Lady Macbeth and Her Success in Power
Lady Macbeth as One of Shakespear’s Heroines
William Shakespeare is notoriously known for being one of the greatest playwriters of all time. This all started in 1950, where he wrote and published his first play, Henry VI. From there, Shakespeare went on to write about two plays each year for 20 years. Some of his most famous work includes Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth. When watching or reading Macbeth, there are some notable differences and similarities to Shakespeare’s other plays. For example, comparing Hamlet and Macbeth, there are some features to both plays that carry analogous themes, and others, where there are evident discrepancies. A few common points that the two plays share, consist of the classic Elizabethan treachery, violence, and tragedy leading to death. Of course, there are characteristics which make Hamlet and Macbeth particularly distinct, including the social environment of the main characters in each of the plays; in Hamlet, he is companionless and single, whereas, in Macbeth, he is wedded and part of a squad. Also, the behaviorism is quite disparate, seeing as Macbeth is settled on his many decisions in that they are right and just, and Hamlet is indecisive. As the tale of Macbeth carries out, it is common to notice the development of a nefarious and wicked character, Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth’s figure revolves around strength and authority, as she manipulates her way to the top. This is palpable in other pieces of Shakespeare’s work, such as Twelfth Night’s Viola. In this play, Viola is dominant of her position and disguises herself as a man to live with the Duke, in this way, deceiving him. Lady Macbeth emanates power as part of the nature of her character, the miscreant, including the way she influences Macbeth to carry out his plan, her proposal to assassinate Duncan, and her prevailing, superior role as an accomplice throughout the play.
Macbeth was originally published in the Folio of 1623, where it took the stage many years before that in 1606 at the Hampton Court in London, England. From her many actions as the play unfolds, we will see why Lady Macbeth is named one of the most clever villains in all of Elizabethan Literature.
Manipulating the Husband
Throughout the play, Lady Macbeth is seen to have a tenacious effect on her husband. This is seen in the first act, where Lady Macbeth is audaciously pushing Macbeth to commit a crime but is unsure if he can handle the responsibility:
“What thou art promised: yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way: thou wouldst be great;
Art not without ambition, but without
The illness should attend it: what thou wouldst highly,
That wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false
And yet wouldst wrongly win: thou’ldst have, great Glamis,
That which cries ‘Thus thou must do, if thou have it;
And that which rather thou dost fear to do
Than wishest should be undone.’ Hie thee hither,” (1.5.16-25)
In another piece of scene 5 act 1, Lady Macbeth convinces Macbeth to go through with his plan:
“Great Glamis! Worthy Cawdor!
Greater than both, by the all-hail hereafter!
Thy letters have transported me beyond
This ignorant present, and I feel now
The future in the instant.” (1.5.69-63)
Through this segment, Lady Macbeth commences her plan to manipulate Macbeth by quoting his future title and stating that the time is right for them to act now, to have the future they envision. Both of these scenarios begin to show Lady Macbeth’s true colours. Another event in the first act highlights the way Lady Macbeth uses her words to further convince Macbeth to execute the plan:
Lady Macbeth: “Like the poor cat i’ the adage?
Macbeth: Prithee, peace:
I dare do all that may become a man;” (1.7.49-51)
A Feminine Approach
Lady Macbeth uses a proverb, which expresses that a cat would like to catch fish from water, but doesn’t want to get it’s paws wet, implying that Macbeth is the fearful cat. Macbeth replies saying that he will do everything he can to accomplish his plan. This shows that Lady Macbeth has power in this relationship because she uses a feminine approach, such as signifying that Macbeth should do this for them both, which masks her masculine persona, since power was a “man’s trait” in this era.
Lady Macbeth takes her husband’s plan on an incline. While Macbeth had the initial idea, Lady Macbeth was scheming farther than that; to assassinate Duncan indeed.
“The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step
On which I must fall down, or else o’erleap,
For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires;
Let not light see my black and deep desires:
The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be,
Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see.” (1.4.55-60)
In this segment, Macbeth has a moment to himself where he discovers his true feelings for Duncan. This is where the initial idea of murdering Duncan is formed. In another scene, Lady Macbeth comes to the realization that Macbeth is worthy of more than he is, while reading a letter. Composed in this letter is Macbeth telling his wife that the three witches have predicted him King of Scotland. Lady Macbeth then emerges on the same page as Macbeth; the assassination of the current King of Scotland, Duncan.
“All-hailed me ‘Thane of Cawdor,’ by which title,
Before, these weird sisters saluted me, and referred
Me to the coming on of time, with ‘Hail, king that
Shalt be!’ This have I thought good to deliver” (1.5.7-10)
Lady Macbeth’s Conniving Nature
This ties in to Lady Macbeth’s personality. She is known for being clever, which is discovered through scene 5 when she decides to intensify the original plan.
Though Lady Macbeth is not included in certain parts of the play, specifically where important decisions such as murdering Banquo are made, she has an incredibly supportive, yet conniving nature. This is easy to speculate following scene 5 of act 1, where Macbeth’s excitement to share his intentions and ideas with his wife are hinted.
“Thee, my dearest partner of greatness, that thou
Mightst not lose the dues of rejoicing, by being” (1.5.11-12)
In scene 2 of act 2, Lady Macbeth is willing to assist Macbeth in the murder of Duncan, by drugging his guards.
“Alack, I am afraid they have awaked,
And ‘tis not done. The attempt and not the deed
Confounds us. Hark! I laid their daggers ready;
He could not miss ‘em. Had he not resembled
My father as he slept, I had done’t” (2.2.12-16)
In scene 2 of act 3, Macbeth decides to take on the task of Banquo’s murder on his own, which he hides from his wife.
“Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck,
Till thou applaud the deed. Come, seeling night,” (3.2.51-52)
While this is all happening, later on, Macbeth is close to getting caught, where Lady Macbeth then covers for him. This, once again, shows her appurtenant nature.
“I pray you, speak not; he grows worse and worse;
Question enrages him. At once, good night:
Stand not upon the order of your going,
But go at once.” (3.4.137-140)
These scenarios demonstrate the supportive, yet suspicious qualities Lady Macbeth possesses.
Lady Macbeth is a character that radiates power as one of her strongest elements, including the way she joins in proposal to murder the King of Scotland, passionately encourages Macbeth to execute his plan, and her assertive, dominant role as an aide to Macbeth’s side. This is evident through many scenes, including her feminine approach to pushing Macbeth to assassinate Duncan, her support when reading the letter from Macbeth, and her contribution to kill Duncan. Lady Macbeth is a well-respected character and villain, showing that she is powerful in an era where powerful women were disregarded.
- “Who Was William Shakespeare and Why Is He Famous? – CBBC Newsround.” BBC, BBC, 18 Mar. 2015, www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/31941581.
- “Shakespeare Timeline.” Shakespeare FAQ at Absolute Shakespeare, absoluteshakespeare.com/trivia/timeline/timeline.htm.
- “The Most Popular of Shakespeare’s Work.” Midsummer’s Night’s Dream from ShakespeareMag.com, www.shakespearemag.com/bookshelf.asp.
- Beatty, Greg. “What Are Some Similarities and Differences in These Two Shakespearian Plays: Hamlet and Macbeth.” Enotes.com, Enotes.com, www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-some-similarities-differences-these-two-23373.
- Fahnestock, Christine. “Fall 2015 Shakespeare I: Team 6.” Fall 2015 Shakespeare I Team 7, 16 Sept. 2015, hawksites.newpaltz.edu/fall2015eng406team6/2015/09/16/womens-power-in-the-twelfth-night/.
- “Macbeth Was First Performed in 1606 in Front of King James I at Hampton Court, London. William Shakespeare Wrote the Play Soon after the Gunpowder Plot Was Discovered. – GCSE English – Marked by Teachers.com.” Marked by Teachers, www.markedbyteachers.com/gcse/english/macbeth-was-first-performed-in-1606-in-front-of-king-james-i-at-hampton-court-london-william-shakespeare-wrote-the-play-soon-after-the-gunpowder-plot-was-discovered.html.
