Macbeth was written by William Shakespeare in 1606 for James 1 king of England who had previously been the king of Scotland. The play is based on the Scottish monarchy in 1040. Shakespeare acquired most of his information for his play from Holinshed’s chronicles. Macbeth consists of several pieces of factual background entwined with half-truths and fictional anecdotes.
For example, Macbeth and Duncan were both indeed kings of Scotland, though contrary to the way Shakespeare portrays it Duncan was a feeble king while Macbeth was a strong and mighty king, Shakespeare also compacts Macbeths mighty reign of 17 years into what seems like only a couple of months. Other major falsehoods added for dramatic effect were: * Lady Macbeth did not figure in Holinshed’s chronicles in the way that she does in Macbeth. * Macbeth does not kill Duncan instead he hires assassins to do his dirty work. * Banquo was involved in the killing of Duncan. Macbeth stayed to fight Macduff when in truth he ran away.
Some of these omissions were made for the fact that the play was written for James 1 who was a descendant of Banquo. For this reason Shakespeare makes Banquo far more noble and loyal than history says he actually was. He also omits Mary queen of Scots from the line of kings. King James and the rest of the general population were all extremely interested in the supernatural and witchcraft at the time the play was written, James 1 even published a work called “Demonology”.
Shakespeare incorporated the strong supernatural atmosphere to hone in on the public fascination for witchcraft. A play such as Macbeth will never be outdated as it deals with issues which will always be relevant such as how the ambitious nature of one man can bring a country turmoil and the conquest of good over evil. The story of Macbeth is a tragedy, some would the say the best and most gripping tragedy ever written. So what is a tragedy? A tragedy is usually associated with the death of or killing someone or something.
Whether it be the death of a person or the death of love. Macbeth proves itself as its story line is built around how a misled soldier uses evil to fulfil his greedy ambitions killing many people on his way to power. Though he himself is killed as he is seeing how maybe he has taken the wrong path. In my view, there are 3 parties who the blame for the whole sorry episode of Macbeth can be attributed to, these are: Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, The Witche. Macbeth is the most obvious choice if you had to point the finger of blame at one individual.
When you first hear of him in the play you are informed of how he is a brave and ruthless yet loyal soldier fighting for his king and leading the army against the rebellious highlanders. “for brave Macbeth – well he deserves that name – disdaining fortune with his brandished steel” and “he unseamed him from the nave to the chops and fixed his head upon our battlements” describe how he fought valiantly in the name of the king. When we first meet Macbeth in person he is with Banquo just before they are about to encounter the witches.
When they come across these rump-fed ronyons Macbeth says “so foul and fair a day I have not seen” which is the same as a line said by one of the witches in the opening scenes. This shows that maybe even at this early point in the play, before his mind has been corrupted by the words of the witches, that he has a connection with evil and the supernatural. he believes that the third prophecy could become a truth. Macbeths is thinking about murder even before Malcolm is named Earl of Northumberland.
This is shown by Macbeth saying “my thought, those murder yet is but fantastical” the witches themselves said nothing about murder so this is a thought placed by Macbeth into his own head. Macbeth realises when Malcolm is named Earl of Northumberland that there is very little chance of him becoming king if he allows it to happen naturally. He says: “The Prince of Cumberland that is a step, on which I must fall down, or else o’erleap” this shows that he is thinking about “getting rid of” not just Duncan but also Malcolm. Just before Macbeth enters Duncan’s room to kill him he says: Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand? Come let me clutch thee”. He talks of a dagger leading him into Duncan’s room, is this just a hallucination or is it an evil drawing him into the room. If it is indeed an evil spirit this would detract from the blame proportioned to Macbeth as it shows he may have been possessed. I believe that Macbeth was far more responsible for Banquo’s murder than he was for Duncan’s. Though he was the murderer in the case of Duncan’s murder he was forced into it by his wife.
