• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Villain or victim? Is Macbeth a victim of external circumstances or a man solely driven by evil?

Extracts from this document...


Villain or victim? Is Macbeth a victim of external circumstances or a man solely driven by evil? Macbeth is the most widely translated Shakespeare play for good reason. The legend of Macbeth is a timeless tragedy, the hero succumbing to his fatal flaw. All Shakespeare's tragedies focus on this same idea; a single flaw in the person that leads to their destruction, desperation and death. Macbeth's fatal flaw is ambition, once the flame of his desires is lighted, it grows and engulfs all that it comes into contact with. But what is it that drags our 'noble', 'brave' Macbeth into the pool of devastation and evil? Is our tragic hero simply a victim of external circumstances, or a man solely driven by evil? It is clear that throughout the play, Macbeth's evil actions do not come unprovoked. Macbeth's ambition was unleashed the second he met the witches. The witches do not stumble upon Macbeth, they plan their meeting upon the heath, and they see the destruction he will cause. Though Macbeth does not immediately appear to believe the prophecies, '...to be king Stands not within the prospect of belief No more than to be Cawdor.', He soon warms to the idea. The witches speak in riddles, and in a different rhythm to Shakespeare's usual iambic pentameter, emphasising their abnormality and evil. ...read more.


Once they have adequately confused Macbeth they disappear (from the heath and from their cave), and this continues to show the strength and supremacy they behold. Indeed, without the witches, Macbeth may never have been enlightened to the prospect of being King, and would have lived a happy, undisturbed life as Thane of Glamis and Cawdor. Consistently through the book, personification is used as a form of conveying great evil, 'Fortune, on his damn�d quarrel smiling', 'Sleep, that knits up the ravelled sleave of care', 'Treason has done his worst', are all factors- neither within Macbeth nor external- that are shown evilly throughout the book. By using personification, Macbeth has made these things more important and powerful, quite like extra external factor's that Macbeth has to fight. It makes the whole play more evil, treason, sleep and death, all up against Macbeth in this great fight. It increases the sense of evil and terror. However, perhaps he would not. Perhaps Macbeth was destined for this path. Did Macbeth have all the evil he needed to commit these massacres within him already? There is certainly a strong argument that he did. The witches choose Macbeth. They see something in him which they exploit and ripen, they do not put a spell on Macbeth, they simply awaken him and he feeds on their words. ...read more.


He acknowledges their power. And it is this evil power that I believe made Macbeth the victim here. He was corrupted by circumstances beyond his control, and as a result of this, became the villain that has long been remembered. In all of us, I think we can find a part of us that does feel sorry for Macbeth, for it deals with issues close to our hearts. We all have ambition, so we can acknowledge his temptation. Perhaps if people related it more to their lives and decreased the importance of the situation it would be easier to understand. It may be a job or promotion rather than the crown that people desire, but what lengths would they go to, to achieve their lifelong ambitions? I don't know about mine, because they have never been offered to me, but if they were, would I be ruthless like Macbeth? Very possibly, and this is why we can all empathise with him, because in us, we can semi-understand his plight. Indeed we can pity Macbeth for what he has become. But we cannot pardon him. It is clear throughout the play that Macbeth has evil within him, and though others may corrupt him, he still acts with his head and his heart without being forced. All in all, my belief is that Macbeth is both the villain and the victim, an intricate mix of internal and external factors which concocted this spiral of deceit, decline and destruction. Eimear MacGarty ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Macbeth section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

4 star(s)

This essay offers a thoughtful and at times subtle account of Macbeth's development in the play, and it makes a determined and effective effort to answer the question set. Another strength is its engagement with the play, but at times it is too personal in tone.
Accurate use of the apostrophe is expected at 'A' level.

Marked by teacher Val Shore 17/07/2012

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Macbeth essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    It is not only the heros character that feeds into the construction of a ...

    4 star(s)

    The deep-rooted ambition within Macbeth is also hinted at from the beginning of the play, one moment in particular being in Act 1 Scene 3, when Macbeth is told by the witches that he is destined to become "king hereafter".

  2. Marked by a teacher

    How does Shakespeare characterize the witches?

    3 star(s)

    Macbeth: Call 'em; let me see 'em. (Act 4, scene 1) At this point the apparitions rise from hell. Seemingly the visions are in reality the devils, not the witches. The witches do not appear as humans; they have no gender, which immediately appears strange.

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Kingship in Macbeth

    3 star(s)

    We see Duncan is decisive when it comes to the matter of traitors as the thane of Cawdor is executed swiftly following his deception from Duncan's ranks. We also see a definite flaw in his nature as he is na�ve and overly trusting, this is evident when he says ''

  2. Character Analysis of Macbeth

    for mastery over him and this 'evil' and his ambition seem to go hand in hand throughout the play and causes him to do things he regrets which build up and becomes 'a dagger of the mind' and we see throughout the play the damage being dealt to his moral being.

  1. Macbeth Essay: Who is responsible for the death of Duncan?

    has succeeded: ''love and health to all'' when he really wills them all dead. Macbeth is not solely culpable however. It was Lady Macbeth who convinced him to eliminate the king so that he could seize the throne. Early in the play she resolves to ''pour my spirits in thine

  2. Macbeth is a truly tragic figure because we see a great man brought down ...

    This indecisive secondary role of Macbeth in Duncan's murder allows the audience to feel pity for him. After the first murder the audience is furthermore pitiable towards Macbeth as the once "brave" and "gallant" kinsman is reduced to a sacred, paranoid, and delusional being who is plagued despite his sovereignty.

  1. How does Shakespeare Create Sympathy for Macbeth?

    She uses emotional blackmail when she mentions their dead baby, 'I have given suck, and know how tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me'. He does anything to please her as he feels he cannot let her down.

  2. Examine Macbeth's mental deterioration throughout the play.

    The deep damnation of his taking-off: And Pity, like a naked new-born babe, Striding the blast, or Heaven's cherubin, hors'd Upon the sightless couriers of the air, Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye, That tears shall drown the wind.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work