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Macbeth’s Metamorphosis

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The American novelist, Ellen Glasgow, once wrote, “All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward”. Society, as a whole, has changed over the centuries, however, sometimes not for the better. The genocides of our past as well the intolerance of today prove that we all have not necessarily improved. William Shakespeare exhibited this recurring theme of backwards change in his tragedy, Macbeth, in order to make an example of our backwards development. The epitome of a backward progression is Macbeth – once a revered Scottish general, he gradually falls from his status as his paranoia and insecurity fester and feed his lust and greed.

From the beginning of the play to the end, Macbeth shows a great amount of change – almost like a fall from grace. After murdering King Duncan, Macbeth speaks to his wife of covering their misdeed: “I’ll go no more:/ I am afraid to think what I have done;/ Look on’t again I dare not” ( II, ii, 51-53). Macbeth, a spineless man emasculated by his wife, was not mentally prepared to kill his country brethren; the murder of his king opened the pure side of Macbeth, one full of guilt. However, as Macbeth’s pure side is further soiled by his greed for power, he becomes more ruthless, without wincing as he continues to kill without reason. As Macbeth looks upon the advancing army he reflects on his life after his sin against the crown: “I have almost forgot the taste of fears:/ The time has been, my senses would have cooled/ To hear a night-shriek, and my fell of hair […] Direness, familiar to my slaughterous thoughts,/ Cannot once start me” (V, v, 9-15). Macbeth says himself, that at one point in his life, killing haunted him, but he has now become so accustomed to murder that it is routine to him. He now kills without scruple in order to secure his position on the throne, no matter how fruitless it is. Macbeth, at the end of the play, dies without the honor he once had, but dies as a criminal and a traitor to Scotland.

In Act Five, scene seven (the last scene of the tragedy), Macbeth is cornered in his castle by the English army. He watches as they continue to advance towards his castle, and prepares to fight anyone who dares challenge him. He kills Siward’s son, only to further convince himself that no one shall topple him from his throne. However, Macduff finds Macbeth and kills him, bringing his head to Malcolm and the rest of the English army. This scene serves as the ending and resolution to this play, to set things right in the fictional story, and to solidify the theme of the story. Macbeth was the example to all Elizabethans to not upset the balance of the universe because if it was disrupted, the universe has the power to set everything back to norm whilst punishing the criminal of the high crimes.

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