Shakespeare’s Macbeth is an excellent
illustration of a Shakespearian tragic hero. Although Macbeth has many noble
qualities, he is, indeed, not without his flaws. The following essay exemplifies
how Macbeth is more of a tragic and ill-fated character rather than a loathsome
one. Ultimately, the tragic characteristics of Macbeth is what leads to Macbeth
and Lady Macbeth’s downfall. In fact, there are many factors, which portray the
downfall of Macbeth. The two, which will
be discussed in this essay, are: how Lady Macbeth influenced Macbeth and
Macbeth’s longtime vaulting ambition,
which drove his psychotic desire to be King.
the beginning of the play, Macbeth is portrayed as a valiant and worthy
character who serves the people of
Scotland and Duncan. Macbeth’s noble
qualities are clearly evident after the opening battle that takes place. Based
on such a courageous battle, a fellow alli describes
Macbeth’s actions, “As cannons
overcharged with double cracks, so they doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe”
(Shakespeare 1.2. 37-39). After hearing such positive criticism, King Duncan
cannot be but all joyous and overwhelmed
for Macbeth and his soldiers. Duncan continues to praise Macbeth by rewarding him
with the title “Thane of Cawdor” in
recognition of his heroic efforts. However, before all this, Macbeth and his
companion Banquo are confronted by three strange witches who foretell them what
their future beholds. “All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Glamis…all
hail,Macbeth,hail to thee,Thane of Cawdor…that shall be King hereafter!”(Shakespeare
1.3. 50-54). With just recently being
crowned Thane of Cawdor, Macbeth continues to savvy the words of the witches
even more and cannot help but think of how and when he shall be the King of
Scotland. In Shakespeare’s tragic play, Macbeth,
the theme of ambition is what haunts and traumatizes both Macbeth and Lady
Macbeth, when their ambition is overpowered by hateful desires. One may see
ambition as an inspiration to lead an individual to their goals, however, in
this dramatic play, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are blinded by their ambition,
which leads them to their downfall. After hearing Malcolm is the next successor
to the throne Macbeth is outraged and begins his evil thoughts of “Foul” play:
The Prince of Cumberland! That
is a step
On which I must fall down,or else overleap,
For in my way it lies.Stars,hide
Let not light see my black and
eye wink at the hand, yet let that be
Which the eye fears, when it is
done,to see (Shakespeare 1.4. 55-61).
this quotation, Macbeth now faces Malcolm, as the next successor to be King of
Scotland. This an obstacle which Macbeth shall choose to “Fall down, or else
overleap” Macbeth also admits to feeling new “black and deep desires”. Macbeth’s
ambition to become a powerful King rises and concludes that he shall commit the
regicide, fulfilling the witch’s prophecies.
When Macbeth becomes the new King of Scotland, he realizes that all the
words spoken by the witches have become true except for one, for Banquo’s
offspring’s to be heir to the throne. With all other prophecies that had become
valid Macbeth decides he must not let the third prophecy become true, as he
wants to stay King. Macbeth clearly explains how much the title of King means
to him in the following quotation:
be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus.
fears in Banquo stick deep,
in his royalty of nature reigns
which would be feared…
is none but he
being I do fear (Shakespeare 3.1. 53-58).
In addition, Macbeth
describes his title of King to be nothing unless he is “safely thus”. Shakespeare’s
protagonist worries as his only friend and partner is someone “Whose being I
Macbeth do fear”, Macbeth does not hesitate or rethink his decisions to kill Banquo.
Subsequently, after the murder of Duncan, Macbeth becomes a man who now has no
morals to withdraw and continues his killing streak on Banquo and Fleance.
Macbeth’s moral decisions are once again clouded by his “vaulting ambition”.
Subsequently, Banquo is brutally murdered and young Fleance has escaped the
tortures that Macbeth purposes.
one can also see how Lady Macbeth contributes to both the downfall of herself
and her groom. One would except Lady Macbeth to be a mentor and a guide for
Macbeth’s preposterous ideas to become King, however, Lady Macbeth is rather an
odd-like woman who is more ambitious and ruthless than Macbeth really is. Macbeths
is seen to be negatively influenced by his spouse in many different ways
throughout the climatic play. As soon as
Lady Macbeth is introduced into the play, she begins to question her husband’s
Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be
What thou are promised. Yet do I fear thy nature.
It is too full of the milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way.Thou wouldst be great,
Art not without ambition,but without
The illness should attend it (Shakespeare 1.5. 19-24).
Lady Macbeth reads the letter
from Macbeth, where she fears her husband “Is too full of the milk of human
kindness” to become King. When Lady Macbeth is notified that the King will be a
guest at their castle that night, Lady Macbeth composes her cruel plan to
murder Duncan. Lady Macbeth is convinced that she shall persuade and manipulate
Macbeth in order to commit the bloody deeds she desires.
Come, you spirits
tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here
fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full
direst cruelty! Make thick my blood… (Shakespeare 1.5. 37-40).
Moreover, one can see how
determined and ruthless Lady Macbeth really is after reading this quotation, as
she calls among her “Spirits” to rip her from her femininity and to “Fill me
Lady Macbeth, from the crown to the toe, top-full of direst cruelty!”(Shakespeare
1.5. 44-45). It is also evident that
Lady Macbeth, herself, may commit the deed if Macbeth fails to do so. However,
Macbeth feels guilty to even have the thought to kill his King and decides he
shall proceed no further in Lady Macbeth’s troublesome ideas. However, Lady
Macbeth questions Macbeth’s courage and begins to manipulate him:
the hope drunk
you dressed yourself? Hath it slept since?
wakes it now, to look so green and pale
what it did so freely?…
the poor cat in adage? (Shakespeare 1.7. 39-48)
This showcases Lady Macbeths
questions, not only Macbeth’s will to commit the crime but even the love
Macbeth has for his spouse. “From this time such I account thy love” (Shakespeare
1.7. 45-47). Lady Macbeth compares Macbeth’s love towards her to the fear of Duncan’s
murder. This statement made by Lady Macbeth seems to be extremely contrary and
one that seems to really influence Macbeth. Hence, Macbeth argues but is
immediately shut down by Lady Macbeth and the plan to kill Duncan proceeds.
Unfortunately, Lady Macbeth’s ambition far exceeds Macbeth’s and he is forced,
against his conscience, to murder Duncan. Furthermore, it is seen that Lady
Macbeth is a crucial reason why Macbeth continues his killing streak and
becomes a tyrant rather a King. Consequently, Lady Macbeth is, indeed, the
instigator to all the horrific and bloody events throughout the play.
In retrospect, it is clearly evident that Macbeth is,
in fact, a tragic hero. As the play begins, Macbeth is portrayed as a valiant
and worthy nobleman; however, this essay proves that Macbeth is immediately
reduced from a valorous nobleman to a tyrant due to his ill-fated ambitions and
the selfish coaching of Lady Macbeth. Consequently, one can say the greed of
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth greatly contributes to their downfall.