Macbeth was a Victim of Lady Macbeth and the Supernatural Sisters
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In Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, throughout the duration of the play the main character Macbeth is transformed from a noble and loyal kinsman, to an evil tyrant. Greed and ambition sparked by the prophecies of the Supernatural Sisters, along with the motivation and encouragement of his wife, lead Macbeth to murder his king, his friend, and later everyone he felt a threat to the throne. Whilst Macbeth was ultimately responsible for the bloodshed that unfolded, he was undoubtedly a victim of the manipulations and temptations of Lady MacBeth and the Supernatural Sisters.
The Supernatural Sisters played an influential part in Macbeth’s decision to murder both Duncan and Banquo. The evil of Macbeth’s actions was driven by his lust for the power the witches promised him when they prophesised he would become king,
“All hail, Macbeth! That shalt be king hereafter.”. (I, iii, 50)
Macbeth had always had the ambition to be king, and when the witches told him of his fate, he felt the need to fulfil his destiny. To become king, Macbeth had to kill Duncan,
“With his surcease, success” (I, vii, 4)
Had he not been given the motive of becoming king from the Supernatural Sisters, he would not have done so.
The witches also presented Macbeth with the motivation to kill Banquo. In their first meeting they hailed Banquo, not Macbeth, as the father to a line of kings,
“Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none:” (I, iii, 67).
This prediction instilled Macbeth with jealousy and resentment towards Banquo. He felt that all his work to become king was pointless, as his line would not be continued,
“They hailed him father 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.” (III, i, 59-63).
He had put himself through so much anguish and trauma by murdering Duncan, and all he had done was succeeded in clearing the way for Banquo’s line to take over from him,
“For them the gracious Duncan have I murdered…
To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings!” (III, i 65 and 69).
He sees the only way to ensure his security is to murder Banquo and his son Fleance, thereby ending their family line. Had the witches not manipulated Macbeth into thinking Banquo’s line was a threat to the throne, he would not have felt the need to have Banquo and Fleance murdered.
Whilst the Supernatural Sisters provided Macbeth with the motives for Duncan’s murder, it was his wife Lady Macbeth who encouraged him to commit the act. Even after being told of his fate, Macbeth remained apprehensive about becoming king because it meant he would have to kill Duncan, to whom he was loyal,
“First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,
Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,
Who should against his murderer shut the door,
Not bear the knife myself.” (I, vii, 13) .
However Lady Macbeth, who was hungry for the power that would come with her husband being king, manipulated Macbeth into changing his mind. She was able to do this by challenging the very thing Macbeth was insecure about; his manliness. She convinced him that if he were a real man he would not let his loyalties to Duncan prevent his own success, and that if he were to become king he would also become a better man,
“Wouldst thou have that
Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life
And live a coward in thine own esteem…
When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And, to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more the man.” (I, vii, 41-43 and 49-51) .
Macbeth was weak, and he was ready to cowardly let fate prevail,
“If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me,” (I, iii, 143),
However Lady Macbeth drove him to kill Duncan, and fulfil his destiny. Had she not encouraged him to promote his position, he probably would have not had the courage to do it himself.
The Supernatural Sisters assured Macbeth’s fate when they presented him with their second set of prophecies. Through these prophecies they deliberately set out to deceive him, so that he would leave himself open to attack. Hecate made her intentions known when she said,
“Thither he will come to know his destiny…
And that distilled by magic sleights
Shall raise such artificial sprites
As by the strength of their illusion
Shall draw him on to his confusion.
He shall spurn fate, scorn death, and bear
His hopes ‘bove wisdom, grace and fear:
And you all know security
Is mortals’ chiefest enemy.” (III, v, 17 and 26-33).
The witches misled Macbeth into thinking he is invincible by making the dangers to Macbeth sound so ridiculous that he ignores them. They tell him that,
“The power of man; for none of woman born
Shall harm Macbeth”. (IV, i, 80)
They knew that Macduff was born via a C- section, and thus not of woman born, however they omit this from their prophecy. Because Macbeth does not know anyone not of woman born, he thinks himself safe. They also tell him,
“Macbeth shall never vanquished be until
Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill
Shall come against him.” (IV, i, 93)
As trees cannot walk, Macbeth quite reasonably believes he will never be overthrown. Again the Supernatural Sisters knew exactly how he would meet his end, however they failed to warn him. The Supernatural Sisters caused Macbeth to be fearless and to lose all caution; they purposely deceived him by omission. Had they not lulled Macbeth into a false sense of security, Macduff, Malcolm and the English army would not have so easily overthrown him.
Throughout the play the Supernatural Sisters worked Macbeth like a puppet. Through their prophecies they were able to manipulate him from the brave and loyal captain he was in the beginning of the play, into the cruel and evil tyrant that he was when he met his death. Whilst the witches were responsible for motivating Macbeth, they could not have succeeded alone. It was Lady Macbeth that encouraged Macbeth to become evil in order to advance his own position. Even though she didn’t play a huge role in Macbeth’s treachery later in the play, it was Lady Macbeth who initially forced him down the road to tyranny. Macbeth was undoubtedly a victim of these women and their evil aspirations.