Which is generally assumed the sole reason for his actions and there is an indication that he was possessed by an evil. The killing of Banquo is generally seen as a turning point in Macbeths character as he puts himself in the driving seat and makes his own decisions rather than being bullied into them by his wife. It is the first evil deed we see him mastermind and his true nastier side is shown as he is instigating the murder of his supposed “best-friend”. Though what type of character is Macbeth if he does such a thing. There are two scenarios for this.
Firstly, now that he’s overcome that first murder another two or three to achieve his goal aren’t critical as he has already damned himself or secondly he has been possessed or bewitched. His conscience has deserted him at this point as he persuades the murderers to kill Macbeth saying “who wrought with them; and all things else that might to half a soul and to a notion crazed say thus did Banquo. ”
Telling them that Banquo is responsible for all their hardships. Macbeths second meeting with the witches makes him over confident as they tell him “Macbeth shall never vanquished be, until reat Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill shall come against him” and “for none born of woman shall harm Macbeth” these predictions cause Macbeth to become over confident and cocky. The Witches also told Macbeth “beware the Thane of Fife”, so when Macbeth hears that “Macduff is fled to England” he instantly gives orders for Macduffs castle to be taken and for his wife and children to be killed sayin “seize upon fife, give to the edge o’ th’ sword his wife, his babes and all unfortunate souls that trace him in his line. ” This shows Macbeths new found ruthless side seen little before except in battle.
This shows that he has become more evil as the story has progressed, as now he can call the execution of the innocent with barely a hesitation. Macbeth shows he is confident of staying in power due to the witches prophecies though there is a sign that he is agitated. When told of the size of the English force he is still confident of success. He shows his agitation and dispair later on as he tells of the hardships he went through to become king yet life was better before, he says “all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death” saying of how he has been misguided and in a way showing contempt for his previous evil actions.
At the end of the battle when he meets Macduff, Macbeth realises that the witches have purposely tricked him into this sorry mess with deceitful truths, as he finds put that Macduff was born by cesaerian section meaning he can kill Macbeth. Macbeth says “Accursed be that tongue that tells me so, for it hath cowed my better part of man. ” So was Macbeth to blame for the whole tragic episode. As I have described I think he was influenced by several outside indirect factors. Both Lady Macbeth and the witches used their powers of persuasion to mould Macbeth to their wants.
The witches put the thoughts of kingship into his head so the question is whether he would have struck out to become king if they had not and whether the thought was already in his sub-conscience yet they brought it up. Though would he have killed Duncan if it wasn’t for his lady, as she forced him to commit the murder of Duncan. If he hadn’t killed Duncan he wouldn’t have done any of the other evil deeds he also did. Though at times in the play he seemed to be possessed by an evil probably brought on by the witches which would detract some of the blame, the same as if he was under intoxication.
Lady Macbeth must carry a heavy load of blame on her shoulders. She planned the murder of Duncan meticulously and it was her idea to kill Duncan. She knows her husband is too weak to carry through with the murder by himself and that she must push him into it if there is a hope of the murder happening. She is so obsessed with persuading Macbeth to carry out the deed that she calls on evils spirits to help her persuade her husband. She says: “yet do I fear thy nature, It is too full o’th’ milk of human kindness” And “unsex me here And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full Of direst cruelty! Make thick my blood,
Stop up the access and passage to remorse, That no compunctious visitings of nature Shake my fell purpose nor keep peace between The effect and it! ” This is showing Lady Mabeth’s darker side. When she tells him of her plan he isn’t sure, then he decides he will not go through with it. Lady Macbeth’s reaction to this is to call him a coward and play him off against his love for her. She does everything she can to try and persuade him. She shows though that she has been possessed just as she asked. She tells Macbeth that if she had promised to do something she would even if it was to: “I have given suck and know
How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me- I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums And dash’d the brains out had I so sworn as you Have done to this. ” This shows that whatever good she once had in her has abandoned her completely. As even her husband is appalled by what she says. Though this is the end of lady Macbeths influence over her husbands evil deeds. she is not responsible for any of his actions in the subsequent killings. Even she realises how wrongly she has acted and that she is partly responsible for the turmoil she has brought upon scotland.
