When deciding whether or not Macbeth is deserving of the title “butcher” it is a difficult decision. There were numerous contributions by other characters which affected Macbeth’s actions: such as Duncan crowning Malcolm as his successor and providing the title Thane of Cawdor to Macbeth making in which the last one was a traitor: Banquo who kept his suspicions to himself; and Macbeth and Donalbain who left. Girl Macbeth was the one who encouraged Macbeth to eliminate Duncan, offering him the self-confidence and courage to do the deed.
The witch’s’ gave Macbeth the idea in the very first place that he was to become king with their prophesies. The order in which I will evaluate the characters which contributed to Macbeth’s actions, are the least influential characters to the most influential characters. I must also take into factor to consider the time period in which Macbeth resided in to make my decision whether Macbeth deserves the title “butcher”.
During the time duration in which Shakespeare set Macbeth, society in the 11th Century was very different from what it is today. The society in which Macbeth had resided in was really harsh, revolving around violence, as shown by Shakespeare in his play as executions would be a kind abuse. Little boys because time duration wanted to be viewed as great warriors such as Macbeth, however in order to be one you would need to kill lots of males in battle. In the time period Macbeth resided in the more males you killed the more honored you ended up being and Shakespeare reveals the audience this by making Macbeth being viewed as a great warrior during his time due to all the males he ‘d “killed” in the battlefield.
When Shakespeare composed the play he needed to please James I, who was king at the time as he was his royal play right.
Throughout his play he had to convey messages to the audience that James I would approve of. Such a message occurs during the beginning of the play, as the “disloyal traitor” Macdonald the Thane of Cawdor is killed and the title is then given to Macbeth. The divine right of Kings was very important during Shakespeare’s time period. Society in the 16th Century believed that the whole universe had an order in was decided by God. The King, was believed to be chosen by God, and so any action against the King would be an action against God. Anything unnatural was against this divine order, such as evil, in which society heavily believed in at the time. Shakespeare relates his play to what was happening at the time, as there were many threats to the monarchy such as foreign invaders.
At the beginning of the play there is an invasion from the “Norweyan lord” against Scotland. Not only were there plots by foreign invaders but also insider within the country, such an example is looking back at history during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. During Queen Elizabeths reign, her half sister Mary Queen of Scots plotted to get rid of her. This is seen in the play as Macbeth plots against King Duncan. It was believed that if any harm was brought to the king it would anger God: “Thou seest the heavens, as troubled with man’s act, threatens his bloody stage” and the portrayer would be punished by god himself. In the play everything is brought back into place, as normal order is back in place as the thrown goes to the rightful heir Malcolm. It was a message to the audience at the time not to plot against the king as the consequences would fall upon you. The society in which Macbeth lived in also believed in God.
They believed that if there was good there had to be evil known as Satan who rebelled directly against God and was responsible through witch’s and evil spirits for all attacks on the divine order. Through history during the time society was increasingly preoccupied with witchcraft. Laws came into order so that anyone who was suspected of witchcraft could be executed. At that time Shakespeare wrote the play the people were of a very superstitious culture as James I published a book on “Demonology” in 1597.
Shakespeare relates his play to society at the time as he incorporates three witch’s that are “So withered, and so wild in their attire,” as they were sources of the supernatural. Throughout the play of ‘Macbeth’ Shakespeare relates his play to what was going on at the time. By using this play as a source of evidence and my own knowledge I am able to conclude that they lived in a very harsh and brutal society where innocent people weren’t put on trial but hanged by accusations. In the time period we live in today, Macbeth’s action would make him a butcher, yet in the context of the time period Macbeth was living in, I think he would be more acceptable in the community due to the harsh realities of life they lived in.
I must also take into consideration the actions of the other characters, which influence Macbeth to become a “butcher” even though they might have unwillingly contributed towards Macbeth’s actions. Such a character is Duncan who had given Macbeth the title “The Thane of Cawdor” after the previous one was a “disloyal traitor”. The title ultimately makes Macbeth the most powerful thane. To a certain extent, Duncan is to blame due to naming the heir to the throne as Malcolm, even after all the loyalty and bravery Macbeth expressed towards the king. What furthered Mabeth’s slaughterous actions is fact that Malcolm, Donalbain and Macduff “fled” from the “tyrants rule” as they betrayed Macbeth by building an army to fight against him. The character that could have stopped Macbeth from the start was Banquo, as he’s suspicious that Macbeth “play’dst mosy foully for’t” yet he thinks about the witch’s prophesies and what it’d hold for his future, in which he would be the “root and father of many kings” so he keeps his suspicions to himself.
