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To what extent do the supernatural and Macbeth’s superstition contribute to his downfall?

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Introduction

To what extent do the supernatural and Macbeth's superstition contribute to his downfall? Macbeth is a tragedy written by the Elizabethan playwright William Shakespeare in the 16th century. Set in 12th century Scotland it tells the story of how a highly respected Scottish noble, Macbeth, descends into evil and treachery. The play has a very strong supernatural theme running throughout. The play is 'pervaded by evil' and this is apparent from the very first scene. It opens with three witches plotting when to meet again. They arrange to meet again on the heath 'when the hurly-burly's done, when the battle's lost and won.' This is the way that the witches speak throughout the rest of the play; they never speak clearly but in riddles. This ultimately leads to Macbeth's destruction, when their riddled speech leaves him arrogant and unrealistic and in the mistaken belief that no man can harm him. When Macbeth first meets the witches they give him three greeting statements :- 'All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis!' 'All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!' 'All hail, Macbeth! That shalt be king hereafter!' Macbeth does not understand these strange old hags who stop him on his journey to give him these confusing predictions. ...read more.

Middle

This shows that once the witches have influenced him, Macbeth is actually a much darker character than we originally perceived him to be. Spurred on by his wife, who initially appears to be the more strong-willed of the two at this early stage in the play, he kills Duncan in his sleep and becomes king of Scotland. Lady Macbeth is a very strong-willed character, she fuels his ambition to become king and is probably the sole reason that he manages to eventually bring himself to murdering the king. This is a stark contrast to the end of the play, by which time Macbeth has become the strong, dominant character and Lady Macbeth has become demented with guilt. She has taken to sleepwalking and talks in her sleep how she is trapped in her own private hell of blood, 'fog and filthy air.' Once Macbeth has become the tyrant king and murdered Banquo and Macduff's family he is worried that he will be the victim of some form of vengeance from Duncan's sons, Macduff or Fleance, Banquo's son. Macbeth is under the illusion that the three witches are trying to help him, but this is not true. ...read more.

Conclusion

He laments how 'the blood-boltered Banquo has smiled against him even though he is dead. This is a very strong indication of how Macbeth can still be haunted by ghosts of his past and how his own superstition supersedes him and leads to his eventual downfall. The final part of the play ends with Macbeth and Macduff fighting, Macduff fuelled by his rage at Macbeth for murdering his family. Macbeth being arrogant and unintimidated by Macduff, tells him how he cannot be harmed 'by any man of woman born'. Macduff tells Macbeth how he was not of 'woman born' but 'from his mother's womb untimely ripped' by caesarean section. Macbeth realises that this means Macduff could kill him. Now all of the witches predictions have come true, with Birnam wood coming to Dunsinane with Malcolm's army and Macduff being of no woman born. Macbeth still swears to fight to the last but is still defeated and killed by Macduff. Finally, Scotland is rid of its tyrant king. It is clear how Macbeth's ambition and his belief that the witches were helping him led to his downfall and that if the witches had not done their evil deed in the first place then it may never have been his undoing. ...read more.

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