Is it possible to feel sympathy for Macbeth?
In this essay I will be considering whether we can feel sympathy for Macbeth after analysing Act one and the beginning of Act two (up until Duncan’s death). I will analyse the viewpoint of Macbeth at the start and how he changes and how our opinion can change and evaluate whether we can feel sympathy for Macbeth. The first scene in Act one is a very short one, which consist of the three witches discussing when and where to meet Macbeth. We can take a quote from this scene where all the witches chant: ‘Fair is foul and foul is fair,’ this quote is hinting towards Macbeth future, with the quotes meaning being that things don’t look the same as they actually are on the inside. In the second scene, king Duncan learns the rebels, led by traitor Thane of Cawdor Macdownwald, has been crushed by Macbeth, Macbeth is praised for his bravery shown in this quote:
‘for brave Macbeth (well he deserves that name, disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel’ this shows his bravery and loyalty, at this point he is a soldier with good intentions and no aspiration for harm. After Duncan hears this news he orders for Mcdonwald’s execution and announces Macbeth to be the new thane of Cawdor. Duncan’s condemns Macdownwald by saying ‘no more that Thane of Cawdor shall deceive our bosom’s interest,’ meaning that he won’t receive matters close to his heart. In scene three the witches appear and discuss putting a horrific spell on a sailor just for being rude to one of the witches, this is hinting towards the way they treat Macbeth and what Macbeth is going to be dragged into. The witches then come to Macbeth and Banquo to give a prophecy in which they hail Macbeth as ‘Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor and King hereafter,’ the three witches then disappear. After, Angus and Ross tell Macbeth he is the new Thane Cawdor, this tells Macbeth the prophecy is true. Macbeth is very interested and tempted in the crown now we know this from this quote: ‘why do I yield to that suggestion whose horrid image doth unfix my hair, and make me my seated heart knock at my ribs.’ Macbeth has just thought about killing Duncan but the thought makes him feel an odd sick feeling, his humanity provokes us to feel sympathy for Macbeth. In scene 4, King Duncan thanks Macbeth and Banquo personally. You can tell that Macbeth wants the crown as he flatters Duncan as he says ‘The service and loyaltiy I owe in doing it, pays itself, Your highness’ part is to receive our duties.’ However Malcolm, Duncan’s son, is announced as the next king, you can feel sympathy for Macbeth here because what he has been promised by the witches has been taken away from him. However this quotes tells us that Macbeth wants to kill Duncan: ‘that is a step on which I must fall down, or else o’erleap, for in my way it lies,’ he is saying he must either forget about his ambitions or plan to do something about the obstacles in the way of his future, his decision is made: ‘stars hide your fires! Let not light see my black and deep desires.’ He is asking God to not let anyone discover his ambitions; we lose sympathy for Macbeth at this point. In scene 5, Lady Macbeth reads a letter from Macbeth of what the witches have predicted, Lady Macbeth becomes desperate for the crown and will now stop at nothing to get it. However she doubts Macbeth’s drive for this throne: ‘yet I do fear thy nature. It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness’ so she decides to persuade by ‘pouring her spirits into thine ear.’ When Macbeth arrives home she persuades...
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