So much so that it drives her mad. Though I believe that even at the end she was possessed by an evil. One sign Shakespeare used to exaggerate this point was that he’d put rhyme into the speech when evil was about. The witches generally spoke in rhyme. “The Thane of Fife had a wife” This is one example of Lady Macbeth speaking in rhyme. The witches are the third party in this whole grim affair who blame can be attributed to. They purposely tricked Macbeth with their wicked riddles and half-truths.
They put the idea of killing Duncan into his head, by saying: 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! ” as the first two predictions are or become true, Macbeth believes the third and final one will. And as this thought builds in his mind he realises that it will only come true if he kills Duncan. Though the first thought of this arrived in his head fresh from the mouths of the witches. There words in this meeting also was what drove Macbeth to kill Banquo and attempt to kill Fleance. There words of “Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none. So all hail,”
Infuriated Macbeth as would have meant he had gone through all the Hardships for the sake of Banquo’s offspring. The witches blame for Macbeths actions is shown by his actions in response to what they say to him. They said: All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be King hereafter! ” And he kills Duncan. They say to Banquo while he’s in the presence of Macbeth: “Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none. So all hail,” and he orders the killing Banquo. They say: “beware the Thane of Fife” and he orders the killing of Macduffs family. This shows how the words of the witches persuaded macbeth to carry out the killings.
I believe the witches purposely said those quotes for this purpose as they knew how Macbeth would react to them. It is at there meeting with Hecate and there second meeting with Macbeth that their true devious nature is revealed. In their meeting with Hecate she tells them : “Thither he Will come to know his destiny. Your vessels and your spells provide, Your charms and everything beside. I am for the air; this night I’ll spend Unto a dismal and a fatal end. ” She talks of how they will lead Macbeth to a dismal end, showing us there true intentions.
When Macbeth goes to meet them they tell him Macbeth shall never vanquished be, until great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill shall come against him” and “for none born of woman shall harm Macbeth” and “beware the Thane of Fife” This shows how devious the witches are, they use these riddles to deceive Macbeth knowing he will take them at face value. Macbeth even realises this at the end when he says: “And be these juggling fiends no more believed That patter with us in a double sense, That keep the word of promise to our ear And break it to our hope. ” The witches played Macbeth like putty in their hands, he moulded exactly how they wanted him to.
They fuelled his ambitious nature with there deceptive talk. They planned Macbeths downfall in advance knowing how he would take there riddles. So who is the main culprit? This has to be Macbeth, as the truth of the matter is he killed to make his ambitious dreams reality. Though would he have ever killed Duncan if the witches and Lady Macbeth had not been there spurring him on? I doubt it as at the beginning of the play he had the mentality of a noble warrior and killing some one you have fought loyally for, for most your life in his sleep is not in Macbeths nature.
Though I doubt the thought would never had entered his head if it wasn’t for the witches. If he had never killed Duncan then he would never have killed any of the others as they were part of the chain reaction to the first murder with the last domino to fall being Macbeth. Imagine the killing of Duncan as some one purposely being hit by a car. The person being hit and killed is Duncan. The petrol which is fuelling the car is the witches who fuel Macbeths treacherous and ambitious thoughts. The person pushing down the accelerator and driving the car on is Lady Macbeth who is seen as the driving force behind the murder pushing Macbeth on.
While the carry body which is actually doing the killing and knocking down is Macbeth. If anyone of the three factors was missing then the murder would never have happened. The blame for the subsequent murders and Macbeths downfall lie firmly on the soldiers of Macbeth and the Witches. The witches put the thoughts of killing both Banquo and Macduffs family into Macbeths head by making him think he had something to gain out of it. The witches led him on throughout leading him to his downfall. The blame should be placed equally on all as without any of the 3 involved the whole sorry episode would not have happened.