Lady Macbeth had a strong influence over Macbeth in his decision to kill the king. Macbeth contemplates over whether or not to kill the king yet his final decision is that he’ll “proceed no further in this business” unlike Lady Macbeth who decides to kill the king: “The raven himself is hoarse that croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan under my battlements” after reading the letter written from her husband. Yet Lady Macbeth believes Macbeth is too kind to kill the king as he is “too full o’th’ milk of human kindness” in order to fulfill his ambition in becoming king. She is determined for her husband to become the future king of Scotland as when the couple meet, Lady Macbeth speaks her mind and persuades her husband into doing what she thinks will benefit them the most.
Lady Macbeth encourages him with comments such as “so much more the man” if he becomes the king. Lady Macbeth manipulates her husband as she convinces him to do the deed to prove his love for her, as she says she’d be willing to do anything for Macbeth by saying: “I would…have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums, and dashed the brains out.” At first Macbeth doesn’t want to kill the king as he’s been “honoured” lately by the King with the title Thane of Cawdor but Lady Macbeth’s skill works as Macbeth is “settled” to do the “terrible feat” which ultimately is to kill the king. It is Lady Macbeth, who plans and organizes the murder, as she is impatient and wants the “future in the instant”.
Without Lady Macbeth’s meticulous planning Macbeth may have never been able to go and kill Duncan. Lady Macbeth herself is the one that that calls upon supernatural spirits (“Come you spirits”) in order to become like a man, and fulfill the dreadful deed, which would take place. Yet Lady Macbeth contradicts herself as she can’t kill the king herself as Duncan resembles the face of her “father”. What furthers Macbeth’s murderous thoughts is the fact that when Macbeth didn’t want to kill Duncan she called him a “coward” and so Macbeth now wants to impress his wife when she finds out his great plans which leads to more killing.
The second biggest thing that Lady Macbeth does which contributes to Macbeth becoming a butcher is the fact she is very deceitful. When the King arrives she plays the role of a humble hostess welcoming Duncan with many compliments, and offering “All their service” to him. It leads Duncan to believe nothing is wrong as he’s not suspicious of what a dark realm he is entering. Lady Macbeth is the one who makes sure the procedure of the plan is precise as she goes over it with Macbeth. She knows Macbeth must not show his guilt and so tells him “look like th’ innocent flower, but be serpent under’t”. Once Macbeth has killed the King he feels “sorry” and feels guilty about what he’d done, which is a contrast to how Lady Macbeth is feeling, as she tells Macbeth off for such a “foolish thought”.
Lady Macbeth mocks her husband for being such a coward and to get over it, as he’s weak, feeble and overcome by the grief that shadows him. After the murder of King Duncan has taken place, Lady Macbeth is the one that takes charge and is in control as she knows that they must cover up their crime and blame it on others. Such an instance is when Lady Macbeth goes to sort things out as she says: “Give me the daggers” as she then goes off to “…smear the sleeply grooms with blood”. Once everything is in place Lady Macbeth once again orders Macbeth to retire back to their chamber in order to look innocent as “a little water clears us of this deed” which is ironic as she then does this as she goes crazy.
A minor crime which Lady Macbeth committed, which may have contributed to Macbeth becoming a butcher is before Macbeth kills the king is when Lady Macbeth prepares to get the King’s guards drunk. Lady Macbeth sneakily served excessive amounts of alcohol to the kings guard “which hath made them drunk”. It served to put the King’s guards to sleep as they no longer had a watchful eye in order to protect Duncan from the dreadful deed that would have to take place in front of them without them knowing.
Not only that but also when the lords find Duncan no longer lives and they announce the dreadful news, Lady Macbeth plays the role of a good actress as she pretends she doesn’t know a thing: “Woe, alas! What, in our house?” When the lords question Macbeth about the murder of king Duncan, Lady Macbeth suddenly faints. Whether this faint was on purpose or not, it diverts all the attention that was on Macbeth onto Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth’s plan worked well, as there is no suspicion that has fallen upon them, for the death of King Duncan has fallen upon others, such as the guards.
The three “hags” are a representation of trouble and evil, being “withered” and “wild” in their attire. They influenced Macbeth in the process of becoming a butcher with their prophecies. Before Macbeth even knows anything about the witch’s, they plan “to meet with Macbeth” to try tempt him with their riddles and use him as a tool towards the destruction of the natural world order. They knew Macbeth’s weakness, unlike Banquo who is good and could resist the witch’s prophecies. They are malicious and crude in their nature and seek to cause chaos, mischief and misery in the world because they see evil as good, and good as evil “Fair is foul, and foul is fair”.
