The play ‘Macbeth’ gives the audience plenty of opportunities to consider the reasons for the main character Macbeth deciding to kill Duncan the king. In this essay I will consider how Shakespeare’s super natural characters, the three witches play a part in driving Macbeth to kill the king. They visit Macbeth with three predictions, one of which tells him that which is already true, that he is the Thane of Glamis, one telling him that he will be Thane of Cowador, and the final prediction tells him that he will eventually become king of Scotland. Other factors that contribute to Duncan’s murder are Macbeth’s own ambition, and Lady Macbeth, whose great greed inspires her to take control of the situation.
There are many different parts in the play that shows that the witches have supernatural powers. ‘But in a sieve ill tither sail.’ This was thought to be a common practice for witches, they would fly in sieves over the sea and make strong winds and storms so that it would damage the ships that were in the sea. Another example of the witches having supernatural powers is when one of the witches put a curse on the sailor ‘He shall live a man forbid.’ The witches have the power to put curses on people and they are evil enough to do so, also the witches had limits of what they can do. ‘Though his bark cannot be lost.’ Witches were not allowed to actually kill anyone, which is probably why the witches didn’t kill the sailor they only put a curse on him. Another example of the witches supernatural powers are shown when they tell
Macbeth the last prediction, ‘All hail Macbeth that shalt be king hereafter.’ The witches have predicted the future as Macbeth does later become the king of Scotland. The witches also had the power to control the weather, ‘I’ll give thee a wind.’ They chose to use their powers in an evil and bad way.
In the play Shakespeare has made the witches very evil characters. It starts straight away by describing the scenery and atmosphere, ‘in thunder, lightning or in rain.’ This creates an evil atmosphere and a dramatic, immediate impact on the audience. ‘upon the heath.’ The heath is a very isolated and derelict place it is like the witches are meeting there so no one will see what they are doing. The witches are meeting in darkness, ‘That will be ere the set of sun.’ they are being secretive and something they shouldn’t.
Throughout the play the witches seem to always be doing something evil, ‘When the hurly burly’s done.’ This makes the witches sound like there up to no good as hurly burly means turmoil and trouble.
The downfall of Macbeth begins early on in the play when he and Banquo (a fellow Scottish noble) meet the witches. The witches waylay Macbeth and Banquo whilst they were on their way to meet Duncan, King of Scotland. They decide to listen to the witches, out of sheer curiosity. The three witches greet Macbeth as “Thane of Glamis”, the title he already holds, and begin to tell the two nobles of things to come, and prophesies that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor, and the King of Scotland. Macbeth asks how they know of his current title, and laughs at the following two prophesies. The witches ignore his questions, and tell Banquo of how he will not be king, but his sons will be kings. Instead of just ignoring the witches, the statement of his current title intrigues Macbeth and he follows the witches to try and get them to tell him more. “Stay you imperfect speakers, tell me more” says Macbeth, showing that he is indeed interested in what the witches have to say. The witches disappear, and Macbeth dismisses them, and he and Banquo ride off. The witches appearance, and Macbeth becoming intrigued may amount to his downfall, but I believe that they were merely the ‘helping hand’ for Macbeth who’s own weak will and other events where the catalyst for his eventual death.
At this point, Macbeth is still a highly respected man, and is about to get more respect from Duncan, for defending Scotland from the invading forces of Norway. The messengers who tell Duncan of Macbeth’s deeds portray him as a man of great courage, who showed no fear in the battles. Duncan sends a messenger to tell Macbeth of his reward for his great deeds. Two messengers to greet Macbeth with the news of Duncan’s reward: he is to be made Thane of Cawdor. “Why do you dress me in borrowed robes?” asks the startled Macbeth, as the messengers begin to explain how the last Thane of Cawdor was helping the Norwegians invade. Aside, he says, “Two truths are told, as happy prologues to the swelling act…” obviously relating to the first two prophecies the witches made. He now asks Banquo, aside, whether or not he believes the witches now that Macbeth’s second prophecy has come true. Banquo says he is wary and that he really doesn’t want anything to do with these witches, but he will merely sit back and let the prophecies run their course. Macbeth seemingly decides to follow Banquo’s idea, and makes an agreement with himself “If chance will have me king, why, chances may crown me, without my stir”.
Macbeth decides to write to his wife and tell her of his new title, a fatal mistake in my opinion, since his wife reacts to the letter in a totally unexpected way. All of a sudden, Lady Macbeth decides to make a push to get her husband to make the effort to fulfil the third prophecy.
Meanwhile, Duncan names his son as the next king, and Macbeth becomes bitter, and looks towards the prophecies for his next move; “That is a step on which I must fall down, or else o’erleap…” Clearly Macbeth has decided that he will now ‘stir’, and make some move to become king.
Back with Lady Macbeth at Macbeth’s castle, she is reading Macbeth’s letter. She reads about his new title, and the mentions of the witches’ prophecies. Lady Macbeth first starts off by thinking about how she can get her husband to become a king, and concludes that she’ll have to make some effort to get her husband to do whatever it takes to get him to be king. A messenger, who brings news that Duncan wishes to stay at Macbeth’s castle, interrupts her thoughts. Lady Macbeth decides, almost instantly, that she will persuade her husband to kill Duncan so he can become king.
