Jan-Sher Bhatti 10MS English Coursework-Macbeth 20/01/03
“this dead butcher, and his fiend-like queen”. Are these words by Malcolm an appropriate epitaph for Macbeth and Lady Macbeth?
Malcolm says this epitaph after Macduff has severed Macbeth’s head and walks into the castle. Macduff then informs his companions to proclaim “Hail, King of Scotland!” signifying he is King, which all of his companions declare. Then Malcolm states that he and everyone else will not waste their time. Malcolm also says to his Thanes and Kinsmen to be hereby known as Earls, which is what the British Thanes were called. In the same speech he exclaims that the people that fled to England (himself, Malcolm, and his brother, Donalbain) knew what Scotland had produced and he describes Macbeth as a “butcher” and Lady Macbeth as a “fiend-like Queen”, but is this true?
Malcolm describes Macbeth as a “butcher” as he feels he mercilessly killed people. Below are some points that support Malcolm’s view of Macbeth.
The first sign of Macbeth becoming a “butcher” is when Macbeth and Lady Macbeth plan to murder King Duncan whilst he is sleeping; this occurs in Act 1 Scene 7, although it is Lady Macbeth that persuades him to do it.
In Act 3 Scene 1, we can see the first steps that Macbeth is becoming a “butcher” as he plans the death of Banquo and Fleance whilst they travel on horseback. He tells the murderers to take revenge on Banquo because it is Banquo’s fault and not his own fault that they do not have any luxuries. He whispers,
“That is was he in the times past which held you
So under fortune, which you thought had been
Our innocent self.”
He tries to persuade them that becoming assassins will make them ‘real’ men. This shows that Macbeth is becoming a butcher because he has planned to kill, firstly the King whom he served, and then an old friend.
Another point in the play where Macbeth is becoming more and more like a “butcher” is when Macbeth goes to see the Weird Sisters for a second time in Act 4 Scene 1. He becomes so annoyed he exclaims;
The very firstlings of my heart shall be
The firstlings of my hand.
What Macbeth means here is that whatever his heart wants he will do that straight away, e.g. if his heart wants to kill then he will kill with his hands. This quotation also shows the reader or viewer that Macbeth’s heart is becoming more and more bitter and he is also becoming more resentful.