Different Effects of Power in Macbeth
Two Different Leaders
Everyone has been in a group before, whether it is for school, work, sports, etcetera. In that same group, there will always be that one person who chooses to take over and who seems to have the most power, also known as the leader. It is never a bad thing to lead the group to success until they start abusing the power they have. Much like the play Macbeth written by William Shakespeare, two characters named Macbeth and Malcolm are both leaders who act differently with the power they have. Macbeth and Malcolm gain and utilize their power in different manners as leaders, as individuals and towards society.
Ruling Over People vs Serving Them
Macbeth was a respectable and brave warrior who demonstrated his admirable leadership during battle; he was a man who the public and King Duncan adored until he became selfish and killed for power. Macbeth impulsively decided to steal the power from Duncan forcefully to make himself king and leader of Scotland. During Macbeth’s reign, not everyone wanted him as their leader. A Lord who stated his thoughts on Macbeth said, “…To ratify the work, we may gain/ Give to our tables meat, sleep to our nights, / Free from our feasts and banquets bloody knives…” (Mac 3.6.33-35). He claims that their current leader, Macbeth, is violent and senselessly murders innocent people to feel more powerful making the Lord against Macbeth as their king. Macbeth often takes his power for granted thinking he could do anything just because he is the most powerful man in the country. As Macbeth himself said, “To make them kings, seeds of Banquo kings./ Rather than so, come Fate into the list,/ And champion me to th’utterance”(3.1.71-73). Just because he fears that he will lose his place as king, he decides to kill his own friend all because of power. Macbeth will go through so much just to keep a title that was not supposed to be his in the first place.
In contrast to Macbeth, Malcolm is a more suitable king for Scotland with his influence from Duncan and learning from his mistake; trusting others easily. Macduff chased Malcolm to ask for his help to fight Macbeth and gain his rightful title, King of Scotland. However, Malcolm did not trust Macduff easily clearly knowing he could be Macbeth’s spy. Instead, he tested him for his loyalty stating he does not have a “bottom…/ In [his] voluptuousness” (4.3.60-61) along with other qualities a king should not have. By doing so, he can figure out if he can trust Macduff, unlike Duncan who trusts easily and Macbeth, who does not trust anyone at all. In addition, all Malcolm wants is for the better of his country. He does not want to be the king if he is not suitable as he said to Macduff, “The cistern of my lust, and my desire/ All continent impediments would o’erbear/ That did oppose my will. Better Macbeth,/ Than such one to reign”(4.3.63-66a). While Malcolm is merely testing Macduff for his loyalty, he said Macbeth would be a better king than he would be since he is lustful, violent and selfish; he wants what is better for his people even if the title as king is rightfully his. Malcolm serves his people and is willing to sacrifice his throne if it will benefit them in the long run instead of ruling over them like Macbeth has, who also took his power for granted and killed innocent lives.
Corrupt Mindset vs Justice and Gratefulness
The antagonist, Macbeth is corrupted by his constant hunger for power and wanting to gain more of it. On the other hand, before all this, he was proud of what he has achieved in battle and confident in himself. That all changed when he made the decision to take a shortcut to get the power he has now and kill the king. In cause of this, his life changed for the worse feeling the guilt of murdering someone, especially if that someone is his king; someone who trusted him. His guilt is clear as he says, “Wake Duncan with thy knocking: I would thou/ couldst.” (2.2.77-78). Macbeth could only wish that a knocking could wake Duncan up, but he knows Duncan would never wake up ever again because of him and his greed for power. Through Macbeth’s reign, he becomes more comfortable in using his power to do whatever he wants to keep his position as king. This results in Macbeth paying servants to become a spy for him, reporting each lords’ actions and plans. Macbeth says it himself, “I hear it by the way, but I will send./ There’s not a one of them but in his house/ I keep a servant feed.” (3.4.130-132). This demonstrates Macbeth’s corrupt mindset thinking everyone is a possible threat to him wanting to steal the crown from him or help Malcolm become king. He will do anything at any cost as long as he stays as the King of Scotland.
Malcolm, as an individual has been through a lot ever since the death of his father; ever since, he wants to avenge Duncan by becoming a better leader to their people. If anything, his father’s death has made him stronger and influential. During Malcolm’s encounter with Macduff, he says, “What I believe; and what I can redress,/ As I shall find the time to friend, I will.” (4.3.8b-10). Malcolm is more determined than ever, expressing his want to take vengeance on Macbeth, who killed Duncan and is currently killing his people that are not guilty. Malcolm is a man of justice who will punish who did wrong and reward who did good. After their victory of the battle against Macbeth, Malcolm says, “We shall not spend a large expense of time/ Before we reckon with your several loves/ And make us even with you.” (5.9.27-29). By saying this, Malcolm expresses his gratefulness to each soldier who stood by him and trusted him. Unlike Macbeth, Malcolm is worthy of being king as he is what he is everything he described a leader should have, “…justice, verity, temp’rance, stableness,/ Bounty, perseverance, mercy…” (4.3.92-93).
Hatred and Fear vs Trust
Unlike a true king, Macbeth does not treat his people as well as he is supposed to, leading them to dislike him as their leader. Living up to what people call him, a tyrant, he continues to use his power as an excuse to do what he wants with it, such as murdering Macduff’s family. After seeing the witches, Macbeth says, “The castle of Macduff I will surprise;/ Seize upon Fife; give to th’edge o’th’sword/ His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls/ That trace him in his line.” (4.2.149-152). Macbeth gives another reason for people of Scotland, including Macduff, to be on Malcolm’s side; if they betray Macbeth, he can end their family in an instant. The longer Macbeth is king, the more their fear of him grows. Even Lennox conveys his true opinions on Macbeth as he says, “His message ere he come, that a swift blessing/ May soon return to this our suffering country. Under a hand accurs’d” (3.6.48-50a). The thane wants to be free of Macbeth’s leadership because of all the wrongs Macbeth has committed. Macbeth is digging his own grave by committing more sins causing people to turn away from him, not wanting him as their king.
The people who are against Macbeth are on Malcolm’s side because of his ability to control and maintain his power without doing any wrong to the society in contrast to Macbeth. Under Duncan’s lead, people of Scotland were content with how Duncan led them, which is why they trust Duncan’s choice of making Malcolm heir to the throne. After the first battle, Duncan announced, “We will establish out estate upon/ Our eldest, Malcolm, whom we name hereafter/ The Prince of Cumberland…” (1.4.37-39). This announcement made it official that Malcolm has proved himself to be worthy enough to be a king. Though after Duncan died, Malcolm only continues to prove that he is more than ready to lead Scotland by taking the position back. During the battle, Malcolm says, “We have met with foes/ That strike beside us.” (5.7.29b-30a). Malcolm realizes that people on Macbeth’s army is not doing anything to hurt them showing they are hoping Malcolm to win. He has gained power through his followers by wanting what will benefit them in the end which differentiates Malcolm from Macbeth.
The two opposing leaders, Macbeth and Malcolm contrast each other by having different effects of their power as rulers of Scotland, themselves, and how they act towards their people. In Macbeth, it is evident that these two characters show power in very different ways, Malcolm for the better, while Macbeth uses power for the worse. A good leader is someone who can maintain their power and use it for the better of their country, if power is not used correctly, it could result to destruction and corruption. After all, as Peter Parker said, “With great power comes great responsibilities”.
My Attitude to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth Characters
This is how I responded to the characters of MacBeth and Lady MacBeth. Yes, they do horrify me. The way they act, their decisions, their thoughts, it does horrify us. But strangely, I do feel sorry for them, no matter what horrible thing they did. Their characters are complex, and the basic instinct of human nature makes us feel sympathy for them. So although the two of them caused many deaths and committed many crimes, I still feel sympathy for both of them at their deaths.
MacBeth and Lady MacBeth are one of the two most complex characters in all of Shakespeare’s plays. The way they act and think is completely intriguing, the characters so complex, but no matter how horrible their actions are, we still feel sympathy for them.
From a traditional point of view, MacBeth is portrayed as a brave and strong soldier, but for the sake of ambition, is willing to murder not only his king, but his best friend as well. He is often seen as someone who was a victim of the witches and overpowered by his hamartia, the need for power and ambition, which leads him to his downfall.
