Malcolm Describes Macbeth and Lady Macbeth
- Pages: 8
- Word count: 1936
- Category: Macbeth
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The actions of Macbeth must be evaluated by his own personal motivations, actions and decisions as well as external causes which may have led to them.
It is established from the beginning that Macbeth possesses great ambition. A certain amount of courage accompanies this. And as a noble; he is an active one; fighting against the forces of a rebel lord, and those of an invading Norwegian King in defence of his own king; Duncan. And in the defence of his homeland; Scotland. A Captain in his army gives Duncan most flattering account of his deeds; claiming “Brave Macbeth” to disdain fortune, and “Like Valors’ minion” to carve “out” a “passage” until he faced Macdonald. But without doubt Macbeth does this not only out of patriotism and loyalty, but also out of a hope for notoriety and material rewards. This is made clear in Macbeths gracious acceptance of credit for his deeds. However, there is little sign of his path as a Loyal nobleman altering. Until outside forces intervene. And convince him that greater things await.
The witches are most certainly the “trigger” of the events that eventually lead Macbeth to become king. And it is probable that had he not met them, then he would not have been so convinced of his right to be king. Although he most likely aspired to such a standing; This is shown by Macbeth, upon hearing the witches prophecy that he shall be “King hereafter” demands that the “Imperfect Speakers” (the witches) should “Stay”. And despite Banquos’ warning that “Instruments of Darkness tell” them “truths” to win them “With honest trifles”. Macbeth is eager to believe what the Witches have said.
However, at this point. Macbeth still has not totally decided whether to pursue the Kingship. It is Lady Macbeth; who is much more Ambitious than her husband. That pushes (and almost forces) Macbeth to attain the kingship by any and all means necessary. When she finishes reading the letter he sent her (Act 1 scene 5). She is sure that Macbeth “shall be what” he is “promised”. And when talking to her husband about Duncan being a guest in their home assures Macbeth that “Never shall sun that morrow see”; she is saying that Duncan will not see the next dawn. She has already decided to kill Duncan. Macbeth, however, is hesitant and anxious about the act of Regicide the couple are about to commit. At this point Macbeth still cannot be considered a butcher; a plotting traitor perhaps; but he still has a conscience. And guilt and anxiety still reside within his mind.
In the evening before the Murder (Act 1 scene 7) Macbeth paces around, talking to himself. He is worried that the Murder could “Trammel up consequence”. Lady Macbeth, however, has assured herself of success. And when she sees her Husbands’ faltering will. She finds herself having to encourage him to continue; in one sense by insulting his manhood, claiming that when Macbeth “Durst (dared to) do it” he’d be a man in her eyes. She also tries to appear stronger and more ruthless than him by saying, that if she had a child, and she was breastfeeding; she would pluck her “nipple from its boneless gums, And dash’d the brains out” if she had sworn to it, as Macbeth had to killing Duncan. She tells Macbeth to “Screw” his “Courage to the sticking post” and they “wont fail”.
It is a short time after the murder that Macbeth truly undergoes a change. After Lady Macbeth finds herself unable to kill Duncan because “He…Resembled” her “Father as he slept”. And He is forced to do the deed. The two of them begin to slowly drift apart. Initially Macbeth feels guilt for his deed, but Lady Macbeth tells him to “Consider it not so deeply”. However, when the murder of Duncan is discovered, blame initially falls on his guards; who Lady Macbeth smeared with blood. But before the guards can protest their innocence; Macbeth kills them in cold blood (to protect himself from discovery). He claimed that he killed them through “Expedition of his violent love”; out of anger for the deed they (had been framed for) done.
It is soon after his ascension to the throne. That Macbeth remembers part of the witches prophecy that stated that Banquos’ children shall be kings. He also remembers that Banquo at least suspects, perhaps knows. That Macbeth killed Duncan. And to ensure that Banquo does not remain a credible threat. Macbeth makes the decision to have him killed. Macbeth has so far killed three people in cold blood, and he is about to hire murderers to slay a fourth. However, during his first meeting with them he tries to absolve himself of guilt, by giving the murderers a reason to kill Banquo, claiming that “Under times past he (Banquo) held” them “Under fortune, which you thought had been our (Macbeth; he uses the royal plural) innocent self”. This shows that he definitely doesn’t want to feel guilty for what he is about to do. But this does not necessarily means he cares for Banquo; he informs the murderers that he “Requires a clearness” meaning that he wants to keep the deed at arms length; he doesn’t want to get his hands dirty. He tells them to “leave no rubs nor botches in the work”, this means that everything must happen according to plan, and nothing must be traceable back to him.
