The witches meet on the heath as previously planned, Macbeth and his companion Banquo stubble across the woman. They are completely oblivious to the fact that the witches have been waiting for them. This scene is the most critical so far and lays the foundation for the changes in Macbeth’s unblemished persona. The witches say firstly to Macbeth “All hail Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis”. This does not perturb Macbeth as he already holds the title of Thane of Glamis, inherited from his father. The witches then go onto say “All hail Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor” followed by “All hail Macbeth that shalt be King hereafter.” This instantly raises Macbeth’s interest, and already his ambitious streak begins to show through, but he initially dismisses the witch’s prophecies.
Almost immediately after the witches departure Macbeth is advised of the downfall of the current Thane of Cawdor, and of his successor. Macbeth is shocked that the witches second prophecy has come true, but he instantly begins to aspire to be King “The greatest is yet to come”. The flaws in Macbeth’s character begin to show and his greed and yearning for the third prophecy, to become king, begins to take root.
Macbeth confides his thoughts to his wife via a letter. Lady Macbeth is also very ambitious, but feels her husband is too nice. He has not got what it takes to murder the King, we see this when she reads the letter from Macbeth:
Act 1 Scene 5 “Yet do I fear thy nature, it is too full o’th’milk of human kindness”.
Throughout Act 1 Scene 7 she uses every trick in the book to persuade Macbeth to commit the crime, including belittling him, tormenting him and even using emotional blackmail:
Act 1 Scene 7 “From this time, such I account thy love”.
Macbeth is ultimately persuaded and goes on to murder the King. After the death of Duncan he is plagued with guilt and it is apparent that it was only personal gain and greed that made him commit the murder. He actually considered Duncan a good King. We have evidence of this in:
Act 1 Scene 7 - “ Besides, this Duncan
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued against
The deep damnation of his taking –off”
Macbeth seems to be a very weak man, tempted by the witches initial prophecies and bullied by his very strong and ambitious wife, who it seems had little compassion and even less conscience. She only had a great yearning to be the wife of the King.
As the play progresses the power trip for Macbeth begins to snowball. After being crowned King and meeting with the witches for a second set of prophesies, which make him believe he is infallible, he starts to become very complacent. He starts to believe that nothing and no one can stop him. By the end of the play his thirst for power has become paramount and he thinks of little else. He had his companion Banquo murdered, and the family of Macduff butchered all in his quest to keep his secret and remain on the throne. Even in the later event of Lady Macbeth’s suicide he seems to show very little remorse.
I do feel however that Macbeth was a victim, a weak man that initially allowed others to manipulate him, until finally there was no going back. In the fight to prevent his bad deeds being found out his crimes continued. He was trying to cover his tracks but was actually digging himself a far deeper hole. Once the witches had put the ideas in his head, sowed the seeds so to speak. It only took Lady Macbeth to nurture the seeds and begin the evil roller coaster of events.
Towards the end of the play it seems Macbeth is very vulnerable and exposed. He was a very greedy man and was tempted by things that were wrong. I think if chance had not led Macbeth to the witches or if Duncan had not visited Macbeth’s home the story may have been very different. He was an extremely ambitious man who gained power by ill-gotten means. But in his quest to hang on to his dream he lost his grip on reality. His wife and the witches were his initial downfall, however his own ambition and greed was inevitably his worst enemy.
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This pupil has dealt with the question well. They have used evidence from the text but a more detailed look at language would have improved this.