But what separates him from other villain characters of Shakespeare is that MacBeth, unlike Iago in Othello or Richard III in Richard III, feels so terrible about the crimes he commits. His conscience almost stops him from committing the crime, and after he does commit the crimes, he is full of guilt, when he says “”..all great Neptune’s oceans will not wash this blood/clean from my hands” MacBeth, unlike Iago for example, does not enjoy being evil. MacBeth never enjoys being king and taking the crown, instead, he is in anguish and distressed, which is shown when he says “O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!”
This shows that MacBeth is not really evil as Shakespeare’s other villains are, and makes us feel sympathy for him. It can be said that it is due to the female manipulation that causes him to murder Duncan and cause the chain of other murders it leads to. Also, he dies a tragic death, his army is terrified of him, and with nowhere to turn, he still faces the battlefield, knowing he will not win. And it is his death that makes us sympathise with him, knowing himself that he will die, yet still fighting till the end.
A traditional analysis of Lady MacBeth shows her quite similar to MacBeth, power hungry and driven by ambition. She is shown to be more power, and stronger than her husband, as in the first scene we see her in, she is plotting the murder of her King, whom she is related to by family.
She has an amazing amount of will power, and knows her husband very well “yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness, To catch the nearest way” and she, unlike MacBeth, is not at all worried about committing a sacrilegious murder of King Duncan. To her, it is nothing. When she sees the weakness in MacBeth, she immediately questions his manhood, and both she and the witches use manipulation to get what they want.
However, at the end of the play, she falls to a state of insanity, going crazy at the thought of the murders she has helped commit. It is at this stage, that she can be seen as a tragic figure, and it is amazing that such a strong woman, the woman we see have total control over her husband, suddenly become so weak and tormented by a bloodstain she cannot wash away. It is at this stage that we feel sympathy for her. She is now a weakling, terrified of her crimes, and we cannot help but feel sorry for her.
There have also been other views about the characters of MacBeth and Lady MacBeth. As Sigmund Freud says, “Shakespeare often splits a character up into two personages, which taken separately, are not completely understandable and do not become so until they are brought together into a unity. This may be so with MacBeth and Lady MacBeth.” I agree with Freud. This would explain why MacBeth and Lady MacBeth “switch” during the duration of the play.
MacBeth starts off as the “weaker” one. But after he murders Duncan, he becomes stronger and stronger, murdering anyone who gets in his way without another thought. He becomes distant even from his wife, and when he finds out about her death, does not give it a second thought. After betraying his King, he becomes what Lady MacBeth was at first, ruthless and willing to do anything to get the crown and keep it.
Meanwhile, Lady MacBeth, starts off as the “stronger” one, who manipulates MacBeth, who taunts him about his manhood, who makes all the decisions, turns out frail, insane, and weak. Lady MacBeth first calls out to the darkness, to hide her evil deeds, but after the deed is done, she is terrified of darkness and must walk around with some form of light, a tiny flame. She becomes nothing but a speck of light, solely dimming away, into nothing. And that is what she becomes, after the banquet scene, there is a sudden change in her, her powerful ambition is gone, her will power, gone.
Lady MacBeth is unable to sleep, yet it was MacBeth who thinks he hears a cry of “Sleep no more, MacBeth does murder sleep”. Yet, we have no reason to believe he does not sleep, unlike Lacy MacBeth, who sleep walks around the castle talking about the crimes she has committed. And while it is MacBeth who cries that his hands are blood stained, and Lady MacBeth who says, ” a little water clears us of this deed”, later on, she is unable to stop washing her hands, and it is she who cannot lose the smell of blood, while MacBeth has no more concerns about it. Also, it is MacBeth who first has hallucinations of a dagger before he is about to commit the crime, but it is Lady MacBeth who suffers from a mental disorder, one that ultimately drives her to suicide.
So we can see hear, that MacBeth and Lady MacBeth are more like a single character, that has been spilt in half, than two separate characters. They feel the same things, just at different times, and they know each other extremely well. I believe it really is because Shakespeare splits his characters in two that the characters of MacBeth and Lady MacBeth are so similar. And even though the crimes they commit are horrible, after all that we see them go through, we still cannot stop ourselves from feeling sorry for them.
From another point of view, we can see that what MacBeth and Lady MacBeth have done was merely a result of their childlessness. We see this very clearly when MacDuff cries out “He has no children!” It maybe cause of the anger that he himself has no children, that MacBeth destroys all other men and their sons. He kills Duncan, leaving his sons with no father. He also kills Banquo, leaving his son with no father, and he also kills MacDuff’s children, leaving MacDuff with no sons.
Like he says to Lady MacBeth, “Bring forth men-children only! For thy undaunted mettle should compose, Nothing but males…” This shows us how badly MacBeth wishes to have heirs, yet Lady MacBeth cannot give him any. However, this may be the result of MacBeth and Lady MacBeth’s evil deeds. MacBeth has murdered both fathers and sons and Lady MacBeth had demanded the spirits to unsex her, stopping her from bearing a child.
Once again, even though MacBeth and Lady MacBeth had committed a numerous amount of evil deeds, we still feel sympathy for them, as they cannot have children of their own, as they will never become a mother and father. How can you not feel sympathy for two people who cannot have children?
So as you can see, from no matter which point of view you are looking from, although MacBeth and Lady MacBeth have committed deeds that horrify us, deeds that are not even thinkable in times like our own, we still, oddly, never lose sympathy with them, cause we still feel sorry for them, for what they have gone through, for what the cannot do, for what they are. And I believe that even though what they have done is inexcusable, I still never lose sympathy with them, because it is human nature to feel sympathy for people who have gone through that much. There is a compassion and sympathy that you just feel for them, no matter how evil they are, no matter how much they horrify us.
Themes of Power and Ambition on Macbeth
Ambition is a powerful urge to do or to accomplish something, commonly requiring assurance and diligent work. In Williams Shakespeare’s Macbeth the characters Lady Macbeth and Macbeth want to gain the position of authority and they are focused to do anything so as to accomplish this objective. Power is the capacity to coordinate the course of events .It is basic learning that it is human instinct to hunger for power. In the account of Macbeth the obviously regarded Scottish couple seized the highest authority, by executing Duncan for their craving to rule.
Yearning for an Open Door
Ambition theme is depicted in the account when Lady Macbeth visited the witchdoctor. She learns of the prediction that her significant other will move towards becoming a lord. She starts unleashing ways in which the prophecy would come to achievement. Presently Macbeth is torn between faithfulness to Duncan and reliability to his better half, who does not feel any regret about her plot (Shakespeare 1987). The group of onlookers has the feeling that Lady Macbeth may have been yearning for an open door where she can put her insight and vital capacity to great use. The underlying clash about the execution of his ruler, is settled when Macbeth acts, killing Duncan and took control. The family of Duncan exiled so that they cannot be blamed for the murder.
The Change of Character
Power theme in the account of Macbeth by Shakespeare states Macbeth will persevere relentlessly to clutch his capacity after executing Duncan. It further states how it brought resistance among Macbeth and the people who question his capacity and how he got the power. People discover Banquo suspicion of whether Macbeth may have accomplished power through unscrupulous means (Shakespeare 1987). Macbeth organizes to have Banquo and his child killed. Ambition theme shows the change of character: Macbeth, in the past reluctant, is presently totally firm and definitive, and Lady Macbeth, before she was strong, presently supposes is consumed by guilt weakening her. The homicide of Banquo advances the increases the conflict portraying greed he had for power. Macbeth is unmistakably an oppressive figure, and that the plot will spin around him being expelled from power for his wrongdoings.
Greed and Losing Power
In Williams Shakespeare’s Macbeth account shows power results to greed. Macbeth’s horrendous request of the homicide of Macduff’s better half and youngsters makes a progressively explicit individual clash inside the more extensive one; Macduff now has a body of evidence for an individual retribution against Macbeth. Impelled by his wrath and anguish, Macduff promised to bring the monster of Scotland within his sword’s length set limit (Shakespeare 1987). Macduff’s announcement of individual hostility against Macbeth sets the phase for the last clash between the two, and for Macbeth’s annihilation. A positive result ends up incomprehensible for Macbeth as he slowly loses his power, control, and in the end his better half.
