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Do You Agree With the Argument that Macbeth is Responsible for His Own Downfall?

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Introduction

Miranda Fisher-Levine 11N Do You Agree With the Argument that Macbeth is Responsible for His Own Downfall? I, living in the 21st century, would be inclined to agree with the above statement, but a 17th century audience might be more likely to disagree due to an increased belief in the supernatural - therefore I believe that the question that needs to be asked is, to what extent is Macbeth responsible for his own downfall? The witches are clearly key characters in answering this question, especially as this play was written under the reign of the witch-obsessed King James. People really did believe that witches had evil powers, and this is why their Macbeth takes heed of what they say. I believe their prophecy is self-fulfilling because I personally do not believe in fate, but Macbeth would have done and therefore would have thought that we was only following fate. Although we from the audience can see that he has the idea of murdering Duncan independently from the prophecy, Macbeth truly believes that he is being guided to do it by a higher force. This thought is bolstered by Ross and Angus telling him that "[Duncan] bade [them] call... ...read more.

Middle

There is no way that Macbeth can quell Banquo's suspicions, and so to retain his rank Macbeth sees no other option than to kill him. Once again, although this step of Macbeth's downfall is taken by the man himself, under the circumstances blame cannot be put upon him - he has lost his perspective; murder seems to be the only way for him to continue his life. On the other hand, the killing of Fleance is less forgivable. In their prophecy, the witches tell Banquo that "[he] shalt get kings", meaning "[his] children shall be kings" as Macbeth later clarifies. So Macbeth knows, insofar as he believes the witches, that to remain king and have his descendants be kings, Fleance must be killed. This is a killing in the name of ambition rather then self-protection, as is the murder of Banquo, and so the question of whether the prophecy informs or inspires Macbeth must once more be addressed. As already stated, Macbeth would have believed the witches due to the cultural nature of the times, and the veracity of their statement would seem to have been proven by Macbeth becoming Thane of Cawdor, and so it is understandable that Macbeth would have believed that Fleance would grow up to overthrow him. ...read more.

Conclusion

Having defended Macbeth on account of his suggestibility and the circumstances in which he would have lived, his behaviour, although understandable, is not entirely excusable. A certain amount of free will definitely plays a part in his downfall; looking back to when he first meets the witches, murder immediately comes to his mind when they tell him he will be king. It is obvious that Macbeth concludes that murder is the answer under his own steam - most people would wonder how such a thing could occur rather than starting to plot illegal and highly immoral activities. Macbeth's murdering Duncan is certainly very strongly influenced by Lady Macbeth, and although we know that Macbeth is a man of weak constitution, if we look at his actions in a harsher light it was still his decision to commit murder, both relating to Duncan and other characters later in the play. I conclude by saying that I believe was responsible for his downfall only in the sense that he committed acts that led to it - he cannot be held accountable for his actions. Macbeth is a character susceptible to suggestion by people he perceives as stronger than him - for example Lady Macbeth and the witches - who have either natural or supernatural power over him. ...read more.

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