"This dead butcher and his fiend-like Queen" Is this a fair assessment of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth?

Authors Avatar

“This dead butcher and his fiend-like Queen”

Is this a fair assessment of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth?

The initial thing that I must do is try to define what is meant by the descriptions; “dead butcher” and “fiend-like Queen”. Of course “dead” and “Queen” need no explanation as the characters were plainly these things.  By butcher I think it is meant to signify that the speaker of these lines; Malcolm, Duncan’s son, believed that Macbeth was an unthinking killer, and a killer of many it also denotes that he was, like a butcher, strong and skilled in his field, though not necessarily brave, as a butcher only kills defenceless animals. Malcolm wanted to say that Macbeth was a slaughterer of masses of people who, when murdered where defenceless. Like King Duncan in his sleep, and Macduff’s family, though he was not directly the murderer of the Macduffs, he did order the massacre.

With Lady Macbeth being described as “fiend-like” Malcolm sought to make out that Lady Macbeth was a cruel and wicked person, that she was inhuman and like a devil that is an agent of Satan, just as witches were, at that time, considered to be. An interesting definition of fiend is that of a fanatic-“a person motivated by irrational enthusiasm” (quote from Google ‘fiend definition’.[http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&lr=&oi=defmore&defl=en&q=define:fiend]). I do however find it interesting to note that Malcolm did not say she was a fiend, but merely that she was fiend-like, which is, at least in part, accurate as Lady Macbeth has said a few witch-like things, but I will explain that later on.

Macbeth; is it fair to say that he is, or was in any part of the play a ‘Butcher’. In the first scene that we hear of Macbeth [Act 1 Scene 2] he is a brutal and strong fighter, as on the battle field “his brandished steel,/Which smoked with bloody execution” we learn from that that he killed so many that his sword “smoked” from the heat of the blood as there was so much. The other important proof of Macbeth’s brutal strength and a depiction of a kind of butchery in the sense of a man who carves meat is when Macbeth is described as having “unseamed him nave to th’ chops”, a difficult manoeuvre with the heavy weapons of the time. However Macbeth’s butchery on the battlefield merely earns him respect and praise “brave Macbeth”, “O valiant cousin”, as he is fighting for the king and for ‘good’ at least so from the king’s point of view. Even though Macbeth is already a butcher of a kind, it is at this point that Macbeth is at his most valiant and praised, we could say he was ‘at the top of his game’, it is after this that Macbeth hears the witches’ prophesies and the seeds are set in his mind that will spell his downfall. Although at first he does immediately think of bloodily murdering the king “why do I yield to that suggestion,/Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair,” which would of course be more killing, more butchery, he does not think of that for long and decides to wait and see if chance, fate, will make him king. “If chance will have King, why chance/ May crown me”.

In Act 1 Scene 4 Malcolm is announced as the heir, not Macbeth, it may have been at this point that Macbeth realised that murder was the  only way for him to be King “that is a step,/ On which I must fall down, or else o’erleap,” He believes this until in act 1 scene 7 he lays down all the reasons for and against killing Duncan during a soliloquy he has many reasons against; consequences all the way to the afterlife, the he is a good King, the king is chosen by God, so a crime against the king is the same a crime against God and other reasons against the murder, he can only come up with one reason to commit regicide, and that is of his “Vaulting ambition”, he wants to be King. At this point I think it would be fair to say that Macbeth is not a butcher in the way which Malcolm meant it, as he is not some unthinking killer, he has thought long and hard about the consequences and I believe, though he does not state it outright, he decides not to kill Duncan as it would bring more harm than good. However shortly after his speech and decision, Lady Macbeth enters the scene and he offers only one point of opposition to the murder, perhaps indicating that he doesn’t really want not to do it, as in the previous scene he could think of many reasons not to kill Duncan, and so, why not give many reasons to her, really he wants her to convince him, although this does not make him a ‘butcher’ and soon she does persuade Macbeth to kill Duncan by taunting and insulting him.

Join now!

Macbeth then, in act 2, kills the King; however it drives him mad  After the murder Macbeth thinks that there is not enough water in the world to wash the blood from his hands “all great Neptune’s ocean wash the blood…my hand will rather/ The multitudinous seas incarnadine.” Surely if he was a mindless killer, a butcher, would not fear a little blood. On the battlefield he was not afraid, but if he were truly a butcher then surely nothing he killed, slaughtered even would agitate him. Also after the murder he “could not say Amen” showing that he had ...

This is a preview of the whole essay