Whilst in the middle of her thoughts, Macbeth returns home. They talk, and Lady Macbeth brings up the subject of getting rid of Duncan so he can be king. Macbeth appears shocked although was secretly thinking the same thing, and tries to dismiss the idea. Underneath, however, he wants to go along with the idea so he can become king. His underlying motives become clear when he decides that he will do the evil thing, and is going to kill Duncan. “We will speak further,” he says, making his intentions apparent to the audience. Although unsure, he will not totally dismiss the idea, and is even considering it. Lady Macbeth now knows that she has him within her grasp, and she will now make sure that she wins him completely over. In my opinion, not making his mind up creates a chance for Lady Macbeth. She sees this uncertainty and later exploits his unwillingness to make decisions.
A short while later, Duncan arrives, accompanied by all of his Thanes. They all feast, and drink to the success of the battle against Norway. As the night wears on, Macbeth has to time to contemplate the consequences of killing Duncan. Macbeth makes the moral decision not to proceed saying;
“We will proceed no further in this business. He (Duncan) hath honoured me of late, and I have bought golden opinions from all sorts of people, which would be worn now in the newest gloss, not cast aside so soon”.
Macbeth attempts to give excuse for not proceeding, but fails to give any proper reasons for it. The only advantage he sees for not killing Duncan is that he respects him, and by killing him it would be disrespecting him. I believe that this is not a valid reason for committing murder, and shows Macbeth’s underlying ambition to become king. By putting forward pithy excuses Macbeth makes his ambition very clear to the reader. Lady Macbeth is not swayed by his pathetic excuses, and she knows that secretly, Macbeth wants the same things she does. In an attempt to convince Macbeth to continue with the plan, she first insults his manhood “When you durst do it, you were a man; And to be more than what you were, you would be so much more the man…”and accuses him of being cowardly for not sticking to the plan. She then attacks his ego further by saying “From this time such I account thy love” and accuses him of not loving her. For Macbeth, this is the final straw, and he gives in. Lady Macbeth plans the murder.
Lady Macbeth plays a major role in influencing her husband to take the path that he does. She is the catalyst that effectively unleashes Macbeth’s true side of evil. Throughout the play we can see that she has a strong influence on him and is a primary cause for increasing Macbeth’s ambition. Lady Macbeth’s words to her husband as well as her many powerful soliloquies show us her great desire to become Queen and hence urge Macbeth to murder Duncan as well as begin his reign of tyranny. However, in no way can Lady Macbeth be seen as the sole influence on Macbeth. Although Macbeth appears to be greatly subordinate to his wife in terms of levels of evil, he is still an extremely ambitious and powerful character. She greatly helps him throughout the play to get him through various problems. In the earlier acts of the play we can see that Lady Macbeth’s words mean a lot to her husband, giving the impression that she is definitely the dominant figure in the relationship. Lady Macbeth has a strong influence on her husband and is a sole reason why Macbeth acts as he did.
Lady Macbeth is an influence on her husband in many different ways, for many different reasons. The reader discovers that as soon as she opens her husband’s letter she immediately begins to scheme and plot, showing her true evil and aspiration. The audience is immediately aware that she wants Macbeth to become King so she can solemnly become Queen of Scotland. She is unsure whether Macbeth is too kind and without the evil that needs to merge with his already prominent ambition. As said in her famous soliloquy, “I fear…is too full’o the milk of human kindness, to catch the nearest way,” . For this reason, she influences him greatly into the prospect of murdering the king. The thought of becoming Queen pushes her and causes her to act outrageously. Macbeth is slightly doubtful of her plan to kill the King, however Lady Macbeth subtly bombards him with comments that question his courage and by saying that his love is worth nothing if he refuses to go through with the plan. She says “screw your courage to the sticking-place,” to make him more evil and confident about his actions.
Although Lady Macbeth may be a strong cause for Macbeth’s reign of tyranny, she still greatly helps him through uncomfortable situations. She supports and helps him throughout his gradual decline. Because Macbeth is not completely certain of the success of the devious plan, he is greatly assisted by his wife. Lady Macbeth is worried that her husband will give their plan away through his facial expressions so she gives him the advice, “look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under’t,” (pg.00). When Macbeth tells his wife that he will not do it she turns on him and starts to insult him by telling him he is a coward “and live a coward in thine own esteem,” (pg.00). Lady Macbeth uses this because she knows that he is a known as a brave soldier, in hope that he will defend himself by carrying out the murder.
In conclusion, Macbeth did have three other forces that motivated him to commit his evil acts and bring a whole lot of chaos to Scotland. The three forces; the witches prophecies of him being king and planting the seed, his own ambition to be king and hold that title and Lady Macbeth’s constant pushing and well thought of plans all added to his motivation of committing these many evil crimes. Although in the end Macbeth dies, his carnage and chaos still left a mess behind. All in all, Macbeth should be blamed for these acts, but without just one of these motivations wasn’t there, then none of this would have happened.