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How Far is Macbeth Responsible for his Actions Through out the Play?

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Macbeth can surely be responsible for the murder of King Duncan and others, but in this piece of coursework I will be describing whether Macbeth is primarily responsible for his actions of killing Duncan and than carrying on to kill, under the influences of the witches and his wife.

Many think that Macbeth was innocent on his first encounter with the witches; also a lot think he already harbored a vaguely guilty ambition, to aspire to king.

There is also no doubt that this is a natural interpretation in both cases but it is necessary to go into greater depth to fully debate this argument.

Firstly I would like to introduce Macbeth a noble man and described to be a hero by his peers. He is a mighty soldier who was savage in battle and had no fear of killing, as he had killed many and a man in a brutal manor. By, “chopping him form the nave to the chops.”

This image could already from the out start be used to suggest that Macbeth was a brutal thoughtless killer and was capable of th future murders. He could have simply killed Macdonwald at the start of the play, but took great pleasure in killing him brutally. On the other hand, it could be argued that he was a honourable man, who was in such great anger and loving his king so highly, that when he came to the face the traitor he thought it his duty to make him suffer.

We can see this from the quote:

For brave Macbeth (well he deserves that name)

Disdaining fortune, with his brandish steel,

Which smoked with bloody execution,

Like Valour’s minion carved out his passage,

In the case of Macbeth, the witches can be discussed first. The three witches (the number being very powerful in those days) are known in the play to possess evil satanic powers. These can lead a man astray, but cannot force a man to do evil deeds. All men have free will, given by God. The witches could be accused with leading Macbeths mind to a believed necessary route to gain power and this would conclude all they could be held accountable for. This argument is proved when Banquo firstly hears the prediction from the witches that his children will be kings, he takes no further action in his destiny but leaves the future to take its natural course, where as Macbeth being told the similar thing, immediately starts to try to comprehend how he will become king. The witches did have a physiological impact on Macbeth, leaving him confused and uneasy at the prophecy of the witches telling him he shall become king. The prediction to Macbeth, most probably a guilty ambition, once prophesied to Macbeth would leave Macbeth desperate for his time to come, as time pasted by it would seem to be forever causing him to want to speed the process up, the only way being to kill the King.

This may have been interpreted, that his thoughts in the past of maybe killing the king with his wife was to have to happen and it was the only way. This would only make sense depending on your interpretation of the conversations between Macbeth and his wife. Macbeth is proven to be very intrigued by the witches and taking a liking to them, as he says:

“Stay, you imperfect speakers, tells me more.”

Also after the first predictions had been proved true to Macbeth he should have been a believer of all that the witches said but he carried on his killing. This action of killing after the witches telling him that:

None of women born

Shall harm Macbeth

And another that:

Macbeth shall never vanquished be until,

Great Birnam wood to high Dunsianane

Shall come against him.

The nature of killing could not be explained by a reason for his safety, as the predictions would make him invincible to all that would have heard it. Even the killing of Macduffs wife and children was not excusable by the warning of the witches to beware Macduff. This shows that Macbeth had a very bloody mind by this time and was very unsteady.

Macbeth was highly thought of by the king Duncan up and leading to his death whilst being giving the title of thane of Cawdor. He had been made Thane of Cawdor and had been asked to be the host of the king, which was a great honor. The king Duncan was not only a king, but also one seen to as been made king by God. Macbeth by being able to go through the murder having these on his conscious is a great crime against God and a crime against a king, which shows no conscience lading to the murder. This was made worse as King Duncan was known by all men to be a great king and his murder would have be known to, Macbeth to be a great crime:

So clear in his office, that his virtues

Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against

The deep damnation of his taking off.

The murdering did not even stop at the murdering of his enemies and we are told that he keeps killing throughout the play, but even led to the murdering of his best friend and companion.

Firstly, his guilty ambition, whether to murder or just pure ambition, must have been known to his wife. This is because on reading the letter, she so instantaneously assumes that the king must be killed, also when Macbeth meets his wife, is aware that this thought was in her mind (as he evidently does).

But his ambition can be turned into an already thought through plan. In act 1, sc. 7, where lady Macbeth is urging Macbeth to do the deed, In this scene lady Macbeth asserts that Macbeth has already proposed the murder to her and that when he proposed it to her and was willing to commit the deed and swore to do it, although there seemed no opportunity.

