The Most Responsible for Killing Duncan in “Macbeth” Essay Sample
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The Most Responsible for Killing Duncan in “Macbeth” Essay Sample
In this essay I will be debating, on the bases of Act 1 of Macbeth, who is most responsible for killing Duncan the king of Scotland. I will consider all the factors that may have influenced Macbeth and I will measure and assess every ones contributions. Though it was Macbeth that commits the murder I will evaluate if he is solely responsible. The other characters I will be comparing are the Witches and Lady Macbeth.
The Play is about Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and their journey to the throne. If it is looked at in depth it shows that some people will do anything in the name of ambition. Ambition can turn the most loyal and noble man into and evil murderer. Ambition can make people manipulative and test relationships, morals and sense. Macbeth also has the theory that “fair is foul an foul is fair” (Act-1 Scene-1 Line-12) or that things aren’t as they seem running through it.
In my opinion the best way to show how each character is guilty is to use the metaphor of dynamite. The spark to light the fuse is the idea that the Witches put in Macbeth’s head. The fuse its self is Lady Macbeth as she is the one that keeps the spark alive in Macbeth as the play continues and then the dynamite its self or the explosion is Macbeth killing Duncan. This means that one thing doesn’t work without the other. You can have a harmless piece of dynamite if there is no spark to light it (Witches). You can have a lit piece of string that doesn’t cause any damage without something at the end (Macbeth) and without the fuse the spark doesn’t reach the dynamite (Lady Macbeth). This show that all characters are equally to blame, though they all play a different part of different magnitude, in the murder.
The Witches, or the spark for the events are the first to appear in the play. In the first scene they are planning their next meeting – “When shall we three meet again?” (Act-1 Scene-1 Line-1) – it is unclear of their intentions for the meeting other than “to meet with Macbeth.” (Act-1 Scene-1 Line-8) This lack of clarity makes us suspect the Witches plotting some kind of secret evil. It is at the end of this scene as the Witches leave that we first hear the idea of “fair is foul, and foul is fair.” We know how cruel the Witches are because we learn in act 1, scene 3 that one of the witches had a problem with a sailor’s wife. She wouldn’t give her any chestnuts. To get revenge she puts a spell on her husband helped by the other witches.
The sailor would be unable to sleep day or night. As they finish the spell Macbeth arrives and they greet him with Three titles. Firstly “Thane of Glamis” which is the title he inherited from his father. Secondly “Thane of Cawdor” which was the title of the traitor who aided the Norwegian invaders and who was to be executed (but Macbeth didn’t know this at the time) – it is also a higher-ranking title than Thane of Glamis. Finally the Witches hailed him “king” (Act-1 Scene-3 Lines-46, 47 and 48). This meant that the king had to die and to have chosen Macbeth as his heir. It may also have touched a nerve in Macbeth as he may have considered killing the king before to get the throne himself but thought better of it possibly because of weakness. If this is true it shows how sinister and manipulative the Witches really are. And if they did know about his secret ambition it shows that they have supernatural powers. They have never met him and know all about him. During the meeting with the Witches Macbeth looks “rapt” (Act-1 Scene-3 Line-55) and that makes us believe that the Witches may be putting a spell on him.
This was the spark and if this had not happened then Macbeth wouldn’t have told his wife so nothing would have happened in terms of the murder. Though the tragedy could have been avoided after the Witches had put the idea in Macbeth’s head the flame had been lit and the process was in motion. The Witches are partially responsible for killing Duncan but only for giving birth to the idea and therefore lighting the fuse of the dynamite.
The next phase is the fuse that carries the flame to the dynamite. This is represented by Lady Macbeth. After the idea is planted in Macbeth’s head she nurtures it and makes it grow. She keeps that little spark alive and draws it closer to Macbeth (the dynamite). When she receives Macbeth’s letter the fuse is lit. She reacts to the letter with a strange excitement – “shall be what thou art promised” (Act-1 Scene-5 Line-13/14) – This shows her ambition instantly and gives the impression that she is already thinking of a plan to make Macbeth the king. Her motives for this are questionable. There have been many productions of this play and in each the motives are portrayed differently. In the Judy Dench production it is portrayed that she and her husband are equals and that she wants the best for both of then (she is very ambitious for her husband) but in another production she is ambitious and power hungry. I think that the true motive is a mixture of both. She thinks very highly of her husband and believes that what he has accomplished has given him the right to the throne -“Great Glamis, worthy Cawdor, Greater than both by the all-hail hereafter” (Act-1 Scene-5 Line-53/54). She is determined that he should be king but she also knows the power that would give her.
