Ethics and Time Macbeth

Topics: Ethics, Morality, Macbeth Pages: 5 (1727 words) Published: April 28, 2011
William Shanahan
Dr. Chalk
Engl 110
February 15, 2011

To the Reader,
I believe that the main point in my essay is the fact that once moral codes are lost they are gone forever. My biggest problem with writing this essay was stringing everything together in a clear and concise manner. I think my point on the importance of morals and ethical conduct were made well. I feel that relating my point to the text was not as strong as it could have been. I’d like the reader to answer the question of whether or not my essay was persuasive. My favorite sentence is my thesis statement; it sets up what the essay is going to be about. My least favorite sentence is the last sentence of the conclusion. I feel like it didn’t end the essay on the right note.

At first glance, Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a tale of a ruthless man with no moral or ethical boundaries limiting his murderous rampage. The second time Macbeth is mentioned in the play, he is described as a valiant yet violent warrior cutting his way through enemy lines without hesitation or second thought. Macbeth then goes on to end Duncan for his own political benefit and end the lives of many others who even pose the most miniscule chance of problems for Macbeth. However, Macbeth was not a blood thirsty savage when the play began. In fact, he had a strong ethical and moral standing in his life. Macbeth undergoes a dramatic transformation and character evolution. This is because, for Macbeth, once ethical and moral boundaries are crossed or broken the point of no return has been passed.  These boundaries are what give Macbeth his essence of humanity and guide his moral compass.  Macbeth broke these ethical and moral guidelines by taking the innocent blood of Duncan and, consequently, could not go back to his previous lifestyle nor regain an ethical or moral sense to guide him in his actions. Right off the bat, act one scene two sets up some difficulties for my thesis. The wounded captain describes Macbeth’s actions on the battlefield and his slaying of Macdonwald in vivid detail stating that Macbeth “carved out his passage” and “unseam’d him from the nave to th’ chops, and fix’d his head upon our battlements” (1.2.19-23). Macbeth is literally described as a man carving his way through the bodies of enemy soldiers until he can get to his target, Macdonwald. Subsequently, he not only kills Macdonwald but also slices him so that his guts can fall out and decapitates the enemy king to put his head on a weapon as if it were a trophy. These actions may seem immoral; these actions might seem unethical. They are neither. Macbeth was fighting for his country, an act that has been seen as honorable since before the time of the Ancient Greeks. He is not fighting for fiscal or material gain. He is standing up for his country in a way that is often regarded as the highest form of patriotism. He shouldn’t have any ethical concerns for this. The opening lines of act one, scene seven deliver a powerful image of Macbeth and his current dilemma on whether or not to assassinate King Duncan. This is where Macbeth’s ethical and moral codes are first truly tested. Macbeth goes through what seems to be a mentally agonizing analysis of his predicament. He delivers a powerful soliloquy describing in detail his internal struggle in his quest to kingship. This murder would not be glory, it would definitely not be patriotic or in anyway honorable. He has invited the man he wishes to kill to stay at his house, and plans to assassinate while sleeping, a low act from any moral perspective. Macbeth acknowledges this stating that “first I am his kinsman and his subject, strong both against the deed; then, as his host, who should against his murtherer shut the door, not bear the knife myself” (1.7.13-16). Macbeth then shows us a glimpse of his moral struggle, the fight between his desire and his humanity. He describes an apocalyptic scene in excruciating detail....

Citations: Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Ed. Kenneth Muir. London: The Arden Shakespeare, 2003.
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