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Who is most responsible for the evil in Macbeth?

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When Shakespeare wrote Macbeth back in the 1500's, I don't think he would ever have imagined the impact his work would have on English Literature throughout the next 500 years. Millions of people have been exposed to this text over the intervening centuries, absorbing this tragic tale of slaughter, deceit and fatal ambition. However, despite the text's maturity, one thing that has never been completely settled is the question of who is to blame. In this essay, I plan to explore this question and see who caused the barbarity seen in the play. After reading the play, I have decided that Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and the witches are all in some way responsible for the actions of Macbeth himself. Here is an explanation as to why I think this is. Macbeth, the main character in the play, stands out from the others as he was whether, directly or indirectly fully responsible for all the murders committed. At the beginning we see him murder Duncan, then Duncan's guards, before having Banquo, Fleance (unsuccessfully) and Macduff's family killed by assassins. This constant bloodshed, authorised by Macbeth himself, was a consequence of the paranoia brought on by his "Vaulting ambition." In other words, Macbeth had become so obsessed by his power and position; anyone who stood in his way (in his opinion) must be eliminated from the equation immediately. ...read more.


Further evidence of Macbeth's personal responsibility for the evil in the play is made clear when soon after meeting the witches, he proclaims "chance may crown" him instead of him interfering in fate. However, I feel this was just an attempt to hide his true thoughts, as the queen managed to sway his opinion in less than 1 minute! Lady Macbeth is a name that keeps cropping up in the summary of Macbeth I have made above. Time and again she is seen to be guiding Macbeth towards his ambition. However, is this characterisation fair, and if so, is lady Macbeth therefore the one responsible for the evil in the play? It is true to say that Lady Macbeth shared her husband's ambition. It is a quality they both posses and probably one of the reasons they get on so well at the beginning of the play. When Macbeth tells her about the witches and their prophecy, she remarks that Macbeth has the ambition but not "the illness to attend it." By this, she means Macbeth is not cruel or ruthless enough to commit such a deed. She then calls on the devil to fill her with the "direst cruelty," as she intends to be evil 'for' Macbeth. This display of sheer evil and heartlessness by Lady Macbeth indicates what feelings she had at the start of the play. ...read more.


By telling him he will be hamed by "none of woman born," they make him think he is invincible, showing a complete trust in whatever they say, however outrageous. The witches therefore, through their persuasive words and Magic, turned Macbeth (and consequently his wife,) from a valiant soldier, into an evil traitor, who thought of nothing but his own personal gain. To Summarise, we have seen that Macbeth himself is partly responsible for his actions, as is his wife, and the witches. However, which is most responsible for the evil? In my opinion, the person most answerable to the charge is Macbeth himself. I think this because although the witches promised him greatness, they said the same about Banquo (who was with him at the time,) and yet they took the news in completely different ways. Macbeth's "vaulting ambition," caused him to take the news very seriously, and worked on changing his own destiny, while Banquo accepted what had been said and carried on with life. It could be argued however that Macbeth's wife was the one at fault as she swung him around. However, although Macbeth voiced genuine doubts to the audience, these were so easily brushed aside by Lady Macbeth's speech I don't think they could have been very deep rooted. So to conclude, Macbeth was most responsible for the evil in the play as he alone kept trying to grab the carrot dangled before him by the witches, with Lady Macbeth doing nothing but shouting encouragement in the background. ...read more.

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