What is your response to the way Macbeth is presented in the play? What is there to admire and what are his weaknesses?
Shakespeare’s tragedy introduces Macbeth, the strongest character in the play, as a brave, powerful, and well known solider. His strengths were ambition, courage and honour. It is in recognition of his bravery that he is bestowed the title of ‘Thane of Cawdor’. However, as the play unfolds, these very strengths that defined him become his weaknesses. Macbeth is consumed by evil ambition to become king and as a result of his own self-doubt and superstitious nature, his is blatantly been manipulated by his wife, Lady Macbeth. He is driven to murder and would seemingly stop at nothing to get his hands on the crown. This tragic hero eventually meets his untimely demise just as he was foretold by the witches. Shakespeare uses different language techniques to emphasize the main character’s personality and presentation.
At the beginning of the play, Macbeth is shown as a brave and courageous character who strives for power. These are the key credentials of a tragic protagonist. The title,‘Thane of Glamis’, which later becomes ‘Thane of Cawdor’, is given to him in the first few scenes which gives the impression that he is a military man who serves the king. Therefore, the audience would view Macbeth as popular and would seek a false sense of security towards his character. This was because many of the heroes and idols of the performances at the time were seen to be brave knights and kings. As the show progresses, Shakespeare gives the audience the impression that Macbeth is ageing considerably more than the amount of time that passes. This may be the writer’s explanation for the numerous changes in the character’s persona throughout the tragedy. One of these changes occurs when the plot twist and Macbeth sees his chance to claim the royal throne by killing Duncan because of the witches’ predictions, and when they address him as, “Cawdor and king of the Scots”. This is unusual because his character seemed, at first, to dislike the thought of murder, but now shows greed and ambition. These emotions are not however, brought on by Macbeth himself. Instead, Shakespeare uses other characters, such as Macbeth’s Wife and the Witches to force his cold aspirations of murder. This possibly give the audience the impression that he might be a weak character. An example of this is when Lady Macbeth challenges Macbeth to commit to the plan to murder Duncan by saying, “But screw your courage to the sticking-place, And we’ll not fail.” After this, he is shown to give in to his previous beliefs, and proceeds with the murder of the king. This was very out of the ordinary for this time, as women were seen to be feeble and inferior to men. So it may confuse or astonish the audience when Shakespeare shows Macbeth’s character being so effectively convinced by his wife and the three witches.
As well as Macbeth’s main tragic flaw, his is also corrupted by his curiosity which is caused by the witches. Shakespeare shows this in the play when the witches tell Macbeth that he will become kings, “Thane of Glamis! Thane of Cawdor! And King hereafter”. In the original performance the witches were described as ignoble and vulgar instruments of hell who were there to overwhelm the audiences’ senses with mental horror. However, when they were seen to address Macbeth, they spoke in a loftier tone and announced their prediction with an obscure brevity and majestic solemnities as if they were oracles. Shakespeare showed the character of Macbeth to have complete belief in their prophesies, and his personality and behaviour changed in result of this. His character became curious and ambitious to fulfil the prospect they had relayed to him as he desired they would come true, due to his belief in the supernatural as this is where he placed all his faith. In his desire for these events to unveil and become real Macbeth, as a character grew more...
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