This promise though has a flaw, if this promise had been made with a sincere intent, then Macbeth would not have been in such a conscious struggle through out the play as he so evidently does. It is more agreeable to say that Macbeth had made this promise in a resolution to his wife on the assumption that no such opportunity would ever arise. It could be described as a manly declaration to his wife.

Lady Macbeth, whom I believe has the most influence over Macbeth, knew from the outset of receiving the information that Macbeth would not be willing to kill the King, this is good evidence from the beginning that Macbeth was not so cruel and heartless as he latter becomes.

“Yet I do 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…”

Macbeth’s wife knows that Macbeth is ambitious but lacks the ruthlessness to progress to king and is determined to play an influential role in the murder of King Duncan.

“That I may pour my spirits in thine ear,

And chastise with the valour of my tongue.”

The influence of Macbeth’s wife on Macbeth can be seen to be very influential on Macbeth’s actions. From the out start Lady Macbeth makes clear her thoughts when she reads the letter.

“Come you spirits/ that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here/… make thick my blood/… take my milk of gall, you murdering minister/s… come thick night.”

Throughout Macbeths constant conscious struggle during his soliloquy in act one scene 7 where he decides he wishes to go no further with the idea to kill Duncan, his noble king. Macbeth’s wife is the pressure that keeps influencing him to change his mind. She does this by pressurizing his manhood and twists his words to say that he no longer loves her.

Was the hope drunk?

Wherein you dressed yourself? Hath it slept since?

And wake it now, to look so green and pale

At what it did so freely? From this time

Such I account thy love

It was this account that changed Macbeth from saying:

We will proceed no further in this business

We can conclude from this that Macbeth most probably has a weak sense of character, easily being a very self-conscience man and easily lead astray. Lady Macbeth could be argued to have been the main cause for the actions of Macbeth. This conclusion would have been supported by Macbeth’s insomnia, showing that he had had a very guilty conscious after the event:

Sleep no more!

Macbeth does murder sleep

Sleep no more

Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor

Shall sleep no more: Macbeth shall sleep no more

His wife’s mentality was made clear when she told Macbeth of how she had or would have breast fed their children:

I have given suck, and know

How tender ’tis to love the babe hath milk me

I would, while it was smiling in my face, have plucked my nipple from its boneless gums,

And dashed the brains out, had I sworn as you

Have done to this.

This describes that his wife has a murderous mind and could be put to blame for pressurizing Macbeth, also it can be seen that Macbeths wife must have had a very high sense of power over her husband. In these times it was seen, as the man should rule the relationship and the women should not argue or advise her husband. But she still advises him to:

Look like th’ innocent flower,

But be the serpent under ‘t

This argument in Macbeth’s case would be undermined when looking at the killings of Banquo and the Macduffs. In these killings Macbeth did not discuss his plans with his wife, and these murders are considered to be more heartless and unmerciful. He did in fact tell her:

Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck,

Till thou applaud the deed

Analyzing the behavior of Macbeth at the scenes leading to the murder of Duncan and his actions after could be finally explained by insanity and Macbeth slowly losing his mind, as so does his wife. Before Macbeth commits the deed of killing Duncan, he begins to see a dagger in front of him. One he can see, but not touch: one that floats but has no strings. This account from Macbeth must mean he was hallucinating. Also, the killing of Banquo is shown to be a quite prominent case of insecurity and losing his ability to think rationally. He feels that everybody is plotting against him and realizes that Banquo’s children will inherit the throne and he shall have no kids. He says:

They hailed him farther to a line of kings.

Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown,

And put a barren sceptre in my gripe,

Thence to be wrenched with an unlineal hand,

No son of mine succeeding.

I believe and It can be concluded that the effect that Lady Macbeth held on Macbeth was very high and that her constant relaxed talk and pressure would have caused a change in Macbeth and this could be related to life. Today all life’s structures are run by peer groups setting trends and fashions, that others are inclined to follow. If one group pressures you, it will cause you to slowly change consciously and unconsciously.

For these reasons I believe that Lady Macbeth is responsible for changing Macbeth and causing him to kill Duncan and after trapping Macbeth in this deed he is already fallen and can no longer stop under her permanent influence.

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