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Macbeth as the Victim

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Macbeth is made to believe that it is his destiny to become king. Despite his original disbelief, circumstances prove to persuade him to believe in the prophecies told by the three witches. In addition, Lady Macbeth acts as an effective instrument of evil in coaxing him to ‘fulfill his destiny’. Once Lady Macbeth and the three witches convince him to kill the king, he is forced into a dark world of paranoia, deceit, guilt, fame, fortune and power of which he cannot possibly be expected to escape. Macbeth’s evil actions are due to the influence of his wife and the three witches, and therefore, he can hardly be held accountable.

In Act One, Scene Three, Macbeth encounters the three witches and from that point on his life is plagued with evil ambitions. Until this point, he has not even entertained the idea of kingship and his reaction to the second prophecy illustrates his disposition towards the idea presented to him:

This supernatural soliciting
cannot be ill, cannot be good.
If ill, why hath it given me earnest of success,
Commencing in a truth? I am Than of Cawdor.
If good, why do I yield to that suggestion
Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair
And make my seated hear knock at my ribs,
Against the use of nature?(I. iii, 142-149)

The promise of prosperity and fortune arise uneasy emotions in Macbeth to say the least. The evil influence that transforms Macbeth into a tyrant can obviously be seen to cause him nervousness and apprehensiveness about betraying his love and loyalty to the king. How can he be held accountable for a devious plan which he was forced to accept and execute? The thoughts which are planted in his head by the three wyrd sisters, are reinforced by the arrival of Ross and Angus who tell him he has been pronounced the Thane of Cawdor. Although Macbeth does not realize the intentions of the witches, Banquo does:

But t’is strange,
And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
Win us with honest trifles, to betray us
In deepest consequence[I. iii, 134-138]

As Banquo realizes, the witches know that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor and when Ross and Angus arrive to bring him the news, he is scared that the second prophecy will be fulfilled. As can be clearly seen, the witches are the strongest influence on Macbeth and without them, his mind would be clean of the devious, evil ideas they implant in him.

In addition to furthering Macbeth’s over-ambition, Lady Macbeth is a strong influence on her husband’s decision to assassinate the king. The prophecies and subsequently Macbeth’s new title as Thane of Cawdor allows her to convince him that it is his destiny to become king, and if it requires killing to achieve his goal, she believes it is utterly necessary. Whereas the witches’ prophecies simply put the idea into Macbeth’s head, his wife’s corrupting, underhanded guises convince him to ‘fulfill his destiny’. She has the unique talent to transform herself from a loving, caring wife, into a corrupt and selfish bitch. She uses this talent skillfully to manipulate her naive, gullible husband:

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, but without
The illness should attend it.[I.IV, 14-18]

Her intentions in this scene are quite clear and she obviously accomplishes her selfish goal to push her husband to execute the king. Her aspirations are strictly for personal betterment and she does not consider Macbeth’s feelings toward Duncan nor does she consider the long-term consequences of such underhanded, illegal actions. Her deceitful inducement plunges Macbeth into a world which a man of such valor and high regard should never experience.

Once Macbeth is forced into his role as an oppressive tyrant, there are no means by which he is able to escape and therefore he brings about his own destruction. After committing his first crime, Macbeth feels viciously guilty and his paranoia aids to arise suspicion and tension in others, especially his close acquaintances. Once he has murdered Banquo and Macduff’s entire family, his conscience begins to gnaw at his sanity. At this time he is completely submerged in his world of evil and he quite appropriately feels there is no point in turning back. He has passed the point of redeeming himself and it is only a matter of time before his actions take their toll and his enemies seek to find redemption.

The play is a classical moral tragedy, in which the main character is faced with an important moral decision which will forever change the course of his life. As in this case -and most others-, the character is seen to be truly good at heart but outside influence persuades him to choose an immoral path. Once he has reaped what he has sown, the evil influences either disappear, go unpunished or change their ways, leaving the main character with all the blame. Macbeth’s moral, valiant persona reflects this major theme and helps to illustrate the evil behaviour of the witches and Lady Macbeth.

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