In Shakespeares famous play, Macbeth, the themes of murder, guilt, ambition and the ruthless pursuit of power is explored. He does this through the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth who are tied together in an eerie search for absolute power. Throughout the play, Macbeth reveals many traits that have horrible consequences for Macbeth himself and for Scotland. In the beginning of the play, Macbeth portrays himself as a noble, sincere man who would die for his country but as the play moves forward we discover that we may have been misled.
At first it seems that Macbeth is a noble warrior, but as time goes on it becomes apparent that he is a cruel, heartless tyrant, particularly when he murders Duncan and Macduffs’ wife and babes. At the start of the play, Macbeth believes the witches’ prophesies which foretell that he will become king. After he tells Lady Macbeth ‘My dearest partner of greatness’ of the witches prophesies, Lady Macbeth hatches a plan to kill the king of Scotland, which eventually results in horrible consequences for Macbeth and Scotland.
Lady Macbeth explains her plan to Macbeth and her vision for his accession to the throne which would require the removal of Duncan. She suggests the murder of Duncan. Macbeth begins to feel weary and starts to have doubts. Lady Macbeth is insanely ambitious for her husband to become king, so much so that she states ‘I would, while it was smiling on my face, have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums, and dash’d the brains out’ rather than go back on her word like her husband has just done.
However, little did either of them know that the repercussions for the killing of the king would lead to their own deaths. The people of Scotland were living in fear of an uncertain future, which influenced them to turn against their new king. Lady Macbeth is the driving force behind the murder of Duncan. She is ruthless. She was prepared to kill Duncan herself but found that he reminded her of her father and failed to go through with it only to find a few hours later, that Macbeth had carried out the deed.
From there on it was a downhill slide into insanity for Macbeth as he could not live with the guilt. After murdering King Duncan, Macbeth fears he will never sleep again ‘Methought I heard a voice cry “Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep”’. The consequences for Scotland were catastrophic as they lost their noble king and instead found themselves being ruled by a psychopathic tyrant. Macbeth became paranoid and suspicious of everyone around him. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth could never have envisaged the consequences for themselves and their plans for the future began to fall apart.
Keeping the murder of Duncan a secret tormented the couple, leading Macbeth to commit further murders. Banquo posed a threat because Macbeth feared he would get in the way of accession to the throne. He decided to hire assassins to kill Banquo and his son Fleance. Banquo is murdered and Fleance flees. That night, Macbeth is crowned and a banquet is held to celebrate. During the banquet Macbeth see’s the ghost of Banquo and has a breakdown. Lady Macbeth comes to his rescue. She tells his guests that he is having hallucinations which he has suffered from since childhood.
In this scene we see Macbeth being driven mad with guilt. ‘It will have blood; they say, blood will have blood’. Behind Macbeths back, somewhere in Scotland, Lennox is walking with another lord discussing the consequences the death of Duncan will have on Scotland. Both suspect Macbeth whom they have called a ‘tyrant’, of the murder of Banquo even though Fleance has been blamed. The lord tells Lennox that Macduff has gone to England, where he will join Malcolm in pleading with England’s King Edward for aid. News of these plots prompted Macbeth to prepare for war.
When Macbeth realised that Macduff had gone to England, he brutally murders Macduffs’ wife and babes who were left unprotected. All sympathy for Macbeth vanishes and is seen as a cold-blooded murderer. Macbeth reaches his lowest ebb after the murder of Macduff’s wife and babes. When Lady Macbeth commits suicide he is left with no alternative but to face his demons. Macbeth now faces the consequences of the murders alone. He goes into battle defiant and is determined not to give up. Going into war, Macbeth is faced with the prospect that he might die.
He then recites his famous last words ‘Yet I will try the last. Before my body I throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Macduff, and damn’d be him that first cried, “Hold, enough! ”’ and is killed by Macduff in battle. The question remains, was Macbeth a tragic hero or was he in fact an overly ambitious, ruthless tyrant? The killing of Duncan does have terrible consequences for Macbeth and for Scotland, but after Macbeths’ death, Scotland’s reputation was restored. Freed from tyranny, the rightful king, Feance, took Macbeths place and descended the throne.
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