4 December 2012
Betrayal, the Ultimate Deceit
Dame Judith Anderson states, “The story of a bad man who commits a crime is not a tragedy but a straightforward tale of evil. Macbeth, however, is about a good man who becomes evil, and that is a tragedy”. Macbeth’s character is not evil, he is in fact, no more evil than you or I. What creates this dark character of Macbeth that we become more familiar with as the drama goes on, is the result of his poor decisions. His moral downfall is ultimately his choice, but is greatly influenced by a recurring theme in the play; betrayal. The witches, whom Macbeth trusts and believes, betrayed him with the equivocations they spoke. Macbeth’s wife, his “greatest partner in greatness” (1.6.11), abuses the tender love they share and forsakes him by putting her own selfish ambitions above what he believes to be right, pressuring Macbeth to do an act that both know is incredibly sinful. Finally, Macbeth’s downfall is purely based on his betrayal to himself. Macbeth allows himself to be tempted by evil, and cheats himself out of what is truly good. Ultimately Macbeth’s moral disintegration was entirely his own choice, but was greatly influenced by the betrayal of both internal and external forces. True to the rumour that Macbeth is a cursed play full of evil, one of the true representations of darkness is the witches. The witches represent evil, tempting a man’s sinful nature by means of prophecy (Ribner 245). In the prophecies that the “Weird Sisters” told Macbeth, there was just as much truth in the words as a lie. “All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis!
All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!
All hail, Macbeth. Thou shalt be king hereafter!” (1.3.50-53) The witches tell Macbeth what he already has; the titles of thane of Cawdor and thane of Glamis. However, Macbeth has not yet received the crown. In fact, Malcolm has been named heir to the throne instead of Macbeth. This prophecy gets Macbeth thinking, “Glamis and thane of Cawdor, the greatest is behind” (1.3.23-24). The wheels in Macbeth’s complex mind begin to turn and think about what is said to come. In naming the titles that Macbeth already has, Macbeth is obliged to believe in the final prophecy that is to come; the crown. The witches influence our protagonist’s decisions by stirring up his deep desires that he himself may not have known he had within. The witches truly are quite clever creatures, they see Macbeth’s flaw of ambition and play on that as if the witches are puppeteers and Macbeth is the unfortunate puppet. However, Macbeth is not placed under a spell or forced into anything as the witches do not possess a supernatural power. They cannot read Macbeth’s mind nor can they control his actions. However, by looking at Macbeth’s facial expressions, body language and personality they can infer what passions drive macbeth and what makes him tick. Irving Ribner states in his article “Shakespeare for Students” that in the witches realizing that Macbeth desires the kingdom, they prophesy that he shall be king, thus arousing his passions and inflaming his imagination to the extent that nothing is but what is not. Through the truths that the witches tell, a lie is also uncovered. The witches give Macbeth a false sense of security with their fake images of truth. Macbeth gains his confidence from the truths that the witches speak, trusting that this dark power is what will give him the strength to succeed. A promise for greatness would make any human think about what they could have, keep in mind that greed is a sin that no man can be clean of (Ribner 244). It’s pretty doubtful that Macbeth would kill good King Duncan without this sneaky push from the witches equivocal prophecy of him becoming king. Along with the recurring theme of the witches nature to equivocate, they are also appear to be metaphysical and subversive beings. In believing the...