Whenever the witch’s are present they bring along their omens of evil such as thunder, lightning and rain. Just before the witch’s are about to meet Macbeth a witch chants ” A drum, a drum! Macbeth doth come”. This is very portentous and a warning that bad things are to come. The witch’s tell Macbeth about his future with their prophecies. Once they have spoken their riddles Macbeth is desperate to know more about his future as he becomes intrigued by what he has been told: “Stay you imperfect speaker, tell me more.” Macbeth doesn’t think what he is told by the witch’s is true but wants to believe that it is. The first prophecies the witch’s predicted which Macbeth did not know of yet is that he would become the Thane of Cawdor. Ironically, after the witch’s had told him this he was then given the title that the witch’s had foreseen.
The second prophecies the witch’s tell Macbeth may have greatly influenced Macbeth in his future actions in becoming a butcher. The second prophecy claims that Macbeth would become King. As “two truths are told” with what the witch’s told him being Thane of Glamis and now Thane of Cawdor, it made Macbeth believe that he “shalt be king hereafter!” The witch’s have framed Macbeth into a state of mind that this is a “happy prologue” and that his power can only grow from Thane of Cawdor. The prophecy gets Macbeth to think of a “horrid image doth unfix my hair” that he may have to take action of his own, in order to secure his own future in becoming king. Then on a second thought Macbeth thinks that if the prophecy is true it will happen without him having to interfere as he thinks: “chance may crown me without my stir”.
The influence of the witch’s prophecies has changed Macbeth in his line of thought, as all he wants to do now is contemplate and discuss with Banquo the witch’s prophecies. It triggers Macbeth to get Lady Macbeth involved as he’s fascinated by what he thinks is good fortune, which ultimately leads him working for the evil causing pain and havoc which is exactly as the witch’s wanted. Macbeth was a puppet used by the witch’s, which he naively was unable to see. Since seeing the witch’s, Macbeth changes from a “noble man” to a “tyrant” due to trying to accomplish the prophecy that he wants so very much. After Macbeth killed Duncan there is a reversal of the normal order as a “falcon” was “hawked at, and killed” by a “mousing owl”. The events that occurred are very ominous as it is a dark day. Everything has been affected by Macbeth’s actions, therefore it has turned the world “wild in nature” as it has been disrupted. God shows his anger as the one he chose as the ruler of Scotland is now dead. This is exactly the way the witch’s wanted it to be.
A minor crime by which the witch’s influence Macbeth into becoming a butcher is when they decide to trick Macbeth by using apparitions. Hecate herself blames the witch’s for the starting of chaos in Scotland: “To trade and traffic with Macbeth, in riddles and affairs of death”. This proves Macbeth can’t be fully held responsible. They cast a spell where there is a great influence of evil supernatural powers, changing the way Macbeth thinks and sees things. The witch’s trick Macbeth as they deliberately allow him to think that he’s learning the truth from a superior power when it’s all a faï¿½ade. Part of Hecate’s plan is that the sprites will confuse Macbeth so much he’ll make mistakes: “strength of their illusion, shall draw him on to his confusion.” The witch’s suggest who he should be careful of, such a case being Macduff “Beware the Thane of Fife” suggesting to Macbeth that he should eliminate anyone that may cause him any harm.
Part of the witch’s trick is to make Macbeth feel invincible by using the apparitions that tell Macbeth “none of woman born shall harm Macbeth” and that he would be safe for his entire life as “Macbeth shall never vanquished be”. The consequences of Macbeth meeting with the witch’s make him become unaware of the trick that being played on him as he is happy and re-assured with the news, becoming over beamingly confident with his reign. The witch’s have corrupted Macbeth by using spells for him to do bad, as he is now greedy wanting more, such as passing the crown down to his descendants rather than Banquo’s. The witch’s purposely infuriate Macbeth to make him behave rationally as they taunt him. Hecate planned to make Macbeth more of a butcher than he really is “he shall…scorn death”. The witch’s molded Macbeth into a butcher by using his weaknesses.
