An essay on Macbeth.
In Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, it can be argued that Macbeth is both the victim and villain, although some factors early on in the play determine whether he is or not. The way in which he seeks to gain power by ruthlessly murdering his king, and friend, is just one of the ways that he displays villainy. Another way in which he can be seen as evil is when he orders the murdering of Macduff’s wife and children. This is the epitome of evil as it isn’t for any gain other than to strike out at Macduff. He is also influenced by not only his wife, but a foreign source in the witches, to murder for personal gain. However, the way Macbeth’s lust for power urges him on into a path of destruction has nothing to do with anyone else but himself.
Prior to Macbeth being promoted to the Thane of Cawdor, he was a man of honour, described by King Duncan as a “worthy gentleman”, but there is no doubt that Macbeth has a “vaulting ambition”. It is this desire for power that drives Macbeth to commit the murder of Duncan; the turning point in the play. Before Macbeth was promoted to Thane of Cawdor, he was a loyal, noble man of great integrity, and in a matter of minutes, we see him transformed into a hollow, cold-hearted murderer. Although Macbeth’s conscious is ebbing at him to retain his sense of humanity, he carries on with the murder of his king because he is too self-absorbed in his greed for power. Although it appears to the audience that Macbeth is in a daze while committing the murder, his bloodlust is apparent when the “dagger of the mind” appears and leads him to kill Duncan. This demonstrates the way in which Macbeth’s greed for power and command overcomes his ethics.
The way in which Macbeth actually submits to his wife’s plan to kill Duncan and the way in which the witches convince him that he will be king show weakness and show an uncharacteristic lack of loyalty. Depending on the perspective of the audience, the way in which Lady Macbeth doubts Macbeth’s ability to actually ‘go through’ with the murder antagonises him could cause the audience to view Lady Macbeth as the predominant villain in the play, but it was originally Macbeth’s idea to further his power and sure, Lady Macbeth was greedy, but it was Macbeth who gave her this lust for power. When the murder of Duncan isn’t the “be all and end all” of everything and Macbeth doesn’t live happily ever after, he agrees to assassinating more of his close friends, even if it wasn’t him holding the dagger, he is still responsible. The way in which Macbeth/Lady Macbeth pitilessly ordered the killing of Banquo is another example of how Macbeth is a heartless killer that is only in it for the power and money.
The approach that Macbeth uses to strike at Macduff is just pure malevolence and condemns him in the eyes of the audience. This is the point in the play where, if the audience hadn’t already realised the true extent of his mercilessness, they do now. When news of the death of his wife and children hits Macduff, of course he is distraught and the rage builds up inside of him. Macbeth, when confronted by Macduff near the conclusion of the play, still feels invincible and impregnable until Macduff tells him he is “of his mother’s womb untimely ripp’d”. This is the turning point in the play where Macbeth’s arrogance is shattered and finally some hope for humanity shines through. The rage that Macduff has been worked into by Macbeth works against him and allows him to be slain. Macbeth committed the ultimate cruelty in murdering everyone that Macduff held dear to him, and for this we despise him.
Although Macbeth is influenced by others in his choice to murder Duncan, Banquo and Lady Macduff and her children, it is of minor proportions and any person who didn’t seek to further their own career through violence would never have taken the bait and gone down the path of destruction. The way in which he killed Duncan in an attempt to achieve power, was his first wrong-footing. And once he realised that in order to attain the highest level of power possible: King, he would have to continue killing, he did so happily. He could have stopped but he didn’t. This is why we denounce him and find him guilty of being purely villainous.