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“Macbeth is a hero whose ambition proves to be his downfall”. Comment

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"Macbeth is a hero whose ambition proves to be his downfall". Comment Macbeth was written in 1603 at about the middle of Shakespeare's career as playwright. At this time a new monarch ascended the throne of England. He was James VI of Scotland, who then also became James I of England. Immediately, Shakespeare's London was alive with an interest in things Scottish. Many Scots followed their king to London and attend the theaters there. Shakespeare's company, which became the King's Men under James's patronage, now sometimes stage their plays for the new monarch's entertainment, just as they had for Queen Elizabeth before him. It was probably within this context that Shakespeare turned to Raphael Holinshed's history of Scotland for material for a tragedy. In Scottish history of the eleventh century, Shakespeare found a spectacle of violence - the slaughter of whole armies and of innocent families, the assassination of kings, the ambush of nobles by murderers, the brutal execution of rebels. He also came upon stories of witches and wizards providing advice to traitors. Such accounts could feed the new Scottish King James's belief in a connection between treason and witchcraft. James had already himself executed women as witches. Shakespeare's Macbeth supplied its audience with a sensational view of witches and supernatural apparitions and equally sensational accounts of bloody battles in which, for example, a rebel was "unseamed.......from the nave to th'chops". It is possible, then, that in writing Macbeth Shakespeare was mainly intent upon appealing to the new interests of London brought about by James's kingship. ...read more.


Even so, Lady Macbeth has something on her side: Macbeth's ambition. Although Macbeth is thinking along the same lines as Lady Macbeth, he lacks the ruthlessness that Lady Macbeth possesses, and she uses her cunning to convince him to take the steps that are needed. Because Macbeth had shown some courage previously, when talking to Lady Macbeth, she brings that back, and challenges Macbeth, asking him weather that was just in a state of drunkenness, 'Was the hope drunk, \Wherein you dressed yourself? Hath it slept since? , \ And wakes it now, to look so green and pale, \At what it did so freely?' (1,7,36-39). This pressure from his wife, to do the deed and prove himself manly, leads him to strengthen his will, and also shows how easily influenced he is 'I am settled, and bend up, \Each corporal agent to this terrible feat.' (1,7,79-80). After the killing of Duncan, we see Macbeth systematically killing the two guards. This is a demonstration of Macbeth's newfound ruthlessness, as he shows no remorse for king Duncan's death, to the extent that he butchers the guards in cold blood for a deed, which they were never culpable of. We can see that Macbeth has been partially scarred, as he refuses to go back to the room to plant the daggers, so as to frame the guards, 'I'll go no more:\I am afraid to think what I have done.' ...read more.


As Macbeth finds himself in a duel with Macduff, he discovers that Macduff wasn't born, but, 'was from his mother's womb\Untimely ripped. This denounced the last prophecy, and with it, Macbeth's confidence, and although he puts on a brave face, and refuses to surrender, he is slain. There is a possibility that the supernatural powers harnessed by the witches could have been use to control Macbeth, and force him to carry out the evil acts that he fulfilled, although we are not informed of any such goings on, and so cannot be sure of it. However that doesn't signify that the witches didn't have any influence to manipulate Macbeth. They provided him with notions that he will become king, and that he would not succumb to death from a man born of a woman. How he achieved those prophecies was his undertaking, and in the end it was wholly his choice of the path he would take to attain the high-ranking titles he was prophesied. His ambition would lead him astray. Lady Macbeth was a huge influence, and was the milestone between good and evil. Eventually she tipped the balance and was able to sway Macbeth into her wicked ideology. After this, Macbeth reinforced himself in his murderous and immoral actions, up to the point when he couldn't care less when his wife died. Seeped in his self-confidence, he was distraught when one by one the prophecies began to betray him, and he paid the inevitable price. Therefore, I feel that Macbeth was responsible for his actions and his ambition proves to be his downfall. 26/06/2003 Prashanthini.S 1 ...read more.

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