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Shakespeare's text 'Macbeth' is the tale of a man ruined by his own ambition

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Introduction

How does Macbeth's character turn from 'fair' to 'foul'? Shakespeare's text 'Macbeth' is the tale of a man ruined by his own ambition. The story of Macbeth is an example of power at the expense of everything else, he begins the play as a strong character that is greatly admired, however as the play progresses Macbeth's personality and actions become more and more devious which eventually leads to his destruction. His character changed from a 'brave' and 'noble' person to a 'dead butcher'. Following the murder of Duncan, Macbeth realises that the murder has put him into the control of supernatural forces by the witches' this to the witches' is seen as a game. The words 'fair' and 'foul' were first said by the witches at the end of act 1 scene 1 these words have a great effect on his character, one will discuss this further in the essay. William Shakespeare wrote 'Macbeth' between the years of 1603 and 1606. This coincides with the ascension of James the Sixth of Scotland to the English throne whereby he became known as James I. James I believed he to have special powers because he was king and he also had an interest in witchcraft, apparitions and ghosts. The use of witchcraft in 'Macbeth' relates to the topicality of these issues, as Shakespeare's audience would have been aware of these. During Shakespeare's life there had been much confusion in Britain regarding the throne and religion. The country, therefore, knew only too well the dreadful implications of revolution and chaos. This is reflected in 'Macbeth.' 'Macbeth' opens with an overwhelming sense of unease. The three witches symbolise supernatural happenings, which adds to the dramatic tension and foreboding. ...read more.

Middle

Initially, in spite of being ambitious, it is clear that he is not easily won over to evil and he throws up many objections to murdering Duncan in order to ascend to the throne. Shakespeare reveals Macbeth's thoughts and feelings through soliloquies - 'This supernatural soliciting, Cannot be ill, cannot be good' However, he allows the witches' prophecy and his wife's ambition for him to undermine his integrity. Macbeth is judged by his wife to have a nature - 'Too full o'the milk of human kindness' Although physically strong, Macbeth is weak emotionally. The question of manhood is important to Macbeth, and Lady Macbeth uses this as an advantage to persuade him to murder Duncan - 'When you durst do it, Then you were a man' He is taunted to such an extent that he is prepared to 'bend up each corporal agent to this terrible deed,' but when the deed is done he says - 'To know my deed twere best not know myself.' The battle for his self-esteem is lost and won. Immediately after the death of Duncan, Macbeth is disgusted with himself for murdering Duncan. Macbeth shows this when he states: 'I have done the deed' He says this instead of simply saying that he has murdered Duncan and is consequently almost trying to avoid the subject. This demonstrates that Macbeth is deeply ashamed of what he has done. Macbeth also feels that the killing of Duncan has cut him off from God, because before the murder the text is full of references to things being divine, but following the murder everything in the text becomes bleak and unholy. At this point in the play Macbeth does not feel he is a good man anymore and is feeling so awful that he feels that he can never be happy again. ...read more.

Conclusion

Nature is turned upside down after Duncan's murder, hawks are killed by their prey and Duncan's horses eat each other. The image of blood also runs throughout the play. Shakespeare uses it as a symbol for the evil that is associated with Macbeth and it is also used as part of the imagery to create a sense of menace and destruction. Much of this imagery and symbolism should be thought of in the religious climate in which the play was written. Contrasts can also be seen in the characters of Macbeth and Banquo. Banquo is morally superior and is promised happiness by the witches. In contrast Macbeth is a tortured character, Shakespeare informs the audience of Macbeth's tortured mind through his soliloquies. Shakespeare lays bare Macbeth's thoughts through the play and his confusion is apparent. In his dialogue there is a shift from a diplomatic but hollow language to bullying language full of exclamation marks, question marks and commands. Macbeth manages to leave the play as a tragic-hero. One believes his down fall was his fault as without him nothing would have been possible. Fate and destiny are possible factors but it was his own judgement and decision making which led things to result how they did. He was physically strong but mentally he had many flaws. People manipulated these flaws but if they did not exist then none of it would have been conceivable. If fate or the witches took responsibility then they still chose Macbeth to do these wicked deeds because of who he was and who they could easily make him. If fate controlled Macbeth then fate also made Macbeth's disposition. Without Macbeth's ambition none of the situations, which arose, could have occurred the same. Therefore I believe Macbeth was the source of his own downfall, which leads his character to being a foul 'dead butcher'. ...read more.

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