Shakespeare's shortest play, Macbeth, is also, consequently, his most shocking and intense. We see the essence of tragedy: in this case, the protagonist transforms himself from a noble warrior who is loyal to his king and fights for his county to a reduced tyrant by the play's end. Macbeth's divided soul which is in turmoil is the cause of his deterioration from a respected warrior to a despised tyrant.
Initially, Macbeth's turmoil within himself is apparent from the beginning of the play when we see that even his ambition is scattered, in a sense. Our first image of Macbeth is that of a courageous and selfless warrior by the wounded captain whom he had saved from certain death on the battlefield. But Macbeth's selflessness is transformed by consuming ambition, sparked by the intriguing prophecy which the Weird Sisters relay unto him. Inner turmoil arises within Macbeth because he lacks the strength of character to check his ambition. He is dominated by his wife, Lady Macbeth, whose ambition for her husband is great. Macbeth is plastic to his wife, in a sense. He allows her to manipulate him and does with him what she will, questioning his masculinity and causing greater confusion within himself. "When you durst do it, then you were a man
" (I, vii, 49). His wife's scorn is especially harsh. She states that she could even dash the brains out of her own child if she had made a promise like her husband's. The play implies that women can be as ambitious and cruel as men, yet due to the social constraints in place, these ambitions may not be pursued. Although the thoughts of murdering Duncan are there within him, Macbeth lacks the same kind of steely resolve which his wife possesses, but his lack of moral restraints and weak character allow him to give in to the temptation of greatness, of making a name for himself greater than just a loyal servantKing of Scotland. "Stars, hide your fires;/ Let not light see my black and deep desires" (I. iv. 50-51). He partly commits the atrocious crime out of love for his wife due to her influence over his fragmented spirit. He has no moral grounding and feels as though he must prove himself under his provocative wife that he is not a louse like the people around him. Macbeth, ultimately, appeals to his personal pride.
Macbeth's speech reflects his confused ambition through restlessness and indecision through a broken and disjointed style.
If it were done, when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly: if th'assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With surcease success
" (I. vii. 1-4)
He is uneven and his motives are not concrete. It is evident that he is trying to make his motives clear and justified.
He, himself, is hopelessly lost, scrambling for reasons to murder Duncan. His soul and mind are divided for the murder and although Macbeth is both a feared and revered warrior, to his enemies and to his country respectively, he is not equipped for the psychic consequences of his crimes. Macbeth is a man tormented within the states of spiritual and mental division. In his own way, he reasons that the murder of Duncan is now, after his first encounter with the Weird Sisters, a dutiful obligation, yet he is still torn at this idea because of his instinct to keep the peace. The Weird Sisters themselves seem to represent the ambition and sin rooted within humanitythey are the supernatural embodiment of the Christian framework of sin. Within the entanglement of his soul, the birth of evil is arising. He is ignorant of his own motives, but his ambition is fortified by Lady Macbeth's. In a sense, they are "in evil" together. She represents his dark half, almost as though she is not a person herself.
If good, why do I yield to that suggestion,
Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair,
And make my seated heart knock at my ribs
Against the use of nature? Present fears
Are less than horrible imaginings.
My throughout whose murder yet is but...
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