Finally, the theme of uncontrolled ambition appears and how it prompts ruin. Macbeth egotistically misunderstood the witches’ predictions, trusting that they guarantee him wonder while in actuality the predictions foresee how he will be crushed. While the people long comprehended witches are deceitful and looking for trouble, Macbeth understands this reality when confronting his own passing. In spite of the fact that he accuses the witches, his very own desire is similarly to fault. He heard what he needed to hear and accepted what he needed to accept as soon as he met the witches (Shakespeare 1987). However Macbeth isn’t completely unsympathetic, as he genuinely trusted his destiny. Power theme from the book shows his passing purposes the political and social clash. This gave way for authentic lord from Duncan’s lineage to come back and reestablish request to Scotland. The play’s concise falling activity considers the guarantee of a more promising time to come under Malcolm’s new rule.
Themes and Ambition and Power in Macbeth
Ambition in Act One Scene Five
In Act one Scene five, ambition is shown negatively as throughout the scene lady Macbeth is remarkably formidable that ought to be smart but, Shakespeare says that ambition could be a unhealthy issue through the determination shown by the formidable lady Macbeth to kill the King. She is thus acutely formidable that she calls upon “spirits” to “Pour my spirits in thy ear”, at the time there was a considerable quantity of worry and negativity around the topic of “spirits” and “witches” thus there’s a layer of negativity around her ambition. Still as however lady Macbeth is artful as once Macbeth enters the scene she right away begins to praise the “Great Glamis, Worthy Cawdor, greater than both, by the all-hail hereafter” directly manipulating Macbeth with complements that overwhelm Macbeth, and ordering Macbeth to control King Duncan by wanting “like th’ innocent flower” to attain her will which in my opinion suggests that ambition ends up in manipulation There is conjointly a distinction between good and evil, the king is chosen by god however lady Macbeth seeks out the spirits to advance Macbeth to rank.
Power in Act One Scene Five
In Act One Scene Five, the power structure is challenged and eventually changes. Macbeth, within the starting, was delineated as powerful and “brave” however his alleged power departs once he enters the Scene, once he has entered lady Macbeth has already taken the helm of control/power over him, lady Macbeth is commanding Macbeth, telling him to “Look th; innocent flower, however be the serpent underneath t”. She establishes her dominance by taking management of the whole ‘scheme’, swapping the structure of power between the two in a moment. Within this scene, we tend to learn one thing regarding the power structure between the character’s, Macbeth could be a firm man with nice honor however he’s showing emotion feeble and simply manipulated showing he has clear insecurities that lady Macbeth utilizes to control him once she says, “Your face, my thane, is a book where men may read strange matters.”. Her use of “thane” could be a clear methodology in deceiving him by creating him feel as if he’s in control of things and to spice up his ego which is able to expand his acceptance to her plans to kill King Duncan. Lady Macbeth is the antithesis of classic gender roles that ‘Men are the robust ones and ladies are fragile objects’.
Ambition in Act One Scene Seven
In Act One Scene Seven, Macbeth (and Shakespeare) affirms his thoughts of ambition once male monarch declares his lack of “spur” to prick the sides of his intent, and refers to his ambition as “vaulting” which it “o’erleaps itself “Shakespeare through Macbeth ratifies the role ambition plays within the story/universe that Shakespeare has formed. Ambition is seen as a negative issue across the story as lady Macbeth includes a robust ambition to advance herself, and her husband to loyalty while Macbeth right away while difference of opinion upon whether or not he ought to follow his spouse states that ambition makes individuals rush ahead towards disaster.
Power in Act One Scene Seven
In Act One Scene Seven, power over again contrasts between Macbeth and lady Macbeth; Macbeth is alone discussing by himself whether or not he can commit the crime, and he produces many arguments against it, he begins his monologue affirming the choice of killing King Duncan, though once he has finished reassuring himself that he can do the task he right away begins to quote doubts and fear’s “We still have judgment here”. Another purpose bestowed is however “we [Macbeth and lady Macbeth, etc] … teach Bloody directions Which, … come to plague th’ inventor” which means that the violence that they inflicted upon others can return to them, briefly terms fate. Macbeth is saying that for the crime he’s being forced to commit, there’s a penalisation which inserts the crime; still the ethically of killing itself that appears quite insincere as his purpose is to the contrary of what acts he had simply done.
Ambition in Act Three Scene Four
Ambition in Act Three Scene Four isn’t directly documented however continues to be clearly gift through the progression of the story, though the scene is way sooner than the antecedent analysed scenes that the plot has progressed to a special purpose of presenting the themes of power and ambition. At this time within the play, I think that ambition has provided Macbeth with one in every of the deadly sins: sloth. Conjointly called laziness and this can be actually evident once Macbeth becomes thus ‘lazy’ that he currently depends on the help of others to try to do what he was once notable for– killing. Once his lackeys have killed Banquo and inform Macbeth of this, he compliments them, saying “Thou art the best o’ th’ cutthroats” and this shows his laziness since he was the most effective however currently his mere lackeys are thought-about the “best”.
My purpose is that lady Macbeth and Macbeth’s ambition has given them the gift of king and queenship, however, has bestowed them with the unwanted attribute of laziness.
The Portrayal of Female Character Empowerment in Shakespeare’s Plays
Shakespeare makes use of gender in Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice to show, through his characters, different types of power. Power can differ depending on a person’s gender and the different ways which this power can be shown. My aim in this essay is to find out whether gender has an effect on power within the context of the plays, which are set in patriarchal societies compared to today.
Both Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice are difficult to compare as they are set in different time periods, different societies and with different outcomes. Macbeth is a brutal tragedy, while The Merchant of Venice is more of a romantic comedy. However, both plays have strong female characters, Lady Macbeth and Portia. Lady Macbeth is evil and dies because of it. Portia is more kind-hearted, which allows her to succeed at the end of the play. Upon initial reading, it is difficult to assess the significance of power and gender in influencing the outcome of the play.
Macbeth was set in the 11th century in Scotland. The role of women at that time was generally that of inferiority to men, with society focused on social hierarchy – God, the King and nobles, following the natural order. This is shown through use of armies to gain power and wealth. Women in power were rare and most had subservient roles in the household. In Macbeth, I will be discussing the female characters Lady Macbeth and Lady Macduff.
The Merchant of Venice was set in Venice and Belmont. At the time, Venice was a trading centre and had many different nationalities, as shown in the play. The town of Belmont, where Portia resides, was slower-paced in comparison to Venice. In The Merchant of Venice, I will be discussing the female characters Portia and Jessica.
In Macbeth, power is shown in a number of different ways. Through heroic deeds (Macbeth), social status (Macbeth, Lady Macbeth), power over the mind (Lady Macbeth, Lady Macduff) and others.
At the start of the play, Lady Macbeth is introduced by reading a letter from her husband regarding his meeting with the witches and also hears of King Duncan’s visit from Macbeth. She decides to hasten the prophecy by plotting to use her husband to murder King Duncan in order for her to become Queen of Scotland and of course his desire to be king.
To achieve her ambition, Lady Macbeth takes on a more masculine role. She is consumed by the ambition of being Queen and this desire causes her to dehumanize herself as reflected in Act 1 Scene 5 (“Great Glamis, worthy Cawdor, / Greater than both by the all-hail hereafter, / Thy letters have transpoted me beyond / This ignorant present, and I feel now / The future in the instant.”). She also shows power over her husband who in the earlier scenes is portrayed publicly as a courageous war hero. However, Lady Macbeth calls him a coward and refers to his weaknesses and uses this to manipulate him into murder. She plays a key role in planting the idea in Macbeth’s mind but goes further in Act 1 Scene 5 whether the scene ends with her indicating “To alter favor ever is to fear. Leave all the rest to me”. Lady Macbeth takes charge of the situation, taking on more of an active (male) role with her husband being the more passive (possibly female) role. This is in contrast to when Macbeth plans to murder Banquo, where Lady Macbeth is initially unaware and takes a weaker role. This shows a loss of power through a reversal of roles.
After the murder of Banquo, Lady Macbeth is able to handle the guilt that came with her actions. She comforts Macbeth and tells him that he “lack(s) the season of all natures, sleep” (Act 3 Scene 5). This is ironic in that at the end of the play, it is her own guilty conscience that causes her sleeplessness and causes her to confess to her part in the murders. She is no longer able to keep up the facade of masculinity that she has put on, and is in fact the cowardly one. The weaknesses which she had identified in her husband in the earlier scenes were actually her own and caused her downfall.
