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Critical Evaluation Macbeth

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Critical Essay MACBETH At the end of the play "Macbeth" by William Shakespeare the two main characters are described as "...a dead butcher and his fiend-like queen." Do you agree that this is a suitable epitaph? "Macbeth" is a play written by William Shakespeare. The play tells the story of a man consumed by his ambition to become King - the play follows the character as he struggles to reach the throne through heinous means. Throughout the play the viewer is shown the eponymous hero, Macbeth's, character deteriorate. During the plays final scene, subsequent to Macbeth and his wife's demise, the two characters are referred to as a "dead butcher and his fiend-like queen". I personally, do not agree that this description is entirely befitting - although the characters do have "butcher"-like and "fiend"-like qualities both characters were shown to be more than this at various points throughout the play. Shakespeare's vivid characterisation means that the two characters are not one-dimensional, and are too complex to be labelled with this simplistic description. The opening scene of "Macbeth" leads the viewer to agree with this epitaph. The scene has two functions, it is where the viewer is introduced to pivotal characters - Macbeth and the witches, and also introduces an important theme which can be seen throughout the play - duplicity. The backdrop of this first scene is the dramatic weather conditions of thunder and lightning, immediately suggesting danger and evil to the viewer. ...read more.


Macbeth's doubts about killing the King grow worse and he begins to hallucinate, showing he is not a cold-hearted killer... "Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand?" (Act II: Scene I) Macbeth sees a dagger, floating in the air and covered in blood, the dagger is pointing towards the King's chamber. The bloody dagger, I think, is symbolic of the bloody course Macbeth is about to embark on. This illusion seen by Macbeth reveals his inner turmoil. It is obvious that he is not comfortable with the deed he is about to commit and his doubts are driving him insane. After the King's murder Macbeth feels great remorse, revealing he is not a "butcher"... "Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor Shall sleep no more, Macbeth shall sleep no more" (Act II: Scene II) Here, Shakespeare shows Macbeth is beginning to break down mentally as the character refers to himself in third person. His colossal guilt also comes to light; Macbeth attempts to disassociate himself from the situation by calling himself "Glamis", and "Thane of Cawdor". This shows he cannot deal with the fact that it was he himself who had killed his king. The reference to sleep suggests he will no longer have peace of mind - another indication of his guilt. A dramatic contrast can be seen between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth here. She appears very "fiend-like" stating ... "A little water will clear us of this deed;" (Act II: Scene II) ...read more.


During the climax of the play Macbeth's character is shown to improve... "And that which should accompany old age, As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends, I must not look to have;" (Act V: Scene III) We can see in this quote how deeply unhappy Macbeth really is, he has become conscious that having power, in itself, does not bring happiness. Here, I begin to feel sympathy for Macbeth as he is alone and is feared by everyone. Obviously, by this point the character honestly repents for his actions in the past, which makes him appear very unlike a "butcher". In the ultimate act of the play Macbeth's previous character begins to shine through as he prepares to fight his final battle... "At least we'll die with harness on our back." (Act V: Scene V) Macbeth decides he will face his enemies head on. Throughout the play we have seen the character's bravery gradually disintegrate but here it reappears. We can see here that he is not really a "butcher" but a brave warrior. Macbeth fights boldly but will not harm Macduff, after he killed his family. This shows that the character does have enough decency to realise his previous actions were immoral. In conclusion, I think that neither Macbeth nor Lady Macbeth deserve the epitaph of "...a dead butcher and his fiend-like queen..." Both characters are too complex to be labelled with these terms. Each character has behaved in an immoral and evil manner at certain points of the play but equally both characters have shown themselves to be wracked with guilt due to their actions. By Caitlin McLean. ...read more.

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