Macbeth is More a Victim Than a Villain
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The question is asking us to show our opinions to whether he is a person injured/destroyed in seeking to obtain an object or whether he is a person guilty/capable of great wickedness. The question tells us that Macbeth is a man of superhuman qualities. The play is written in 1606. Shakespeare wrote it as a tribute to King James VI of England. King James was fascinated by witchcraft and was devoted to the divine right of Kings. The people of the 17^th century believe that god appointed Kings. This belief makes the murder of Duncan in the play particularly grave. James I wrote a book entitled Demonology. In this he expressed his belief in witchcraft. A belief, which he shared with many people in society. In choosing these issues, Shakespeare, reflected the interests of time. The source of the play was, Holinshead Chronicles. For setting, Shakespeare chose Scotland, which at the time was associated with bleakness and war. Thus it provided an appropriate setting for the events of the play.
Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s mature tragedies- it was written at the height of his powers. It is no surprise, therefore, to discover that the language of the play is rich and varied. These are three forms of language to consider: blank verse, prose and verse cuplets. Shakespeare’s exploitation of language is used for emotive, aural and figural effect. Macbeth is a man of action: the play concerns things he does. He is a fearless warrior- and is an important lord- who defends his king against treachery. However, ambition is his fatal weakness. He allows, first the witches’ prophecy and then his wife’s ambition for him, to undermine his integrity. It is clear that he is not easily won over by evil- his conscience is strong, and throws up many objections to his doing the deed. However, he is also too easily influenced in the direction that secretly desires to go. Once he has decided, he does not deviate and each step subsequently reaffirms his initial choice. Macbeth, then, is determined, and his determination goes to a violent and ruthless nature.
The three witches, who are speaking in rhyming couplets, first introduce us to Macbeth in line eight of Act one. Macbeth is described for the first time in Act one scene two. He is described, by Malcolm as, `a good and hardy soldier,’ and by the captain who says he deserves the title of, `brave.’ This shows us people’s first thoughts and reactions of Macbeth. He was a good warrior and liked by many. He is such an outrageous character in bayyle that he is awarded the title of, `The Thane of Cawdor,’ by the King himself. This now means that people will have more respect for Macbeth. The rhyming cuplets give the effect of an incantation almost as if the witches are trying to call upon the evil spirit. When we meet Macbeth in scene three his first words echo, those of the witches in scene one. This may lead us to think that Macbeth is a villain due to his link with the witches.
When Macbeth first meets the witches, they prophecies, that he will become, `Thane of Cawdor and King here after.’ Macbeth is anxious to hear more about these prophecies, thus indicating his thoughts on self-promotion. Macbeth’s reactions again showing us, that there is a link between him and the witches, leading us to believe that Macbeth is indeed a villain. Banquo describes the witches as being unnatural and evil, `what! Can the devil speak true now? Macbeth’s reaction is the same as that of Banquo. So for the first time we are able to see that Macbeth may indeed be a victim of all the unnatural and evilness in the atmosphere. The imagery of clothing is used in relation to Macbeth’s ambition, `borrowed robes and strong garments………..’ Macbeth’s ambition is the driving force of his life. Macbeth’s greatest weakness is his ambition, he says this specifically when he is attempting to resist the murder of Duncan, `I have no spur… but only/vaulting ambition.’ It is his ambition, which leads Macbeth to murder, treason, hypocrisy, corruption and deepest evil. In scene four we again see how highly Macbeth is thought of when, King Duncan praises him, `my worthy Cawdor.’ This is also further evidence of Macbeth’s valance in battle. Macbeth’s contrast to Banquo is also highlighted.
Banquo is open and direct in his intentions; whereas Macbeth is convert in his intentions. In this scene Macbeth leaves to go home and brood on his future prospects. It is at this stage that his thoughts and attitude towards murder harden. This is an example of Macbeth as a villain. Macbeth’s soliloquy reveals a new determination to carry the deed through. The vocabulary has switched from polysyllabic abstractions to largely monosyllabic matter-of-factness. Couplets clinch the sense of the line and the scene of inevitability about the deed Macbeth must do. The letter that Macbeth sent to his wife shows us that he has trust in her-for such a letter could itself be constructed as treasonous-but also affection and love, `my dearest partner of greatness,’ suggests a warm equality of persons. The letter tells us that Macbeth believes in prophecies. He communicates his excitement about his eventual destiny to be king. We see another side to Macbeth for the first time in scene five, through the thoughts of his wife.
She is worried that Macbeth is too soft a person to be able to take the crown. The minute that Macbeth enters the castle she immediately sets to work upon his intentions. She insists that the deed must be done and that failure to accomplish this act would be a form of fear. This shows us that Macbeth may be a victim because Lady Macbeth is targeting his soft points. The imagery of darkness in this scene recalls Macbeth’s earlier invocation of darkness. The imagery of blood runs through the play. Here blood is seen as a natural function of the human body. One that naturally feeds mans capacity for compassion and repentance. These are things, which Lady Macbeth wishes stopped. In scene six Duncan arrives at Macbeth’s castle, but Lady Macbeth only greets him. Once more the theme of reality versus appearance is lightly alluded to. The air and the castle appear delightful, but are in reality it is to be the site of a foul murder. Ironically, Duncan refers to Macbeth as the, `Thane of Cawdor.’