Throughout the play, ambition and power are key motivations for Lady Macbeth. Her desire for more power as queen leads to an eventual loss of power, when she loses control over herself, even confessing to her part in the murder. This is in stark contrast to our earlier impression on Lady Macbeth.
Lady Macbeth has power as she got into Macbeth’s mind, she does this why getting in his ear [refer Shakespeare]. She has power over mind rather than over the physical human. This is similar to the witches through the prophecies.
In contrast with Lady Macbeth, Lady Macduff is not portrayed as evil. She is protective over her children and needs Macduff to protect them. She is the opposite to Lady Macbeth showing the clear contrast between the two characters.
When Lady Macduff is finds out that Macduff has left her in Macduff’s castle, she feels angry and abandoned. He comforts her young son, but is also being taken care of by him. Her son shows that he is brave when it comes up that his father might have betrayed them. . In this scene, where Ross is aware of what Macduff is doing, he attempts to justify Macduff’s departure to England, calling him “noble, wise, judicious”, but cannot give away the true reason for him leaving. When Ross is gone, Lady Macduff’s son says that the world is full of dishonest men. This statement is ironic in that moment later, the family is killed by some of these men.
Lady Macduff plays a small role in the play. Her gender keeps her at home protecting her children and dependent on her husband. Her power seems more apparent when she is dead. After Macbeth murders her, he cannot murder her husband (Act 5 Scene 8 – “Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother’s womb / Untimely ripped”) because of the witches’ prophecy. (Act 4 Scene 1 – “laugh to scorn / The power of man, for none of woman born / Shall harm Macbeth”) Lady Macduff’s power you could say is over Macbeth’s mind because of this he does not want to fight Macduff who then kills him.
Lady Macduff was warned by Ross and the messenger to escape, but she says “Whither should I fly? / I have done no harm. But I remember now / I am in this earthly world where to do harm / Is often laudable, to do good sometime / Accounted dangerous folly. Why then, alas, / Do I put up that womanly defense, / To say I have done no harm?” as it is Macduff who has deserted Macbeth and gone to England to raise an army against him. She abdicates responsibility indicating she is not in the world of men.
Macbeth’s killers get to her first, and murders Lady Macduff and her children. She leaves a world under the tyranny of Macbeth where there is uncertainty where “to do harm” is praiseworthy (Macbeth) and to do good is dangerous (Macduff).
In The Merchant of Venice, Portia lives in Belmont and is a beautiful, intelligent and wealthy heiress; and in many ways is therefore powerful.
Portia is smart and unlike Lady Macbeth is not evil [refer to Shakespeare]. She is an heiress however she only inherits if she marries. It seems in the period the play is set it is her husband who would inherit her father’s fortune. This reflects the status of women at the time. The 3 caskets used appear to show even though her father has passed away he still has power or control over her. Even over the suitors he has power because if the suitor chooses the wrong casket he cannot marry. This limits the number and type of suitors.
Portia dresses like a man to go to court in Venice to defend Antonio. She can only enter the court based on the recommendation of her uncle a well-known lawyer. The males have control [refers to Shakespeare]
In The Merchant of Venice power is shown in a number of ways. Through money (Shylock, Portia’s father and Antonio), religion (Shylock and Jessica she elopes and becomes Christian), court authority (Portia saves Antonio’s life), love (Portia and Jessica), the grave (Lady Macduff and Portia’s father) and the power over the mind (Portia).
It appears that gender is important in terms of which form of power a person can use. Lady Macbeth has power over Macbeth’s mind to be Queen by using the prophecies. Power for males is more external while for women it is more internal. Men can show this through heroic acts (Macbeth), money and position where societies are more male dominant. This is why Portia and Jessica dressed as men so fit into society and have power outside the home.
She does not have control over her own life as her father’s will forces her to choose a potential suitor using caskets. She can marry only the man who chooses the correct one of three caskets — one gold, one silver, and one lead; one contains her portrait and that is the lucky casket. She is tired of the stream of suitors who are after her and her wealth. It seems none of her suitors has decided to risk choosing one of the caskets, which is probably good for Portia given none are of her liking.
As a woman she seems to be bound by her father’s will and does not have the power to make
this decision on her own. This is not the case of Bassanio he did “receive fair speechless messages” from her eyes. Portia appears controlled especially in front of her potential suitors but shows anxiety and confusion when Bassanio arrives at her mansion and is choosing one of the caskets. She suggests delaying for “in choosing wrong, / I lose your company” making sure he knows that she about him. At this point she is at her most vulnerable indicating “This house, these servants and this same myself / Are yours, my lord: I give them with this ring.” She has fallen completely in love.
She gains control of herself and controls the situation until the end of the play. This is reflected when she disguises herself as a male in order to save Antonio’s life in court. This change also symbolizes a change in her power. When she pretends to be a male, she has power in court and this gives her the power to save Antonio’s life. She attempts to convince Shylock to have mercy on Antonio, out of kindness, as she knows the outcome if he took the matter to court.
However, as she has power to control the fate of some characters in the book, she uses this power for good by convincing the Duke not to execute Shylock. She then convinces Antonio to have mercy on Shylock and not take all of his wealth. This reflects her character and her ability to forgive. She passes this on to other characters in the play, showing her command over others.
At the end of the day we see Portia’s power in full force when she shows a letter from Padua, which explained all that was going on, and she continued to explain and entertain them inside. This highlights her intellect and courage to travel to Venice to speak honestly to Shylock about mercy, to speak for what she believes in.
Jessica is Shylock’s daughter, he is a Jewish moneylender. Lorenzo falls in love with her and elopes by disguising her as a boy which angers Shylock as does Jessica’s theft of some of Shylock’s money.
In Act 2 Scene 3, Jessica is introduced. She is talking to her father’s servant and indicates “Our house is hell” and thou a merry devil / Didst rob it of some taste of tediousness.” She also give the servant a secret letter for her lover Lorenzo whom she plans to elope with. This means becoming a Christian and renouncing her faith as a Jew. Jessica’s comments portray her father negatively, effectively a villain of the play. Whilst in Act 2 Scenes 4 and 5, Shylock’s concern is with his possessions and obsesses about locking and guarding the house, which he entrusts to Jessica, while Jessica plans to elope dressed as a page boy carrying a torch at the banquet and gold and jewels. She closes the scene with:
Farewell; and if my fortune be not crossed, I have a father, you a daughter, lost.
This highlights the sacrifice she is making for love which is in contrast to her earlier negative comments.
She was embarrassed of being dressed as a boy when eloping with Lorenzo, but he makes the situation romantic when saying that “Cupid himself would blush.” Along a similar theme, other characters, Portia and Nerissa also disguise themselves as boys later on in the play, as a lawyer and a clerk. Being disguised as a boy or man gives them acceptability and power. For Jessica this seems less the case but it highlights the link between gender and power. This is probably more so for the period in which The Merchant of Venice is set versus today.
Power comes in many forms. Lady Macbeth had power over Macbeth despite is heroic acts and victories. She even taunted him over his courage and his other perceived weaknesses. However this power changed through the course of the play. She deliberately took on a more masculine role which involves controlling or suppressing her underlying feelings and behaviors. It seems the weaknesses she attributes to Macbeth are in many ways her own weaknesses which she reveals later in the play.
This power over Macbeth changes when Macbeth reveals his plot to murder Banquo which Lady Macbeth is surprised by. She later struggles to suppress the guilt she has and in fact confesses to her involvement in the murders. She becomes more feminine and can no longer mask her ill intent. In many ways, both she and Macbeth are morally corrupted by the desire for power. She is using Macbeth as an instrument to become Queen of Scotland, which never lasted.
In understanding Lady Macbeth I feel although she possessed a soft power in that she is able to influence Macbeth’s actions to a point; there was also an element of fate. The fate as reflected in the prophecies of the three witches, which is important to consider as it appears drives the outcomes. Power was clearly important but without the right fate it is as if you are pushing again god, against the inevitable, a natural order.
While in The Merchant of Venice, both Jessica and Portia dress as males. This gives the greater acceptability and power. Both characters retain their femininity with Jessica falling in love with Lorenzo and Portia with Bassanio; both defying the wishes of their fathers which takes real courage.
