Macbeth by William Shakespeare coursework piece:

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Archie Mustafa                                                                                     13th February 2007

Macbeth by William Shakespeare coursework piece:

Who is to blame for the tragedy?

The play, Macbeth, is the last of Shakespeare’s four great tragedies. The Scottish play raises many questions, however, I am going to focus on what made Macbeth commit some of the most terrible deeds in Scottish history. In the play, Shakespeare adds a sense of the supernatural that conspires against Macbeth and Scotland. The play is set in Scotland where Macbeth is a triumphant, brave soldier who is the co-leader of the Scottish army and is a national hero. His loyal reputation increases due to further victories against the Norwegians but all of this soon changes as a prophecy leads him to believe that he will be King of Scotland. This takes Macbeth on a bloody rise to power and, on the way, he ends up committing the horrible deed of regicide. Is this prophecy the beginning of a guilt ridden path of evil, generating still more cowardly, evil actions which results in his death and downfall? Macbeth’s rise to power and his reign over Scotland is very corrupt and during this time the natural order of the country is overturned causing everyone to live in an atmosphere of suspicion and fear. However, the real question is, was Macbeth completely to blame, and what made him actually embark on his treacherous path of murder.

I am now going to focus on the characters in the play that may have driven Macbeth to commit the terrible crimes. Firstly, the witches, the evil trio who have a profound influence over Macbeth and his actions. They are the first characters that we see in the play, therefore showing their importance. The witches immediately establish their connection to the supernatural as they have met in foul weather upon the heath; they speak of ‘thunder’, ‘lightning’, ‘fog and filthy air’. This introduces the play in a dark, dangerous manner, in which the theme is evil. The witch’s words seem to contradict each other ‘Fair is foul and foul is fair’, is confusing and gives the audience an idea of the conflict between illusion and reality. These words echo Macbeth’s first words in the play, ‘So foul and fair a day I have not seen.’ The witch’s words are in Macbeth’s mouth, showing that somehow Macbeth is associated with the witches and their evil. The evil trio further exert their power over Macbeth as they target him at exactly the right time, when he is returning from a battle, full of triumph and is fresh from killing. The witches greet Macbeth and his friend Banquo with three prophecies, two being predictions. The first is, ‘All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Glamis.’ Macbeth is already Thane of Glamis, showing that they have singled him out specifically. The second prophecy predicts ‘All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor.’ This comes as a surprise to Macbeth. The last prophecy which seems almost unbelievable is ‘All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, that shalt be king hereafter.’ They also tell Banquo that he will not be king himself but later an ancestor of a king however, he doesn’t seem very concerned. Soon after the witch’s second prophecy, a messenger arrives and gives Macbeth the news that he is now Thane of Cawdor! I think from this moment on in the play the witches have great control over Macbeth as he is led to believe that the witches are in control of a bright future for him. He soon begins to think about the prospect of becoming king as one of the witch’s predictions has already become true, so he thinks to himself why can’t the other prophecy come true? Banquo warns Macbeth that these are acts of evil, ‘The instruments of darkness tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s in deepest consequence,’ but Macbeth doesn’t seem to take much notice. Later in the play we see that Macbeth sometimes totally relies on the witch’s predictions because he has lost control to them and has no one else to turn to. Although Macbeth puts all his faith in the witches and their predictions, we later learnt that the witch’s apparitions are equivocal as they don’t tell the whole truth. His ambition and greed led him into this disarray by becoming dependant on prophecies that seemed to grant him everything he desired.  

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I am now going to focus on Lady Macbeth who I felt played a big part in persuading and encouraging Macbeth to kill the King of Scotland so that he could rule quicker and therefore fulfil the witch’s final prophecy.

Once Macbeth is granted the title Thane of Cawdor, which leads him to believe he could be king, he writes to Lady Macbeth to excite her interest. Once she receives the letter, she is very quick thinking, ambitious and precise about her actions making the decision that her husband will soon become king, ‘Glamis thou art, and ...

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