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"At the end of the play Malcolm refers to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as "this dead butcher, and his fiend-like queen" - To what extent do you feel that Shakespeare wishes us to accept this judgement of either Macbeth or Lady Macbeth"?

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Introduction

Macbeth "At the end of the play Malcolm refers to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as "this dead butcher, and his fiend-like queen". To what extent do you feel that Shakespeare wishes us to accept this judgement of either Macbeth or Lady Macbeth"? Macbeth has just been killed in battle and Malcolm is now king. Scotland lies in ruin due to Macbeth's reign, people have fled their houses and there is death and destruction everywhere. Everybody is glad Macbeth is dead, as he was a bloodthirsty tyrant: even Malcolm describes him as a butcher, as in the title quotation. Throughout the play there are a lot of contrasts used by Shakespeare, the most predominant being the one used in the dialogue: "Fair is foul and foul is fair." This sets up the entire play to be a riddle: you don't know if Macbeth is evil or if the witches are evil or if what Macbeth does is wrong. Good is bad and bad is good. Throughout the play we can see how Macbeth's attitude and mood changes. As he goes on, his mind is more and more troubled. At the start of the play, just after the battle, Macbeth behaves like any hero would: he is happy, making jokes and pleased to have won the battle. ...read more.

Middle

The first time Macbeth meets the witches it is the witches who choose for them to meet, but then Macbeth goes back to see them, it is his choice to return to their temptation. To call Macbeth a butcher is an understatement: he killed many people, friend, foe and even family. Even at the very start of the play people congratulate Macbeth on being brave and fighting well: "With his brandished steel, which smoked with bloody execution." Already this shows that Macbeth has killed and has killed many. We can tell from Polansk'is movie version that he considers Macbeth a butcher as when he appears after killing Duncan he is covered in blood like a butcher. As the play progresses Macbeth's deeds get grimmer and grimmer. After his killing Duncan, Donalbain and Malcolm fear for their lives as they suspect Macbeth of doing this dreadful deed: "There's daggers in men's smiles; the near in blood, the nearer bloody." That is the first murder Macbeth does but it is quickly followed by two more, each of the two guards who were supposed to be guarding Duncan. The murder of Duncan was planned whereas with the guards it was spontaneous, showing Macbeth's fighting side and the madness of the kill which is overpowering him. Macbeth has already shown that he can kill members of his own family as Duncan was his cousin, but also he can kill his best friend and war compatriot. ...read more.

Conclusion

"I am in blood stepped so far, that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o'er." I think in some ways Macbeth was most definitely a butcher, killing without a second thought, but in other ways the real butchers were the witches. Their twisted minds devised the entire set of murders. Calling Macbeth a butcher is probably pretty accurate as he chose just to accept the will of others rather than stand up to his own willpower. Thus we could conclude that Macbeth is a butcher, but a butcher who is compelled to acts of evil in a sort of madness, from which he occasionally awakes and has moments when he is aware of what he has done and regrets it. Therefore there is an element of "there but for the grace of God" in Shakespeare's portrayal of Macbeth: it makes us feel uneasy because we ,in understanding how he comes to be possessed by evil, are admitting the possibility that we can all be thus possessed in certain extreme circumstances. Evil is thus shown to be a universal threat which can possess anyone, and not just a threat particular to this one character. This is why universally Macbeth is known as the unlucky play. Actors fear bad luck or evil is catching and will infect them if they perform the play. In conclusion, Macbeth is indeed a butcher, but much more than that: he is an exploration of the nature of evil. ...read more.

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