Portia maintains her independence throughout the play. She does not rely on others to handle issues and stands up for what she believes in. Similar to Lady Macbeth, they both take on male personas, either figuratively and, or literally. However, Portia’s power mainly comes from her wealth, intellect and beauty, which is shown throughout the whole play. Being tested in love and in defending Antonio, she appears to have moral power, based on honesty and good intent.
Power is interwoven with gender. The characters I have analyzed are of strong women, who were still able to exercise power in their own ways, different maybe than if they were men. I recognize being a woman can make it difficult to be powerful when social structures are more male-dominant.
If power is abused and used for evil instead of good, it can corrupt a person, regardless of gender. If gender matters how does this affect each power situation in the plays? Simply there appears to be male situations and female situations.
How the Character of Macbeth Developed Throughout Shakespeare’s Macbeth
Discuss how Shakespeare develops his title character in Macbeth. Consider language, form, structure and the plays context in your response.
Shakespeare’s portrayal of Macbeth is presented to us at the start of the play as the epitome of a brave and courageous man, this however changes as we progress through the play, towards the end, Macbeth’s tragic demise leaves him a broken man full of desire and nihilism.
In the early scenes of the play, Macbeth is depicted as a noble, bold, daring and loyal character. Shakespeare achieves making the audience experience this admiration by using a well-respected character, the captain, to report of Macbeth’s victory against the Norwegians. This adds a more heroic aura to it, as if it is a myth or a legend, but also lets the audience’s imagination run wild. It leaves them to imagine every minute detail of what occurred. In act 1.2, Shakespeare refers to Macbeth as ‘valour’s minion,’ by personifying the noun ‘valour,’ he is effectively saying that Macbeth is ‘bravery’s’ favourite. The euphemism of ‘minion’ suggests to the audience that it is obligatory for Macbeth to carry out these actions. Macbeth’s heroic characteristics are most apparent in the simile of ‘As sparrows eagles or hare the lion,’ this has significance because Shakespeare is comparing an inferior animal to a beast, the lion. It has a deeper symbolic meaning, suggesting to the audience that Macbeth is the lion and the Norwegians are the eagle and how much stronger and overpowering Macbeth is, this fuels the audience’s minds with what they already know about Macbeth. The use of the comma (pause) in this quotation is used to let the audience appreciate the title of which Macbeth has at this stage in the play, and how he is the most important and superior character at this moment in time. By the end of act 1.2 and soon into 1.3 Macbeth’s ambition starts to become clear. Macbeths decline starts to commence in act 1.3, he becomes anxious and subservient as devious, conniving attempt to taunt him into committing a terrible deed, as well as this, and Macbeth’s ambition starts to consume him. As we progress through this act, Macbeth starts to challenge the witches and their doings. He says ‘why… dress me in borrow’d robes,’ visually, the past tense verb suggests to the audience that the clothes in which he is wearing do not belong to him, whereas symbolically the title which he possesses is borrowed. This quotation further suggests that ‘borrow’d robes’ also may mean that he is mocking the monarchy which he is trying to possess as the reign he may acquire will not be appointed by god and be very temporary. He’s disrupting the Great Chain of Being and going against his nature, this causes him to become conflicted between right and wrong.
By act 1.7, the spell like formation of the witches’ passage at the start of 1.3 has hypnotic and poetic connotations, this leads to Macbeths hematia as is overwhelming ambition devours him. Shakespeare writes of this ambition throughout the play, the most apparent aspect which Macbeth says is ‘If it were done… it were done quickly.’ Shakepeare’s use of anaphora here interestingly emphasises Macbeth’s sheer crave for power. The adverb ‘quickly’ also credits the hematia idea, and the fact that Macbeth has fallen from his grace. What once was a well-respected and noble character has stooped to such a low level, not even himself feels comfortable. Macbeth performs a cautious train of thought when he says ‘trammel up the consequence.’ This metaphor and vivid use of imagery suggests Macbeths has considered the outcomes and repercussions of killing Duncan – he’s trying to find the deciding factor. The verb ‘trammel’ also has connotations of gathering everything in its path, meaning Macbeth is prepared to absolve himself of the consequences and get rid of anyone who stands in his way. This causes the audience to disapprove of Macbeth’s strategy to become king as he is dismantling the Great Chain of Being. During Macbeths decline, the audience’s tolerance starts to decrease, less and less. Macbeth uses a 1st person plural to say ‘we teach… bloody instructions.’ The word ‘instructions’ tells the audience that it is obligatory for Macbeth to carry out this deed, against his better knowledge and of what may be an outcome of following these so called instruction – foreshadowing what may happen to Macbeth in the future. ‘Bloody’ gruesome imagery describes the outcome of these dreadful actions. Even though he sees and knows all of these factors his ambition is so awesome that he can’t or won’t stop. Towards the middle of act 1.7 Lady Macbeth (Macbeth’s wife) starts to poison his ear. The most apparent line which Lady Macbeth says to taunt him is ‘and dash’d the brains out,’ the is large significance to this quotation as Shakespeare uses violent and gruesome imagery to portray the extent that lady Macbeth would go to in order to influence Macbeth into killing their king. It also shows how power-hungry, ruthless and a sense of masculinity due to her resilience through this situation. This makes the audience pity her and Macbeth as she has turned a fool for power, as well as being rather astonished as it would be a young baby which Lady Macbeth would be killing.
By act 4.1 Shakespeare portrays Macbeth’s character as one of an arrogant, hubristic and dismissive one, His desire and ambition fulfils to a level, so much that irrationality starts to creep into his train of thought. This ambition corrupts and destroys him. To get to where Macbeth wants to be (the throne) he has to kill Duncan, which is breaking the Great Chain of Being. Since in Jacobean times, they thought this chain was created by God, this disruption would cause natural disasters. ‘Sear mine eye-balls,’ this quotation has very vivid imagery. The word ‘sear’ has connotations of immense pain and suffering, its almost as if the light is so painful that Macbeth can’t bear to look at it. This light Shakespeare speaks of is Macbeth’s hallucination of Banquo induced by the witches. This has occurred in order to remind Macbeth of what he has done and fill him with guilt but also to reiterate to him that he nor his bloodline will become king but Banquo’s will. After seeing this vision Macbeth starts to harangue the witches – ‘filthy hags,’ as he doesn’t like what he sees. This portrays an important aspect. Macbeth was imprudent enough to put his trust in creatures with the ugly faces of supernatural powers, which tells the reader that he doesn’t have much self confidence due to other characters cursing him throughout the play or he is simply moronic that he’ll confide in anything that promises to get him what he wants.
Once the play progresses to act 5.5, the audience see Macbeths nihilistic characteristics come through more discernible. Due to Lady Macbeth’s death, he becomes shell shocked and emotionless. Macbeth starts to muse on life and questions his and everyone else’s purpose in it. On line 15 – ‘wherefore was that cry,’ suggests apathy, Macbeth is unresponsive to the cries of help, distress or danger. This is the cry of Lady Macbeth as she dies. What Macbeth doesn’t seem to see is that Lady Macbeth had died too soon, this is a consequence of a combination of his and her actions due to their greed for power and disruption of the Great Chain of Being. Macbeth starts to speak wearily when saying ‘tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,’ the use of polysyndeton slows down the pace of the play, as the does the repetition of ‘tomorrow’, this is a reflection of what Macbeth thinks of life. Shakespeare also uses this repetition to draw the reader to focus on a minor detail; ‘tomorrow,’ perhaps foreshadowing what may happen in the near future to those who have challenged God and his Great Chain Of Being.
To conclude, the recurring factor throughout the play is that Macbeth is contemplating whether or not to kill Duncan and is at conflict with himself whilst the audience are deciding whether or not to side with him. There are also deceitful individuals working with and against him simultaneously. Also, the Elizabethan idea of the Great Chain of Being has no place for the supernatural, therefore suggesting that they have a great effect on the Godly order of things as both Macbeth and the witches carry destruction and chaos. Macbeth’s conflict finally comes to a halt when Lady Macbeth dies as he has lost his ‘fuel for becoming king and starts to question the soul reason of what he was doing.
