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“A dead butcher and his fiend-like queen”. Would you agree with this summing up?

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Introduction

"A dead butcher and his fiend-like queen". Would you agree with this summing up? By Hiten Pankhania Near the end of Macbeth, the words '...this dead butcher and his fiend-like queen' are uttered by Malcolm after his army has been victorious in overthrowing Macbeth. However, is this a fair comment on the characters of the Macbeths? As Malcolm says it, we could interpret it as being slightly biased as he was to become the new king of Scotland and would want to be seen as a 'good' king. Malcolm calls Macbeth a 'butcher' and we can see why. Throughout the play, Macbeth is depicted as a killer. Even at the beginning, we hear of his triumphs on the battlefield. We learn that Macbeth '...unseamed him [Macdownald - a traitor] from the nave to the chops, / And fixed his head upon our battlements.' We immediately learn that Macbeth is a fearless warrior. We should be shocked at what he does, but as it is done in war, we think of him as a hero rather than a brutal murderer. We must remember that Macbeth was first and foremost a warrior. This is epitomised in the last scene when he fights Macduff and is slain. He knew that he would be killed but it was against his nature to flee from a battle. However, a clear indication of his ability to kill ruthlessly is when he murders King Duncan. ...read more.

Middle

He tells them to 'Stay, you imperfect speakers! Tell me more!' When the witches prophesised that Macbeth would become the Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland, Macbeth is immediately fascinated as this is precisely what he wants to hear. This is because the witches have touched a nerve present already in Macbeth. He has dreamt about becoming King many times and finally he is told that he will be King. Just the thought of becoming King makes Macbeth's '... seated heart knock at my ribs...' Macbeth's ambition gets the better of him and as a result he kills Duncan: 'I have no spur / To prick the sides of my intent but only / Vaulting ambition which o'erleaps itself / And falls on the other.' It is also ambition that drives Macbeth to order the murder of Banquo and Fleance as he feels it pointless being on the throne if it is not his offspring that will succeed him: 'They hailed him father to a line of kings. / Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown / And put a barren sceptre in my grip...' We can see that Macbeth was not easily won over to evil; his conscience threw up many questions before he was to murder King Duncan. We can establish that he is not as strong as he likes to make out. ...read more.

Conclusion

This indicates that although Lady Macbeth invites spirits into her body, it is her humanity that restricts her more than anything. Near the end of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth breaks down. She is continually trying to wash a spot of blood off her hand. At the time the play was written, it was common knowledge that witches carried the Devil's mark somewhere on their body, and this could be a metaphor that indicates that Lady Macbeth was fiend-like. However, we can also relate this spot of blood to earlier on in the play, when after killing King Duncan, Macbeth is told by Lady Macbeth that 'a little water clears us of this deed'. However, Lady Macbeth collapses with guilt after she sees what she has helped Macbeth do, and this poses another question. Do fiends have consciences? One would expect a fiend to enjoy performing evil deeds and yet Lady Macbeth collapses in guilt over it. I feel that it would be unfair to label Lady Macbeth as 'fiend-like' as she knows that she and Macbeth have gained nothing from their actions. She shows this when she says, 'Naught's had, all's spent'. I believe that she, just like Macbeth, is far too ambitious and this is the root of her problems. In my view, Malcolm's comment was partially true as both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth showed that they were capable of committing evil deeds. However, I do not feel that it is a fair comment, as I believe that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were just too ambitious rather than evil. ...read more.

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