Who Was Ultimately Responsible For the Death of King Duncan?
There are many reasons as to why Macbeth killed King Duncan in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Although it was Macbeth himself who actually killed King Duncan, there may have been several other contributory factors.
The way Shakespeare has used the witches to open the play has created a mysterious atmosphere. This is because in the 17th century when the play was written, people were widely superstitious. People may have said that independent or commanding women were witches and would be blamed for the things that went wrong. It was believed that if angels were the servants of God, then witches were the servants of the Devil and they could use their powers for bad and evil deeds. Witches used to have been believed to use equivocal language with the intent to confuse. Using paradoxes such as ‘When the battle’s lost and won’ and ‘Fair is foul, and foul is fair’, Shakespeare makes the witches seem ambiguous. They may be using the equivocal language to confuse Macbeth.
The witches are shown to have supernatural powers in several ways. ‘When shall we three meet again, In thunder, lightning or in rain?’ suggests that they have the capability to foretell the future and in their controlled rhyme, it also suggests they can manipulate the weather. Also, when they say ‘Hover through the fog and filthy air’, it implies that they have the ability to fly.
People may blame the witches for cursing Macbeth and controlling him to kill King Duncan. The use of rhyme before Macbeth and Banquo meet the witches suggests the witches are cursing him. They also say ‘Peace the charm’s wound up’ which confirms the fact that they are cursing Macbeth. If the witches have been show to manipulate the weather then why cannot they manipulate Macbeth’s destiny?
When Macbeth “sees” the dagger, people may believe it was just a trick that the witches were playing on him and not just his own ambition getting the better of him.
Even if the witches didn’t curse Macbeth, they may have had the intention of putting the idea into Macbeth’s mind and letting his ambition take him the rest of the way. We cannot prove this, but Macbeth only begins to become ambitious after the first prophecies that the witches foretell become true. We can also believe that Macbeth’s logic becomes distorted after meeting the witches. Macbeth never imagined becoming King until after he met the witches.
A lot of the blame naturally falls onto Macbeth as he was the person who carried out the murder of the King. At the beginning of the play, Macbeth is portrayed as a valiant general in the King’s army. He seems loyal and is said to be brave although he is shown to have capacity for both good and evil. Malcolm calls Macbeth ‘A good and hardy soldier’ and ‘brave friend’. This shows Macbeth’s capacity for good. Macbeth’s ruthlessness and capacity for evil is shown when ‘With his brandished steel, Which smoked with bloody execution’ and ‘Till he unseamed him from the nave to the chops’. During the course of the play, Macbeth’s character changes and he becomes secretive and disloyal.
Shakespeare uses imagery to convey some images of Macbeth. He firstly describes Macbeth on the battlefield; ’Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel, Which smoked with bloody execution, Like valour’s minion carved out his passage, Till he faced the slave…’ This line gives us the idea that Macbeth is a ruthless and strong fighter and uses his sword to kill many enemies until his sword is covered in blood. The word disdain gives the impression that Macbeth always took risks with his fate or destiny and disregarded it.
Macbeth and Banquo both have very contrasting reactions to the witches’ prophecies that shows a difference in character. When the witches tell Macbeth that he will be King, Macbeth shows he is intrigued by demanding to know more even though he knows the witches are a symbol of evil. He shows he knows this because he...
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