The Play “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare
Life is an unfolding play. An individual can determine what is right or wrong, yet, either way, the decisions made will alter someone else’s fate. In the play Macbeth, written by William Shakespeare, the eponymous protagonist Macbeth has a great deal of difficulty assessing the disparity amid honest and dishonest decisions during his ascension to power. Shakespeare’s Macbeth examines the life journey of Macbeth, as he ascends the ladder of the social hierarchy. Determined to become King, Macbeth will eliminate any, and all that come in his way. A respected and loyal soldier of the Scottish army changes entirely to a murderous tyrant. His downfall is complete, and he is responsible for his fate. Macbeth succumbs to performing evil acts to fulfill his ambition and is solely responsible for his downfall. Macbeth’s downfall attributes to a sense of his lust for power, unrestrained ambition, and the influence of the witches’ prophecy which seal his fate and destruction. The first factor which plays a vital role in Macbeth’s downfall is Macbeth’s absurd quest for absolute power. Macbeth craves to be the King of Scotland and as he obtains more titles, his thirst for power increases. During the commencement of play, Macbeth and Banquo have their initial encounter with the witches. As this assemblage initiates, the witches extraordinarily welcome Macbeth. Macbeth enters to the sound of a beating drum: “a drum, a drum! Macbeth doth come” (Shakespeare 1.3.31-32).
This dramatic device is not used once yet twice, signifying Macbeth’s rising status and importance. As the “drum” noise coincides with Macbeth’s arrival, it betokens how the witches have already prophesied Macbeth’s ascension to power. Macbeth becomes genuinely persuaded of the superiority he will achieve. Alongside Macbeth’s’ eagerness to become Thane of Cawdor, he fantasizes of being king of Scotland. As the lead up to the event of King Duncan’s murder, Lady Macbeth dupes Macbeth into assassinating Duncan by implementing her cunning and intricate techniques. Towards the completion of the scene, Lady Macbeth begins to reassure her husband that if he is intrepid and gallant, they will not fail in their mission of becoming king and queen: “Screw your courage to the sticking-place”(1.7.67). His wife convinces Macbeth into believing he will obtain more authority and power by slaying Duncan. He engages in his first evil deed to become king and attains the power he has coveted. Not only does Macbeth’s quest for power cease the life of King Duncan, but he also proceeds to murder others for no purpose aside from malice. Macbeth is plotting to kill everyone in the line of Macduff’s inheritance: “The castle of Macduff I will surprise/Seize upon Fife, give to th’ edge o’ th’ sword/His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls/That trace him in his line”(4.1.157-160).
Macbeth establishes himself to be a nefarious tyrant as he schemes alone to kill Lady Macduff and her children. At this stage of the play, Macbeth has lost all human compassion and clemency as he thinks nothing of slaying innocents. Had he held at the first murder of King Duncan, he may have moved on from it. Although, his psychopathic behaviour turns everyone against him and can ultimately only lead to his demise. Thus, by cause of Macbeth’s yearn for power, he is lead to committing evil acts, and this provokes his destruction. The second factor which plays a critical role in the demise of Macbeth is his unrestrained ambitious nature. Macbeth’s ambition spirals out of control and drives him to slay again and again to cover up his past wrongdoings. From the beginning, Macbeth can determine his destiny. The moment when he eagerly listens to the witches he requests, “Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more” (1.3.71). This explicates his faith in the witches words and how they are of great significance to him. The tempting words of the witches prophecies ignite a spark of egotistical ambition in him which he does not realize is there. Although the witches provoked Macbeth, it was his ambition which drives him into committing the assassinations. The witches’ divinations also have a substantial impact on Macbeth. Banquo notices this and questions him, “Why do you start and seem to fear/ Things that do sound so fair” (1.3.52-53).
Banquo is not able to comprehend as to why Macbeth, a prominent warrior, could be disturbed as he is promised only flourishment and power in the future. Macbeth’s deep thought-provoked mind is one of the prime manifestations of his unrestrained ambition. Hence, his ambitions make him realize that for these “fair” prophecies to become a certainty, he would need to perform atrocious, unspeakable acts along the way. As Macbeth deliberates the witches words, he is bothered by Banquo’s prognosticated future. Macbeth darkly and skeptically questions Banquo’s objectives: “Do you not hope your children shall be kings”(1.3.121). This indicates that Macbeth is concerned about the prediction of Banquo’s future, as though it is a peril to his future. Unquestionably, Macbeth’s ambition is overtaking his natural temperament as he craves to hear more of the witches’ “strange intelligence” (1.3.77). The witches’ strike a chord in Macbeth’s mind, tapping into his ambition and as a consequence, he starts to become more selfish and deceitful as he sees Banquo and the king as obstacles. Lastly, Macbeth also has no intention to murder Duncan rather than his passions. Macbeth affirms, “I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself and falls on th’other” (1.7.25-28).
Macbeth is attempting to rationalize his impending murder of King Duncan. Macbeth laments that he is driven only by ambition and not by some other worthy motive. Furthermore, we can discern that Macbeth uses his ambition to justify wicked and despicable actions, whereas most will use it for good. Macbeth’s overly ambitious nature provokes him into committing sinful acts; thus, causing his downfall. The final factor which drives Macbeth to his destruction is the influence of the witches’ prophecies. The three witches acquaint Macbeth that he is destined to be king, as they are responsible for the introduction of the ideas that caused Duncan’s passing and Macbeth’s demise. The witches had determined the precise moment to approach Macbeth; as he was full of triumph after the battle. At the beginning of the play, the three witches make a chilling prophecy saying: “All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!/ All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!” (1.3.50-51).
This foresight soon motivates Macbeth to perform acts of immorality and greed, which include the murder of King Duncan and his best friend, Banquo. This suggests that Macbeth has become impudent and has lost his moral values from becoming a well-liked and esteemed Scottish General to a heinous criminal. Notwithstanding the witches’ impact on Macbeth, Banquo does warn Macbeth to be cautious of the witches’ prognostications before he acts on them. Banquo attributes the witches as, “The instruments of darkness [telling] us truths/ [Winning] us with honest trifles, to [betray]/ In deepest consequence” (1.3 126-128). He strives to bring light to the reality of the witches words and how they may come true but only for the purpose of bringing about their destruction. Banquo’s words are somewhat ironic as Macbeth prefers to follow through the witches’ prophecies instead of rejecting them and conclusively as Banquo said is betrayed “in deepest consequence.” Ultimately the witches represent Macbeth’s fate and symbolize the sinister side of humanity and the corruption of beings.
In Act 4, the witches’ contribute to Macbeth’s downfall as they deceive him by revealing apparitions. The witches show apparitions which utter statements as, “none of woman born/ Shall harm Macbeth” (4.1.81-82). From this, Macbeth considers he is unconquerable. As an outcome, Macbeth becomes peculiarly heedless and does not recognize that the witches are leading him into a false sense of security. The witches play a prominent position in Macbeth’s downfall as they undoubtedly perplex him. As Macbeth can be easily influenced, the witches reveal Macbeth’s future visions that he misinterprets. Thus, Macbeth is responsible for his own downfall as he associates the witches’ prophecy with murder. All factors considered, Macbeth holds accountable for his downfall as he commits atrocious acts of evil only in hopes to achieve his ambition.
By the end of the play, it is unambiguous that a valiant Macbeth no longer breathes. His destruction is sealed as he is hungry for power, blinded by his ambition and is manipulated by the witches’ prophecy. Though, it must not be forgotten that the play is a tragedy. Macbeth is an individual whose ambition is the driving force of his life and is his greatest weakness which causes him to fall from a successful position to inevitable death. Perhaps, it is nor right or wrong to blame destruction on Macbeth himself. As in all tragedies, the protagonist has the ability to succeed but also the limitations to fall. To put the responsibility on a particular individual is to some extent unfair as all mortal beings have imperfections; no matter how daring and intrepid they appear.
Comparison Of The Various Kings in Shakespeare’s Plays
We all have our own individual preconceived notions of what we believe to be or what makes a good or bad King. William Shakespeare has lived through 33 wars and war is consistent topic in his plays. In times of war, I believe that Shakespeare used his plays to imply what a king’s true character shall prevail, good or bad. Shakespeare writings spoke of the current leader at the time. The play speaks of the behaviors kings displayed in the time of war. Often time, kings or people in authority hide behind their staff but it is not until they are faced with crisis is when you see what they are really made of. I will be comparing the various kings in Shakespeare’s plays in no specific order.
