Topics: Macbeth, Death Penalty, Murder Pages: 6 (1017 words) Published: February 19, 2013
   Gazing afar the galaxy of poets, none shines as brightly as William Shakespeare. His

ingenious depiction of characters, uncanny medley of vocabulary, and use of rhetorical

devices was unprecedented. Shakespeare, in the play Macbeth, examines the

psychological aspect of crime. He puts forth an interesting notion – that one could be

easily shocked by crimes which appear abruptly in their full magnitude, but alleviated by

the stratagem of self-deceit, one could be negligent of the gradual growth of one’s own

wickedness as a consequence, which ultimately triggers more crimes. As Macbeth kills

Duncan, Banquo, and Macduff’s family, he undergoes a subtle change in character, and

ultimately becomes the tyrannical ruler portrayed in the end.

    Following the atrocious act of murdering Duncan, Macbeth, though engulfed by guilt,

immediately contemplates yet another crime. A major distinction can be seen between the

first and second great crime pertaining Macbeth’s judgment. Prior to the murder of

Duncan, a virtuous Macbeth shows reluctance towards temptation and sees the witches’

prophesy as merely a daunting yet inevitable burden. It is not through Lady Macbeth’s

persistent instigation when he finally takes up the dagger. Afterwards, the last vestige of a

righteous Macbeth has already begun to fade away, and in its place, an avaricious and

selfish criminal. Notably, he says to the murderers, “So he is mine; and in such bloody

distance that every minute of his being thrusts against my near’st of life” (3.1.115-117),

meaning that every minute of Banquo’s existence eats away at his heart. His revulsion

towards Banquo is emphasized by the hyperbole which demonstrates that he would

secure his crown at the cost of betrayal. Moreover, Macbeth quotes, “Come, seeling night,

scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day and with thy bloody and invisible hand cancel and

tear to pieces that great bond which keeps me pale. […] Good things of day begin to

droop and drowse; […] Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill” (3.2.46-55). In

contrast to the first great crime, Macbeth has taken the role as the conspirer of murder.

The apostrophe used in addressing night shows that Macbeth is seeking the assistance of

darkness to conceal his future crimes. “Great bond” refers to Banquo’s lineage of kings,

which Macbeth hopes to avert through the Fleance’s death. In doing so, Macbeth is

willing to let his “good things of day”, which metaphorically represent his conscience,

“droop and drowse”, which shows his intention to clear any remnants of goodness. The

last phrase translates into “bad deeds force you to commit more bad deeds”. Since

Macbeth has gained power through violence, he needs to retain it the same way. Crime

has breached Macbeth’s mind which led him to his second great crime.

   When Banquo is killed, Macbeth becomes even more reckless in his path to

tyranny. Macbeth quotes, as he decides to revisit the witches, “I am in blood, stepped in

so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o'er” (3.4.135–137).

The vivid imagery of blood emphasizes his burden of bad deeds and the impossibility of

atonement, which pushes him to commit more crimes. Furthermore, Macbeth becomes

outraged in hearing about Macduff’s desertion, and says,

Time, thou anticipat’st my dread exploits. The flighty purpose never is o’ertook unless the deed go with it […] I’ll raid Macduff’s castle, seize the town of Fife, and kill his wife, his children, […] No boasting like a fool. This deed I’ll do before this purpose cool. But no more sights” (4.1.144-156).

Even more so than before, he refrains from evaluating the consequences and purpose of 

his actions, as suggested by “This deed I’ll do before this purpose cool”. His mind has 

now deteriorated to the point that he is consciously forcing himself to be arbitrary and 

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