In scene seven Macbeth debates the pros and cons of murdering Duncan. However, the imagery of his own imagination undermines his reasoning: as he considers Duncan’s virtuous qualities, pictures of angels and cherubim’s seeking retribution assail and frighten him. One of the cons he is seeking for murdering Duncan is the fact that he is such a good king. The only justification for murdering his own ambition. At this stage Lady Macbeth attacks her husband, focusing on his courage and manhood, she accuses her husband of cowardice and knows that this is an area that will hurt him. This is another case where Macbeth is shown to be a victim in the play. Macbeth’s soliloquy gives us an insight into his inner conflict and the fact that he feared retribution. The breathless soliloquy effectively represents his indecision. In this scene we notice the contrast between Macbeth’s performance and that of Lady Macbeth’s performance. Macbeth’s final words in the scene are, `False face must hide what the false heart doth know.’
This again shows us that Macbeth maybe a victim in all this evil. In Act 2 scene 1, we see another contrast between Macbeth and Banquo-The witches have affected Banquo to.-but while Macbeth has surrendered his will to them, Banquo’s dreams invaded. By then Macbeth is presented with a diamond from the king to give to Lady Macbeth. Macbeth lies about his reactions to the witches, however the hallucinations he experiences, indicate his fraught state of mind. His fear is captured in the rhythm of the lines. His soliloquy, while hallucinating contains powerful, visual images. In scene two Macbeth returns from murdering Duncan. He is obsessed by the noises he has heard, and particularly, is distressed by the fact that when-passing Malcolm and Donlalbain’s chamber he was unable to say `amen’ in response to their request for blessing. This shows us he maybe a victim in the evil of the play. The fact that such a great warrior-and killer of men-is lost in terrifying guilt indicates the full extent of the evil he has committed. The need for `amen’ which he cannot speak and the fact that even the ocean cannot clean him, suggests the state of total damnation.
Macbeth contemplates the dreadfulness of the deed he has committed. His poetic invocation of sleep, his hearing of a voice, his fear that his eyes will be plucked out, all indicate his distressed state, `sleep no more, Macbeth does murder sleep.’ `He shall sleep no more.’ It is possible at this stage to feel compassion and sympathy for Macbeth; it is possible to realize the enormity of the deed and the evil associated with this deed. He here appears to be a victim of his own ambition. Lennox’s account of the storm is counter pointed by an almost dismissive four-word reply from Macbeth: `Twas a rough night.’ In that tiny detail we see how unable Macbeth is to be natural and sociable. He has acted unnaturally. His unnatural actions are reflected in nature.
In order for Macbeth to cover his guilt, he speaks in poetic metaphors about King Duncan; `His silver skin laced with his golden blood.’ In addition to this Macbeth kills the two guards. This shows us again that Macbeth may be a villain. Macbeth is nominated and has gone to Scone to be invested. This shows us he is liked and trusted by many. It also shows us he is a good liar and a good villain. In Act 3 scene 1 Macbeth reveals his insecurity, while Banquo lives. His cunning nature is shown when he cross-questioned Banquo about how he and Fleance are spending the evening. It is also shown in the reference to Malcolm and Donalbain as he is thus keeping alive the suspicion that they have killed their father. Macbeth’s soliloquy in this scene indicates his bitterness and his dialogue with the murderers. It is worth noting the bestial imagery with which men can be classified in the same way as dogs. Earlier before he `fell,’ Macbeth said he dared do all that a man should do-to do more was to be no man. In other words, acting like an animal is a natural consequence of his choices-and the imagery demonstrates that.
In scene 2 we learn that Macbeth is bothered by terrible dreams and that his wife is concerned about his solidarity existence. We realize that Macbeth has planned Banquo’s murder alone and that Lady Macbeth is unaware of his plans to kill him. For Macbeth this proves an inception period in which he grows stronger, `Things bad make strong themselves by ill.’ This creates dramatic irony. When he speaks of the murder of Banquo, he reverts to the earlier images of light, darkness and invokes the supernatural hetace, `whilst nights black agents, to their preys do rouse,’ `light thickens.’ This shows us the villain in Macbeth’s character. Macbeth fells he must go on killing in order to fell secure. In scene 3 Macbeth murders Banquo, which is reflected in the putting out of the light, `who did strike out the light?’ The addition of the third murder adds nothing to the progress of the plot, but exposes the kind of world Macbeth inhabits and creates all around him, `he needs not pour mistrust.’ The contrast between day and night rubs through the play. The loss of the light foreshadows the loss of life. At the Banquet Macbeth steps aside to speak to the first murderer.
