Macbeth - Responsibility

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In the play there are many evil deeds that Macbeth committed. These include the murders of Duncan and Banquo, Lady Macduff and her son. Macbeth is also responsible for Scotland's disorder. Macbeth plays the main role in each incident, with the other characters being only minor and undeveloped; acting as vehicles for Macbeth's actions. It is possible that it is not entirely Macbeth's fault for the evil deeds in the play.

In Act II, Scene II Macbeth is patented as a hero, when he defeated Norway in war for his country.

'O valiant cousin, worthy gentleman'

Initially, the Elizabethan audience consider Macbeth as a respectable and well like character. We do however learn that appearances can be deceptive which corresponds with the main theme; 'Fair is foul, Foul is fair' which is referred to a lot throughout the play. This theme is first introduced in Act I, Scene I where the witches foretell the struggle between the forces of evil and good in which Macbeth is to be involved. It is also an indication that all will not be as it seems. This portrays a character as being much worse if the audience's first impressions of that character were positive. Macbeth's meeting with the witches brings a prediction which symbolises the beginning of Macbeth's downfall.

FIRST WITCH: All hail Macbeth, hail to thee Thane of Glamis SECOND WITCH: All hail Macbeth, hail to thee Thane of Cawdor. THIRD WITCH: All hail Macbeth, that shalt be King hereafter.

Macbeth is startled when he hears this prophecy. He believes that his title is still Thane of Glamis; yet here he has just been told that he shall be King. He does not know Macdonwald who has been sentenced to death for betraying his country. The witches plant the idea of being King into Macbeth's mind, which has encourages Macbeth to consider his future. In his soliloquy, the audience learn about Macbeth's initial plan to murder Duncan so that he shall have power and position earlier, thus destroying the natural order.

'My thought, whose murther is yet but fantastical.'

Macbeth sent a letter to Lady Macbeth outlining the witches' prophecy. He also consults her concerning his plans. This is how Macbeth reduces some of the responsibility of the incident of the murder by accepting her guidance and advice.

It becomes apparent that Macbeth is somewhat of a moral coward. This could be seen as a positive attribute as it shows the weaknesses of Macbeth, and asks could Macbeth be fully responsible if he is not totally independent? He changes his mind about the murder a number of times. He deceives Banquo by telling him he is going to let the natural order prevail but then changes his mind again when Duncan announces that his son Malcolm is to be his successor. Macbeth intends to destroy this. Macbeth has a change of heart before he reaches home until his wife persuades him that it can be done safely. Macbeth leaves the banquet that is to be Duncan's last, deciding not to do it. Finally Lady Macbeth questions Macbeth's manhood and persuades him to go through with the murder.

To be a man in Shakespearean times meant to have strong personality and being able to fight and kill with no remorse. This is a recurrent theme in the play as Macbeth's masculinity is undermined on several occasions by Lady Macbeth. Macbeth is brave when it comes to thought but when he is faced with the action, he hesitates and has to be persuaded into action by his wife. He does, however use the knowledge of the prophecy of the witches, as security.

'All hail Macbeth, that shalt be King hereafter.'

During this intense time, Macbeth is hesitant and his weakness is shown in the way he seeks to put off the murder. He had doubts. Macbeth came under constant pressure from Lady Macbeth.

'Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?'

This shows that Macbeth is not purely evil and that he has a conscience. This could make it easier for Macbeth by reducing some of the blame that could be...
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