Lady Macbeth is a very strong character and also very evil. She judges her husband in every way, she knows he is ambitious – “Art not without ambition” (Act-1 Scene-5 Line-17) – but she doesn’t think his ambition is enough and that he doesn’t have the “illness that should attend it.” (Act-1 Scene-5 Line-18) She also knows how brave and courageous he is but knows that that’s where his weakness lies. If his masculinity is challenged or his bravery is challenged he could rise to any challenge. In this respect Lady Macbeth is very clever and manipulative – “Was the hope drunk wherein you dressed yourself?” (Act-1 Scene-7 Line-35/36) – in using this to her advantage in her plan. She also puts herself in full control of everything – “leave the rest to me” (Act-1 Scene-5 Line-71) – which suggests that she doesn’t fully trust her husband to have the heart or have the evil in him to plan and carry out the deed – “too full of the milk of human kindness” (Act-1 Scene-5 Line-15).
The strong character of Lady Macbeth also has weaknesses, she realizes what she is planning to do and invites evil forces or “spirits” (Act-1 Scene-5 Line-38) into herself to enable her to do the deed and stop her from feeling guilty. This implies that as well as not trusting Macbeth with the plan she also doesn’t fully trust herself to be able to deal with the huge guilt and fear, fear or being found out or of the plan going wrong it is not possible to tell. She also asks the spirits to “unsex” her, this could be something to do with woman inferiority at the time the play is set (this could mean she wants to be more manly) but this is unlikely as it appears that Macbeth treats her as an equal so it is probable her asking for herself to be made ‘unhuman’ so she can do what she plans.
Lady Macbeth is not only responsible for continuing the spark of the witches for Macbeth but she also takes part in the ploy. She drugs the guards and plants the dagger on the guards after the murder. In my opinion Lady Macbeth is slightly more to blame for the murder of Duncan than the Witches but only as she had direct involvement in the events.
The main character in the play, Macbeth, committed the murder. He is the dynamite that explodes, but only after Lady Macbeth gets the spark that was started by the Witches close enough to him. She does this as I said by playing on his weaknesses.
Macbeth is talked about by a captain of the Scottish army before he appears in the play. He is portrayed as a “brave” and fearless warrior. He is obviously considered pivotal to success against any enemy. Macbeths violence is also implied – “unseamed him from nave to th’chaps and fixed his head upon our battlements” (Act-1 Scene-2 Line-22/23). – This can be looked at in two ways. The first is that Macbeth was truly a great warrior with a lot of strength. The other is that Shakespeare has already started to portray Macbeth as a cold blooded killer.
Macbeths first entrance echoes the Witches – “so foul and fair a day I have not seen” (Act-1 Scene-3 Line-36) – this again gives the message that not all is as it seems and that the Witches may have indeed put a spell on him. Macbeth reacts to this meeting as if he had been considering at least the prospect of being king and that the Witches had touched a nerve and lit the spark – “Good sir why do you start and seem to fear things that do sound so fair” (Act-1 Scene-3 Line-49/50). Despite this, I doubt Macbeth believed them to start with though he may have wanted the events they foretold to be true. After all anyone would want to believe news of good fortune no matter how strange the fortune, and its teller seem. Considering this, I doubt Macbeth is planning on getting the crown through murder in this particular scene. He is very happy to hear such good news but doesn’t start to believe the Witches until he is given the title of Thane of Cawdor by the messengers, Ross and Angus. At this point he is feeling overwhelmed so he turns to his wife for support and unknowingly passes the spark.
When Macbeth meets Duncan he expects to be named the heir to the throne because of his success on the battle field but more so because of what the Witches had said. Therefore he steps forward to take the credit. The king actually names his eldest son Malcolm his heir and this may have made Macbeth feel betrayed and possibly foolish. This makes Macbeth angry and decide that he is going to kill the king after all. I feel that at this point he is livid – ” black and deep desires” (Act-1 Scene-4 Line-51). When his wife suggests killing Duncan he says “We will speak further” (Act-1 Scene-5 Line-69) this shows he is considering the possibility but is still unsure. However at this point he won’t keep his word and this is confirmed later in the play when he makes the decision to “proceed no further” (Act-1 Scene-7 Line-31). We know what changes his mind but while doing this Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth to hide his feelings. This is something I think Macbeth may find naturally hard as it is something he hasn’t had to do before. All his feeling have been open, his love for his wife, his anger and violence on the battle field and even his love for his king.
Macbeth being the dynamite, therefore the killer, is naturally responsible for the murder but only as much as his wife in my opinion. He did not wish to do it but his wife changed his mind, planned it, and helped him actually do it.
To conclude the Witches are slightly responsible for the murder because they started everything by lighting the spark of ambition. That was then passed on and built up until it reached the end of its path in the mind of Macbeth. Lady Macbeth is more responsible, she not only carried the spark of ambition but that spark accumulated with her already existing ambition and turned into a flame. She also took and active part in the murder. Macbeth is just as responsible as his wife because even though he was the murderer, and that should mean that he is the one responsible, he didn’t want to do it was the spark of the Witches idea and the ambition of Lady Macbeth that left him open to manipulation and ultimately made him kill his king. In truth it doesn’t matter who is most responsible, the fact is that you need all the components to blow up a sick of dynamite so nothing would have happened without all parties involved.