He is disturbed when he hears that Banquo is dead but Fleance escaped. As Macbeth stands making a speech, praising Banquo, Banquo’s ghost takes the last remaining chair. Banquo’s ghost ironically occupies Macbeth’s seat-; as his descendants will his throne, `push us from our stools.’ Only Macbeth can see the ghost the ghost and he is terrified. Again we are shown that Macbeth may be a victim in all these evil and supernatural happenings. Macbeth has known that Banquo and Fleance are both dead, whatever the consequences, as he says later in the scene, `for mine own good/All causes shall give way.’ This shows us yet again that Macbeth may be a villain. Macbeth no longer talks of the we-himself and his partner of greatness-but of himself alone. The reference once more to sleep reinforces our sense of their guilt, it also points to the dramatic irony that Macbeth himself is a prophet, `Macbeth shall sleep no more.’
At this moment Macbeth has achieved his ambition and maximum control. At the start of scene 5 the Thanes, excepting Macduff, are disposed to accept him as their legitimate king. The appearance of the ghost at this point of triumph marks his decline. All is downhill from now on. The suggestion that Macbeth is a `son’ albeit `wayward,’ suggest that Macbeth is no longer a victim of the witch’s evil, but more an adept-one of them- in their art. The need for strength is reflected in the witch’s offering to let Macbeth see their `Masters.’ This scene, which was believed, not be Shakespeare’s work is written in rhyming couplets; `Meet me in the morning, thither he will come to meet his destiny.’ Lennox tells another lord in deeply ironic terms, his understanding of what has been happening in Scotland: i.e. that Macbeth is responsible for all the murders that have plagued the state. Malcom attempts to raise military support to reclaim his throne. Macduff is attempting to join Malcom. This shows us that people are turning against Macbeth and losing trust and faith in him. Macbeth said earlier he intended to `send’ for Macduff.
This scene six briefly covers the fact he has-Macduff has simply refused point-blank to attend. His shows us that Macduff now dislikes Macbeth. Macbeth goes to see the three witches and commands them to answer his question in the response to this they call up powerful spirits. Macbeth is told three prophecies: 1) that he should fear Macduff, 2) that he cannot be harmed of one born of a woman, 3) he is secure until Birnan Wood comes to Dunsianane. He then presses them for more information about Baquo’s offspring and is mortified to see a vision of eight kings all descended from Banquo, who also appears. This disturbs him. When Macbeth hears that Macduff has fled to England he determines to kill Macduff’s wife and children as a reprisal. Again we see the villain side to Macbeth. Macbeth has reached a state of dependence from the witches; he now demands spells rather than have then thrust upon him. The light verse of incantation, “Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble,” which is in rhyming couplets contrasts with Macbeth’s harsh invocation of evil, “Now, your secret, black and midnight hags!”
The murder of lady Macduff and her innocent son indicates Macbeth’s unscroupulness irony. This also ties in with the theme of unnatural reaction. Macbeth has ordered these murders but hasn’t carried them out himself. This again links Macbeth to being a villain. In the sleep walking scene we have evidence that Macbeth does murder sleep. As a result Macbeth’s reactions to Lady Macbeth have become mentally and emotionally unbalanced. Their anguish is expressed in an argument of pros. This is appropriate considering Lady Macbeth’s state of mind. The Scots Lord planned to meet up with the English at Birnan Wood so that they can overthrow Macbeth. The mention of Birnan Wood reminds us of the witch’s third prophecies. Mean while Macbeth is fortifying Dunsinane castle. We notice the imagery of clothing surfacing once more- Macbeth is simply not big enough to hold onto the crown: `now does he feel his title/Hang lose about him like a giants robe/upon a dwarfish thief.’ Macbeth is determined to brave it out despite the fact that many of his soldiers have deserted him. He sees himself as being invincible and he recalls the third prophecies of the witches.
The violent language used by Macbeth when berating the servant, reflects his life of violence; `The devil dam thee black.’ This is another incident where we can link Macbeth to being a villain. We receive an insight into Macbeth’s thought in his soliloquy and we can almost feel sympathy for his as he reflects how his life has turned out and he reflects; `And that which accomplish old age, as honour, love, obedience, troop of friends, I must not look to have.’ The care he urges for Lady Macbeth applies to him. He can never be purged, to a health. Macbeth’s castle is surrounded. He is trapped but unbeaten. He encounters young Seyward and kills him in combat. The castle surrenders, but Macbeth’s bravery is still evident. Macduff reveals to Macbeth that he was; `From his mother’s womb, untimely ripp’d.’ The final scene of the play brings retribution on Macbeth. But as low as he has fallen, the final challenge for Macduff- again, challenging his manhood- does spur him onto fight.
So, at least Macbeth dies courageously. Before he is slain he denounces the witches for their, `Double Sense.’ All of the prophecies have now come true. Macbeth comes to realize how completely duped by the spirits he has been. Macbeth’s head is exhibited and Malcolm is crowned at Scorme. He stands in short contrast with the King Malcolm. I personally, think that Macbeth is more a tyrant than a tragic hero. The courage he shows in fighting Macduff does, however, suggests, to me, that he may be a hero. Although, true, he faces Macduff but not because he is courageous- but because perhaps, he was more frightened of public abuse, or perhaps he faced him, not out of courage but out of that same dogged devotion to prophecy that he had previously shown- he had to die then because the witches had said so. The symbolism of the play is seamlessly connected with the imagery: blood. It is a symbol for the evil that is associated with Macbeth.