The statement 'Macbeth was basically a good man led into evil ways' is one I agree with, to a certain extent. His evilness certainly progressed throughout the play, but his influences from the witches and Lady Macbeth and degree of goodness at the start is debatable. I shall also discuss the reasons for his destruction, which ties in the plays themes - for example ambition, order and disorder and guilt and conscience.
The play opens with a scene of disorder - lightning and a coven of witches. This really sets the scene for the rest of the play. The disorder finally reflects on Macbeth, therefore leading to his destruction. When we watch the first scene we wonder how big a part the witches will play and how influential they will be. At the end of the scene we know that they are going to meet Macbeth and we are anxious to know what is going to happen to him. We also know that they are evil creatures and they intend to play around, their final words leave us with a feeling of uncertainty and disbelief;
'Fair is foul, and foul is fair,
Hover through the fog and filthy air.'
The audience asks themselves what does this mean? Can good be bad? These words sum up a lot of the play; the good can be bad and vice versa. 'Hover through the fog and filthy air' tell us that the play will be evil and full of cunning schemes and dirty tricks. It is also wondered why Shakespeare didn't introduce Macbeth in the first scene, as the play is entitled after his name. However, Shakespeare's use of the witches in the first scene emphasises how influential they are. By going against the expected, the audience becomes more afraid of what will happen. The witches are unexpected and so add even more to the feeling of uncertainty and anxiousness.
But was Macbeth good from the start? Firstly, in his defence, the king thought highly of him. Regarding the treason committed by the Thane of Cawdor, he says
'What he hath lost noble Macbeth hath won'.
By referring to Macbeth as 'noble' it gives him a good impression, that he is loyal and just, but in what sense it is directed is unsure. Is he referring to the character of Macbeth, or the military skills? As this scene is set on the battlefield and Macbeth is one of his best soldiers, he may have been referring to his military skills. But as the play commences we learn that Duncan and Macbeth are socially connected, as they dine at each other's homes.
So it does seem that Macbeth was seen as a good man at the start of the play. If this is true, what made Macbeth turn to evil ways? Firstly ambition played a part to start his destruction. In Act 1 scene 3 we first meet Macbeth, who has his first encounter with the witches, which has immediate effects. The first thing the witches say to Macbeth is;
'All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Glamis.'
'All hail Macbeth, hail to thee Thane of Cawdor.'
'All hail Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter.'
By saying these things the witches immediately have the attention of Macbeth. In these times, the 15th and 16th centuries, many people believed in witchcraft. Between 1560 and 1603 hundreds of people (nearly all women) were convicted as witches and executed. So it is no surprise Macbeth believed theses things said to him, but maybe partly because he wanted to believe. Also the witches predict that Banquo's son will become king and at the end of the play he does. However Macbeth does no know this. The audience think that the witches intend to create evil but they are not sure where, when and with whom. So they are not sure what to make of the predictions. We also learn in act 1 scene 3 more about the witch's powers. One of the witches says;
'Although the bark cannot be lost, yet it can be tempest tossed.'
She is speaking about a sailor's wife who would not share her chestnuts so the witch will create a storm to sink the boat he is sailing in. This tells us that the witches have enough power to create a situation that could destroy,...
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