Concerning how far Macbeth deserves the title “butcher” much of time Macbeth’s actions were influenced by a certain individuals such as Lady Macbeth and the three witch’s. Such a case is when Macbeth killed King Duncan. To a certain extent, those certain individuals cannot be blamed and Macbeth must be held responsible. Macbeth didn’t have to do anything he didn’t want to, such as killing Duncan. When the witch’s told Macbeth of the second prophecy they never mentioned the fact that he should actually go and kill King Duncan. Yet like Lady Macbeth he became impatient to know about the future. Lady Macbeth isn’t the only one that can be labeled deceitful as Macbeth told Duncan his only role is to be loyal towards him and “towards your love and honour”. Macbeth had the “absolute trust” and respect of the king, as he had fought brutally in the war like a warrior killing many of Duncan’s enemies.
Due to his bravery was given the title Thane of Cawdor officially being the most powerful Thane, yet it wasn’t enough for Macbeth as he still wanted more power which shows his greed. When the witch’s first prophecy comes true, all Macbeth wants to hear is Banquo to confirm the second prophecy and say “You shall be king”. This is due to the fact that Macbeth is very keen on the subject, yet Banquo warns him about the “instruments of darkness” yet out of excitement and pride he take no notice. Once Duncan names his successor as Malcolm Macbeth starts his murderous thoughts who unlike Banquo accepts it and is happy for Malcolm. While to Macbeth Malcolm is seen as an obstacle, which needs to be got rid of. If Macbeth had never written the letter to his wife about the witch’s prophecies, she would have never encouraged him to kill the king.
Even though Lady Macbeth seems to be the mastermind behind all the planning, Macbeth never dismisses the idea of killing Duncan. Macbeth at the end of the discussion with Lady Macbeth he makes up his own mind “I am settled.” When it comes to killing Duncan, Macbeth is only worried about the consequences of “If we should fail” and not the moral. The visions of the dagger that Macbeth has were created by his thoughts. When Macbeth does kill the king and he couldn’t say “amen” it shows that Macbeth is worried, as he has now gone against god and will be punished for his actions. Macbeth in contrast is very different once the lords arrive as he’s calm and collected unlike the nervous wreck he was before. Macbeth is now able to control himself and lie well, as he acts innocent to his actions “loyal and neutral” as he defends himself against accusations.
I believe that when Macbeth decides to kill his best friend Banquo, he in modern day society would be seen a “butcher”. One bad deed of Macbeth’s lead to another “Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill”, as Banquo was suspicious of Macbeth that he “play’dst most foully for’t”. Even though Macbeth has got the thrown he is still not content with his present situation as he doesn’t feel safe: “To be thus is nothing, But to be safely thus.” Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth to accept the past “what’s done is done” yet Macbeth is unable too. Macbeth is devious as he tries to find out Banquo’s and Fleance’s movements in light conversation “Ride you this afternoon?” so he may ambush him. Even though he’s plotting Banquo’s murder Macbeth is two faced as he pretends to be nice to him.
Macbeth and Banquo were always seen as equals, yet Banquo is loyal to Macbeth as he is king unlike Macbeth. Instead of Lady Macbeth arranging things now, Macbeth is the one planning. Macbeth is now misleading his wife as she knows nothing. In order for Macbeth to get the murderers to kill Banquo and Fleance he lies to them by telling them it was Banquo “which held you so under fortune”. Macbeth is glad about Banquo’s violent death. Macbeth is starting to talk like the witch’s as he uses inverted meanings such as “Banquo’s safe?” after being killed. By now Macbeth is able to hide anything and is a good liar as he pretends to miss Banquo and blames him for not attending, when Macbeth is the reason he isn’t there. Macbeth thinks that he’s done so many bad things that it’s to late to stop and isn’t giving up as “We are yet but young in deed.”
Macbeth by this point has involved himself with evil “I conjure you” and is now evil himself and is doomed with the title “butcher”. Macbeth has resorted to killing innocent women and children “Each new mourn, new widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows strike heaven on the face”. Macbeth now resides to act without delay and will kill without hesitating: “From this moment firstlings of my heart shall be firstlings of my hand.” When Macbeth decides to attempt and kill Macduff, he targets his family who haven’t done anything wrong and are undeserving of their fate.
Macbeth’s evil and cruelty shows through the suffering throughout the country of Scotland. Lady Macbeth feels guilty as she feels she started Macbeth on his evil path to destruction but didn’t know about any of her husband’s actions after the murder of Duncan. Macbeth has now become a “tyrant” and his “murders sticking on his hands”. Macbeth is determined to fight to the end till his “bones” and “flesh be hacked”. As he now knows that he is a butcher and no longer has a conscious, as when he finds out he was lied to by the witch’s, he’d rather “die with the harness on our back”. Macbeth wants to inflict as much pain on others before he dies, in which he fails to do so.