17 February 2014
The Need to Be King
If one is told that he would one day have a great amount of power, he would likely do anything in his power to make sure that happens. In Shakespeare's play Macbeth, the noble Macbeth battles his own morals to fulfill the fantasy he has always wanted: to be king of Cawdor. Even though deep down Macbeth knows killing Duncan is wrong, Lady Macbeth, three witches, and his vaulting ambition cause him to defy his morals. Initializing Macbeth’s downfall are the three witches at the beginning of the play. They give a prophecy to Macbeth, stating that he will become king rather soon. They fail to mention all of the chaos Macbeth will cause in attempting to become king. Banquo, after the meeting with the witches, comes to tell Macbeth of his dream about the witches and how they revealed some truth. Shortly after, Macbeth suddenly has a vision of a dagger in front of him leading the way to Duncan’s room, aimed at Duncan. Macbeth wonders "Dagger of the mind, a false creation, proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?" (2.1.38-39) Lady Macbeth also plays a major role in Macbeth's downfall. In her efforts to help her husband become king, Lady Macbeth eventually develops a longing to be queen, so she manipulates Macbeth into killing Duncan. Insulting his manliness, she tells Macbeth, "...When you durst do it, then you were a man; and to be so much more the man." (1.7.49-51) Lady Macbeth also projects her selfishness onto Macbeth when she argues with him, saying she would “…while it was smiling in [her] face, have plucked [her] nipple from his boneless gums and dashed the brains out, had [she] sworn as you have done this."(1.7.56-59) Here, Lady Macbeth argues with Macbeth on how she would rather kill her newborn child than to go back on her word. However, when the time comes to fulfill the deed, Lady Macbeth backs out because when she goes to kill him, Duncan looks like her father. Last, but definitely not least, Macbeth is to blame for his downfall. At the beginning of the play, Macbeth feels uneasy about killing Duncan. However, it is his vaulting ambition that gets him in trouble. Macbeth states, "... I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o'erlaps itself and falls on the other." (1.7.25-28) Essentially, he knows he shouldn’t kill Duncan because he is a wonderful king. However, Macbeth’s dream of being king fuels his vaulting ambition, simultaneously masking his judgment. Lady Macbeth, the witches, and Macbeth himself are the reasons for Macbeth’s downfall. Most prominent in his downfall, though, is his own determination. Between his selfish wife insulting his manliness, the witches’ prophecies driving him mad with ambition, subsequently causing his vaulting ambition to own the best of him, it’s no wonder that Macbeth transforms into a tragic hero as he takes a man’s life to make his fantasy reality.