By careful study of the play decide, in committing Duncan’s murder how far Macbeth is driven by his own ambition; how far he is dominated by his wife’s; and how far is influenced by the witches.
In this Essay I will consider who influenced Macbeth. Do the witches put a spell on Macbeth to make him kill Duncan? Or when Lady Macbeth invites the spirits of evil to enter her, does this turn her soul into pure evil or do the witches take over her body?
Shakespeare’s ‘Tragedy of Macbeth’ is based on factual evidence. In Scotland in the 11th Century there was a man who reined called Macbeth from 1040-57. But those days where violent and troubled times and Lords and Thanes fought between each other. Claim to the thrown was a secure establishment compared to today. Even though William Shakespeare based his play on historical factual evidence, it could be just a coincident that a man called Macbeth is based on the real King Macbeth who lived in the 11th Century but Shakespeare might of wanted a Scottish name and liked the name of Macbeth. But that does not make the play really special, it is the fact that it is a tragic love story rolled into a horror in one. The real Macbeth is described as a gentle and loving king. He had blond hair and blue eyes. People called him the Greatest Celtic King as for the 16 years he was king there was peace and the land was fertile. It was only after he was killed by King Malcolm (King Duncan’s grandson) that all the nasty rumors started about him. Shakespeare also used the rumors of Macbeth to scare King James 1. Because all the rumors about Macbeth had turn into evil and the King James 1 thought that witches were after him, Shakespeare used the legends of Macbeth and the witches to show how ridiculous it is.
Shakespeare sets off the tone of the play with the witches. This is to grab the audience straight away by setting it in the shadowy heaths of the highland, but making sure that we do not know what is going to happen! The whole scene is creepy and unsettling. He uses thunder and lightning. Atmosphere is dark and foreboding and plays on our fascination with the supernatural word, when they meet Macbeth. The witches are supposed to be strong women who were kicked out of everyday society and that is what makes them scary. They are supposed to be powerful and threatening to everyone who meets them. When the witches are introduced they speak in riddles but there is a similarity between the witches and everyday speaking today e.g. today young children say that ‘Yes means no and no means Yes’ and to the witches ‘foul is fair and fair is foul’. No doubt that there is going to be a struggle between good and evil forces, Light and Darkness
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The witches are threatening and have a disturbing atmosphere ‘Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair, How through the fog and filthy air’. Act 1 scene 1, lines 11-12.At the end of the scene they leave us in despair to know what is going to happen. ‘So foul and fair a day I have not seen.’ Act3 scene 3 lines 37, When we first meet Macbeth these are his first words, these echo the witches words and it also indicates that he is in control of his own destiny.
The witches just happen to choose the right moment to speak to Macbeth as he has just finished battling and is still pleased and is on a roll with himself. The witches draw Macbeth in by speaking his innermost thoughts, they seem unnaturally close with each other and act with one mind. They never tell lies but speak in riddles and they torment him with these riddles and make him believe his greater prize is near. “Lesser than Macbeth and Greater. Not so happy yet much happier, Thou shalt get kings though thou be none” the witches say this to Macbeth Act 1 scene 2, lines 65-68. Macbeth connects the idea of Kingship and Murder. The witches said nothing about murdering anyone. Original the idea was only in his imagination. But Banquo is less than interested with the witches but he notices how Macbeth is startled and rapt with it all “ Which outwardly ye show? My noble partner you greet with presents grace, Of noble having and of royal hope, That he seems rapt withal: to me speak not.” Act 1 scene 3 lines 54-57. Macbeth leaves it to chance as to whether he will be king or not.
But Macbeth only listens to what he wants to hear by the time he realizes his mistake it is too late. The prospect of becoming king has always been a great ambition and now that the witches have prophases his dangerous thoughts, that he has been thinking himself. He starts thinking of horrible thoughts meaning the death of King Duncan (his cousin). You can tell he is rapt with it all when the witches disappear Macbeth speaks out saying “Stay you imperfect speakers tell me more” Act 1, scene 3 line 68. The witches lead Macbeth to do terrible crimes that will effect Scotland.
But both Macbeth and Banquo do not know if what the witches are saying is true, until the proof comes along by the kings messenger, Ross tells him that he will come Thane of Cowdor by orders of the king: “He bade me, from his, call thee Thane of Cawdor” Act 1 scene 3 line 105. Now Macbeth knows that the witches were speaking the truth!
Act 1, Scene 4 King Duncan says that he has started to ‘Plant thee, and will labour to make thee full of growing’. He means that he will make sure Macbeth grows greater and stronger as a reward for his service. Instead Macbeth own seed of ambition to be king was growing, leading to Duncan's death. King Duncan’s choice to make his son Malcolm King change Macbeth's mind. He admits to the audience his thoughts “Black and deep desire” and calls upon the stars not to shine their light on his thoughts.
After reading a letter from Macbeth telling Lady Macbeth about the witches and Duncan’s visit, she vows to kill the king and persuades Macbeth to join her. A messenger comes to tell Lady Macbeth that King Duncan will arrive to night. She is excited and sees it as the perfect opportunity to make Macbeth King. She invites the spirits of evil to enter her and to take away her natural womanliness and to fill her instead with the worst of bitterness, wickedness and cruelty, She does not want any natural feeling of regret or convience to get in her way of what she intends to do. Also to hide her thoughts so not even the forces of heaven can see through “Blanket of the dark”. She knows she has to steel herself to come up with a plan to help Macbeth “ Unsex me here” Act 1 scene 3 line 40.
