The tragedy of “Macbeth," by William Shakespeare, follows the fall of Macbeth from a man in a position of power with a contented life, to a man with nothing but “mouth honor” and a corrupted soul. In this essay, I wish to show to what extent Macbeth’s tragedy was his own fault.
The downfall of Macbeth begins early on in the play when he and Banquo (a fellow Scottish noble) meet the witches. The witches waylay Macbeth and Banquo whilst they were on their way to meet Duncan, King of Scotland. They decide to listen to the witches, out of sheer curiosity. The three witches greet Macbeth as “Thane of Glamis”, the title he already holds, and begin to tell the two nobles of things to come, and prophesies that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor, and the King of Scotland. Macbeth asks how they know of his current title, and laughs at the following two prophesies. The witches ignore his questions, and tell Banquo of how he will not be king, but his sons will be kings. Instead of just ignoring the witches, the statement of his current title intrigues Macbeth and he follows the witches to try and get them to tell him more. “Stay you imperfect speakers, tell me more” says Macbeth, showing that he is indeed interested in what the witches have to say. The witches disappear, and Macbeth dismisses them, and he and Banquo ride off. The witches appearance, and Macbeth becoming intrigued may amount to his downfall, but I believe that they were merely the ‘helping hand’ for Macbeth who’s own weak will and other events where the catalyst for his eventual death.
At this point, Macbeth is still a highly respected man, and is about to get more respect from Duncan, for defending Scotland from the invading forces of Norway. The messengers who tell Duncan of Macbeth’s deeds portray him as a man of great courage, who showed no fear in the battles. Duncan sends a messenger to tell Macbeth of his reward for his great deeds. Two messengers to greet Macbeth with the news of Duncan’s reward: he is to be made Thane of Cawdor. “Why do you dress me in borrowed robes?” asks the startled Macbeth, as the messengers begin to explain how the last Thane of Cawdor was helping the Norwegians invade. Aside, he says, “Two truths are told, as happy prologues to the swelling act…” obviously relating to the first two prophecies the witches made. He now asks Banquo, aside, whether or not he believes the witches now that Macbeth’s second prophecy has come true. Banquo says he is wary and that he really doesn’t want anything to do with these witches, but he will merely sit back and let the prophecies run their course. Macbeth seemingly decides to follow Banquo’s idea, and makes an agreement with himself “If chance will have me king, why, chances may crown me, without my stir”.
Macbeth decides to write to his wife and tell her of his new title, a fatal mistake in my opinion, since his wife reacts to the letter in a totally unexpected way. All of a sudden, Lady Macbeth decides to make a push to get her husband to make the effort to fulfil the third prophecy.
Meanwhile, Duncan names his son as the next king, and Macbeth becomes bitter, and looks towards the prophecies for his next move; “That is a step on which I must fall down, or else o’erleap…” Clearly Macbeth has decided that he will now ‘stir’, and make some move to become king.
Back with Lady Macbeth at Macbeth’s castle, she is reading Macbeth’s letter. She reads about his new title, and the mentions of the witches’ prophecies. Lady Macbeth first starts off by thinking about how she can get her husband to become a king, and concludes that she’ll have to make some effort to get her husband to do whatever it takes to get him to be king. A messenger, who brings news that Duncan wishes to stay at Macbeth’s castle, interrupts her thoughts. Lady Macbeth decides, almost instantly, that she will persuade her husband to kill Duncan so he can become king.
Whilst in the middle of her thoughts, Macbeth returns...
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