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How is Macbeth persuaded to kill Duncan: Is his wife entirely to blame?

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Introduction

How is Macbeth persuaded to kill Duncan: Is his wife entirely to blame? Legend has it that Macbeth was written in 1606 and performed at Hampton court for King James I; although some historians argue that it was in fact premiered at The Globe theatre, as were most of Shakespeare's productions. Irrespective of this polemic, the play is littered with aspects, issues and ideas that would undoubtedly suggest that the play was indeed written to please King James, who was at the time, patron of Shakespeare's theatre group. One of these themes deals with witches who James was quite unashamedly interested in; so captivated by the supernatural in fact, he wrote a book on the subject; Demonology. Macbeth begins by launching us into a meeting with the three witches. In terms of pure storytelling, this scene is unnecessary - it is only until scene three that we discover the true nature and role of the witches in this play. If one were to miss the first scene, one could follow the narrative still, without any difficulty. I felt that the logic behind the placement of the scene is twofold; to draw the crowd (especially James) in from the outset, and it also underlines the importance of the witches and the theme of darkness to the audience, as the first thing that the crowd see on stage will often be the most memorable. Witches were very much the scapegoat of the time, and much of the problems were blamed on them, and even in this play, all the problems can be traced back to the witches. The following scene is where the story truly commences. It is the first time that the audience have the opportunity to learn about the man who shares his name with the play, Macbeth, as the captain gives his report to the King Duncan. The Captain's words paint a very positive picture of Macbeth. ...read more.

Middle

In his train of thoughts, Macbeth is much more biased towards letting Duncan live. The only real argument for killing the king is pretty weak, and this is "if the assassination could trammel up the consequence...Might be the be-all and end-all here," he would kill the king. But Macbeth knows that there is no way he can avoid punishment. Macbeth reveals something very interesting that indicates that maybe he is religious when he declares that, "We'd jump the life to come," meaning that he would risk punishment in the afterlife. Even if there is no life after death, Macbeth also knows that there is some type of natural justice on this world and "We still have judgement here." Macbeth believes that "bloody instructions, which, being taught, return to plague th'inventor," so he feels that this murder is a double sided sword. It will be plain for the audience to see that he is thoroughly confused about what he should do. There is indication in this soliloquy that Macbeth does actually love the king. He says that Duncan is a perfect ruler, he "Hath borne his faculties so meek...that his virtues Will plead like angels," and that "tears shall drown the wind," with the great sadness that will follow the death of Duncan. Duncan stays at the castle in "double trust," one with his kinsman and one with his host. He thinks that it is ironical that it is he "Who should against his murderer shut the door, Not bear the knife [himself]," and by the end of the soliloquy it seems that he has talked himself out of the murder of the innocent "cherubim." This is quite often the case, as we will se in a following soliloquy, that when Macbeth is on his own he is certain that he does not wish to murder the king. However, a short period of time with his Lady and he changes his mind, although unwillingly, and this does prove that Lady Macbeth does influence and manipulate Macbeth quite heavily. ...read more.

Conclusion

Although everyone has ambition, he could not control his; his ambition and love for the throne had blinded him to such an extent that he was willing to take the risk. He does say that he has "no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition," so he admits to himself that he will not kill the king out of his own accord; he needs someone there to persuade him. This someone to persuade him is Lady Macbeth, but also the witches: it is as if that Macbeth's ambition is a chemical reaction on the verge of taking place, but Lady Macbeth and the Witches are the catalysts. Lady Macbeth recognizes this as she says to Macbeth "art not without ambition," and understands her role as the vehicle of his ambition when she says "Hie thee hither, that I may pour my spirits in thine ear." Unlike Macbeth however, she does not speculate about the consequences of her actions, nor does she seem to take into regard any pain that her selfish acts may create. She certainly is an intelligent woman, as we can see from her manipulation techniques that she used on Macbeth, and I think that her ambition blinded her own mind, much in the same way as her husbands did. Lady Macbeth's plan was a clumsy one, and I think that it was the frenzy of the relationship between her and her husband that left both of their thoughts slightly disillusioned. Scholars always argue that it was the fault of Lady Macbeth that Macbeth was persuaded to kill the king. It was her constant questioning and perseverance that brought his downfall. We have seen the two sides of Macbeth in his soliloquies, and it is true to say that when unpolluted with Lady Macbeth's wilfulness, he talks himself out of the murder. However, I feel that they were both at fault; Macbeth fantasized over the murders of Duncan and possibly Malcolm before Lady Macbeth even joins the queue of conspirators; Macbeth needed to be on the edge before Lady Macbeth could push him. ...read more.

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