But at the beginning of Act 1 scene 7, it is difficult to see what state of mind Macbeth is in. His words seem too decisive him, as he does not want to kill his
Cousin and the King of Scotland. When Macbeth comes to tell her of Duncan’s arrival and that he will be leaving the next day. She predicts that he will never see another day’s sunrise “O never shall sun that morrow see”. He even lists reasons why he should not kill the king. Killing Duncan would cause an outcry “Like angels, trumpet-tongued” and he would be condemned to “deep domination”. He is worried about heaven but he is more worried “but here, upon this bank and shoal of time” here and now that he runs a risk of it happening to him. The only thing driving him on is his selfish ambition.
Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth to deceive their guest and to hide his real thoughts on his face. She tells him to be more like a poisonous serpent that lies hidden beneath an innocent flower. That he must become better at deceiving people and becoming evil if he wants to achieve his ambition “Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under’t” . Lady Macbeth is a great deceiver and has no difficulty hiding her thoughts. She becomes obsessed with the news sent by Macbeth, so when Macbeth has a change of heart she immediately hatches a plan to attack everything he cares about, to persuade him to kill Duncan. She tautes him by his musculliaty “When you durst do it, then you we’re a man” Act 1 scene 7 line 48, and she says that he cannot love her if he doesn’t kill Duncan “From this time such I account thy love” Act 1 scene 7 line 38. But the only reason she wanted Macbeth to kill Duncan is due to the fact that she could only claim her glory though her husband deeds “Great Glamis! Worthy Cawdor Greater than both by the all hail increater”. Her glory is to become Queen of Scotland! But Macbeth still keeps changing his mind about killing Duncan. He is persuaded to go ahead by the determined Lady Macbeth.
Macbeth tells the audience “This even-handed justice/ Commends the ingredience of our poisoned chalice/ to our own lips”. This shows his guilt. He wrestles with his conscience. “We will proceed no further in the business?” Macbeth no longer wants to go ahead with the deed. Macbeth changes his mind again after Lady Macbeth calls him a coward and starts a powerful speech to persuade him.
The worst thing is that she says she cannot kill Duncan as he reminds her of her father, so in away she forces Macbeth to kill Duncan as she won’t kill him herself “Had he not resembled my father as he slept, I had done’t”. Then she tells him that it was his idea in the first place, so backing out now would mean that he is a chicken “what heast was’t then that made you break this enterprise to me?”
As a final aim to make him commit the murder, she hatches up a final attack and uses terrible and violent images of their baby and it also gives him a shock to carry on “I would while it was smiling in my face. Have Plucked my nipple from his boneless gums, and dash’d the brains out.” Act 1 scene 7 lines 56-58. She seems to have joined the forces of evil when saying that to Macbeth. She uses very forceful language and conjures up images of horror. She is also trying to say that what he is just about to do is not as bad as what she is talking about. But Macbeth turns around and says to her “ If we should fail “ Act 1 scene 7 lines 60. This shows how concerned he is and lady Macbeth notices this and replies “We fail?” this to me sounds like she knows they will not fail. So why ask the question! “Will it not be received when we have marked with blood those sleepy two of his own chambers” Act 1 scene 7 lines 74-76, This tell us that all that persuading from Lady Macbeth has worked and now Macbeth will go though with the crime. He has crumbles under this attack from his wife especially when his bravery is questioned.
Macbeth later sees several visions and cannot tell whether they are real or imaginary. Macbeth wonders if he is going insane. They are symbols of the power of evil spirits and the evil that is growing in his heart. After seeing a dagger covered in blood he goes to do the murder.
Lady Macbeth is ‘his dearest partner of greatness’ (power/ supremacy), greatness is promised her. Macbeth may have the desire to become King and Lady Macbeth drives him on but we should remember who first had the idea of seizing power.
She thinks he lacks ruthlessness while she will stop at nothing. She refers to ruthlessness as an “Illness” (evil) which Macbeth does not have. She knew that her husband would take any opportunity that came his way but only if his honor were honest, and does not play falsely. He still wanted to be king even though it was not by right. She decides she will have to help him.
The witches play upon Macbeth’s weakness and so does his ambitious wife, Lady Macbeth. Macbeth thinks the witches’ supernatural powers will help him but instead they lead to his downfall. They only told him of his own ambition would come true but they did not say how. It was Macbeth who harbored the ideas of kingship in his head and all the witches had to do was make Macbeth believe his greatest prize was near and that their propacy would help. Lady Macbeth part is persuading Macbeth to kill King Duncan is crucial. Her determination to make Macbeth king overcomes all his doubt. When Macbeth writes to his wife. Macbeths was ambitious but his concience was troubled by what would happen. He is clear about the reasons why he should not kill the King and the consequences it would have. But he is also tempted by the witches predictions which all seem to be coming true. When it comes to the night his better judgement is overcome by his wife’s accusations about his lack of courage and her determination for him to be crowned King. Or you could say Macbeth was a victim of evil forces.