Lady Macbeth later tries to convince him not to continue with the murders telling him that he “must leave this”. Macbeth ignores her. The two continue to drift apart. Later at the banquet; Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo. This is possibly an emanation of his guilt.
When Macbeth is told that Macduff has gone to England to find Malcom, Macbeth sends the murderers to kill Macduffs’ family. He shows no apparent guilt for this.
By now Macbeth and his wife barely speak. Both of them are isolated and without true friends; their solitary state; without each others support has left Lady Macbeth insane with guilt. And Macbeth depressed and paranoid. He speaks a soliloquy; he says “And that which should accompany old age. As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends, I must not look to have” he means that he has been robbed of an ordinary and peaceful life that he could have had. But worst is that he has robbed himself of it; aided by the witches. And so now; as the final battle approaches; he has decided that life and death both hold no meaning to him. As neither have a value nor a fear: He has lost all his friends- and its his fault.
Just before the final battle, Macbeth hears of his wifes’ death. He is unfazed and remarks “She should have died hereafter”. This has two possible meanings; a) she would have died sooner or later; it was inevitable. Or b) Macbeth wishes she could have died later and then he could have mourned her death. And to determine whether or not he is actually a butcher is critical to this one point. But judging by his relationship with Lady Macbeth never being exceptionally close; referring to her in his letter as his “partner in greatness”; which is more of a business partner, than a marital one. So we can only assume that by the end of the play he has become truly without feeling for people. And ultimately left hollow by guilt. And by his addiction to murder;(despite his unwillingness to “get his hands dirty”) we can call him a butcher.
Lady Macbeth initially appeared as the stronger of the two Macbeths. She had ambition, greater than that of her husband. She was determined. She tried to appear ruthless. But by the end, she was an isolated and guilt ridden lady. Who no longer had the stomach for her husbands murderous tactics.
Lady Macbeth sometimes speaks in witch-like and almost demonic undertones, inviting “spirits” and “murdering ministers” to aid her and her husband, asking them to “unsex” her, to go to her breasts and take her “Milk for gall” she then chants “come thick night, and pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell”. Such phrases seem even more sinister than those used by the witches. Although one must wonder if she could actually go through with them.
In the early stages of the play she appears to be in-charge in their relationship. Supporting and in some cases driving her husband to his (and her) goals. She also was his “backup” after the murder. Someone to collaborate his story. For example she was forced to defend his apparent madness at the banquet where he hallucinated a vision of Banquo. But although Lady Macbeth tries to appear strong, cold and ruthless. Really she is no stronger willed than her husband: She didn’t “have the guts” to kill Duncan. Claiming that she would have killed him “Had he not Resembled” her “Father, as he slept”. Yet before the murder she was pushing Macbeth to agree to the murder. And insulting his manhood at the same time; she says “When you durst do it, then you were a man” ;basically saying ‘if you don’t have the guts for it, then you aren’t a man’. She tries to demonstrate how ruthless she is by saying she will aid him in the murder (as well as using the quote from Act 1 scene 7 lines 55-58, mentioned earlier).
Because of her weakness shown when faced with actually carrying out the murder. Macbeth starts to distance himself from his wife. She, however still wants to be let in on what’s happening. And tries to force her husband to tell her. But Macbeth simply brushes her aside. This leads Lady Macbeth to feel Isolated and shut out. And without her husband to support her she is over-run by the guilt of the murder, and the stress of trying to cover up her husbands actions.
Later in the play, she sleepwalks around the castle by night; speaking past conversations. Relating to past events. All of which had a bearing on the murder. At one point she exclaims “who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him!?” and mimes washing her hands. Fretting that “all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand” that she believes is still covered in blood. This is evidence of a guilty conscience.
Lady Macbeth had begun as a scheming, deceitful, cold hearted and dark figure. By the end, she had become something a lot weaker; ridden by her guilt and fear. She was but a shell of what once was. The Doctor tells Macbeth that she is “troubled with thick-coming fancies”.
I ultimately feel that Lady Macbeth cannot be described as a fiend. Because although she may have been dark, ruthless and some-times down-right creepy. She couldn’t stop feeling guilt; as unlike her husband; who had seen the horrors of warfare; and killed many men. She had been at home; and knew not, what murder entailed. Although for the first half of the play she was certainly dominant in the Macbeths’ relationship; she was in some respects fiendish. She was not a fiend herself.
I think that when Malcom referred to the Macbeths as “The Butcher and his fiend-like queen” he was possibly vilifying them for the murder of his father. And the statement was partially one of hatred and dramatic value as opposed to fact.