In the play “Macbeth”, Macbeth committed treason and murder to gain the royal throne. I do not believe that Macbeth was a good leader because I believe he allowed the persuasion of the witch’s prophecy and from his wife for the killing of Duncan. In contrary, I do not think he was a total bad leader either. Macbeth’s greatest weakness was just being unable to stand up and make decisions on his own. If Macbeth was not so malleable, he might have been a decent leader.
In “Richard II”, Richard II had poor money management skills and caused his country to go into bankruptcy after taking over the royal throne. Richard was disliked by the common people and loved by the wealthy, which is a common characteristic of republicans. It was reported that Richard II spent money where it was not needed. He spent money on the rich and left the poor to be poorer. What makes Richard II a bad leader is that he was not considerate of everyone in his kingdom.
King John was the king of England. Although it was King John’s nephew, Arthur, who was next in line for the throne, King John was still appointed to the throne. However, King John was a bad leader. His greatest weakness was that he lacked integrity. King John was not a good leader because he was also a theft. To take the thrown knowing he was wrong, shows his poor character.
King Lear was the king of Britain. King Lear was not realistic and did poorly at his job of being King. King Lear’s greatest weakness was that he was very unaccountable to his actions of being king. He did not want to handle his king’s duties and responsibilities but wanted the fame and title.
Macbeth, Richard II, John, and Lear were all kings, but all had flaws. Kingship reminds me of politics. The similarity between these kings and politicians are that none of them are often honest. I am not sure if the desire for power over takes their honesty, dignity, and morals. It seems that in these types of positions in authority, these listed qualities are no longer necessary or practiced holding the political office.
There are several factors that make a great leader. A great leader practices integrity, courage, honesty, and humility. Also, a great leader must have vision or plan to lead. The most important of the qualities is integrity. Webster defines integrity as the firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values, incorruptibility. A great leader must have integrity. I believe that Shakespeare believes this also. Without integrity, we often question the leadership of the individual. Second value a great leader must have is courage. Often, in the role of leadership, we are faced with trials that require courage and bravery to protect what is right for your kingdom and/or the people. Thirdly, honesty is another requirement of a great leader. A great leader must be honest with his/her kingdom. An honest leader will be esteemed. Fourth, humility I believe is one of the most important qualities as well. When you are humble to your people or kingdom you are able to have compassion to lead. Lastly, having a vision or plan to lead is an important trait to have as a great leader. Some people in power can have integrity, courage, honesty, and humility but no vision or plan. Some leaders will get the throne, or the office, and have no strategic plan or direction.
What makes a bad leader is someone like our current President Donald Trump. A bad leader would be self-absorbed, lacks integrity, and egoistic. These types of leaders often ignore the people thus losing the support of their kingdom or the people. Unsuccessful leaders will eventually lose their kingship because of their disconnect with the people. Forbes.com reports, “Leaders without vision will fail. Leaders who lack vision cannot inspire teams, motivate performance, or create sustainable value.” A vision (or plan) should be the foundation of every goal a leader wants to accomplish during their rulership or presidency. The lack of a vision or plan opens the door for leaders to be persuaded by others who may not have the same integrity, courage, honesty, humility, and agenda. Another quality that makes a bad leader is when it is all about the leader and not about the people they lead. I believe that our current president is guilty of this. He is all about how his presidency has done this and that and really not looking at what the people need as a whole.
Parallels: The Influence Of Lady Macbeth And The Three Witches
Placing too much trust into the three witches and Lady Macbeth is what helped change Macbeth into a bad person. When Macbeth first meets the witches with Banquo, Macbeth is told three prophecies by them. The first he already knew to be true.
Later on, he finds out that the next prophecy also comes true for him. This then makes him sure that the third prophecy – that he shall become king – will also come true. It can be seen that he trusts the witches words when he says, “Two truths are told, / As happy prologues to the swelling act / Of the imperial theme.”
However, the next time Macbeth goes to see the witches for more prophecies, Macbeth proves that he is putting too much trust into the witches. This time they give him another three prophecies. After hearing these prophecies Macbeth says, “Whate’er thou art, for thy good caution, thanks.” When Macbeth hears the prophecies he does not even question them, but instead becomes over-confident in the witches’ words. While talking to Lennox after the witches disappear he even says: Time, thou anticipates my dread exploits: The flighty purpose never is o’erook Unless the deed go with it: from thismoment, The very firstlings of my hear shall be The firstlings of my hand. And even now, To crown my thoughts with acts, be it thought and done.
This proves that Macbeth’s trust in the witches made him impetuous and made him act upon all of his bad decisions without even thinking about them. Likewise, Macbeth’s trust in lady Macbeth made him into a bad person as well. After receiving the prophecies and informing his wife about it, Macbeth was not sure that he could actually go through with the murder of Duncan. But Lady Macbeth said to him, “To alter favour ever is to fear: / Leave all the rest to me.” This shows how confident she was in her plan to kill Duncan.
She portrayed it as the right and only thing to do. Since Macbeth had so much trust in her, he let her sway him into becoming a murderer. However, even though his trust in Lady Macbeth led Macbeth to kill one person, his trust in the witches led him to have many people killed, which shows that his trust in the witches had a far more negative influence on him in changing him into a bad person. Therefore, by trusting the witches and becoming too impetuous with his decisions and trusting Lady Macbeth to convince him to murder, Macbeth has proven that he has been changed into a bad person.
Having Macbeth’s thoughts manipulated by the three witches and his wife also changed Macbeth into a bad person. Macbeth seemed perfectly normal before he met the witches. He had just fought in a war for his country and was already the thane of Glamis. Not once did Macbeth ever mention being unhappy about his current life. But, when Macbeth meets the three witches for the first time they are the first to put dark ideas into his head. The witches tell him three prophecies: he will be thane of Glamis, thane of Cawdor, and king. Macbeth already knew he was the thane of Glamis, and shortly after a nobleman of Scottland by the name of Ross finds Macbeth and says to him:
And, for an earnest of a greater honour,
He bade me, from him, call thee thane of Cawdor:
In which addition, hail, most worthy thane!
For it is thine.
After hearing this Macbeth knows he is the new thane of Cawdor, which meant the witches’ first two prophecies were right. To Macbeth this meant that the third prophecy of him becoming king must be true as well, but then he starts to get some dark ideas in his head because of the witches prophecies. To himself he says:
This supernatural soliciting Cannot be ill; cannot be good: if ill, Why hath it given me earnest of success,
Commencing in a truth? …
If good, why do I yield to that suggestion
Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair
And make my seated heart knock at my ribs,
Against the use of nature? Present fears
Are less than horrible imaginings.
In the same way, Macbeth’s wife manipulates his thoughts by making him think he is not much of a man. After Lady Macbeth heard of the news that Macbeth would become king, she became so certain that king Duncan had to die – Macbeth had to murder him. So she discussed it with her husband. However when she realizes that Macbeth is not sure he wants to kill Duncan she says to him:
When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And, to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more than man …
To get her husband to commit the murder, Lady Macbeth attacks how much of a man he really is. This basically makes Macbeth feel worthless and have the sudden urge to prove his manliness. He does not instantly go and kill Duncan, but this manipulation of his thoughts by his wife really gets to him, and is a main factor in why he eventually killed Duncan. However, even though the three witches and Lady Macbeth both manipulated his thoughts, Lady Macbeth had a far greater influence on making Macbeth into a bad person. After his encounter with the three witches, Macbeth still had made no sure decision to actually kill Duncan. On the other hand, Lady Macbeth – the one person that Macbeth truly cares about the most – convinces him to do the killing. Without her influence Macbeth would not have committed the murder and might not have become the bad person he became. Therefore, through the witches putting dark ideas into his head and his wife attacking his manliness, Macbeth is influenced into becoming a bad person.
In conclusion, the three witches and Lady Macbeth had the most influence on Macbeth in the play. They influenced him into becoming a bad person. Their abuse of Macbeth’s trust, and manipulation of his thoughts led him to become impetuous, get dark ideas in his head, and finally commit multiple murders. His trust in the witches made him kill many people, but without listening to Lady Macbeth and doing as she told him, he would never have committed the first murder of Duncan. This murder was the inciting incident that led him to his downfall, and proved he became a bad person. This proves that Lady Macbeth was a more negative influence on Macbeth becoming a bad person.