Who is Responsible for the Evil in “Macbeth”?
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During this essay I am going to discuss the actions of MacBeth, Lady MacBeth and the Witches. I am going to take into consideration the way that Shakesphere presents them and the drama he creates in their characterisation.
As the play starts, the audience are immediately introduced to the witches who are talking in riddles and rhymes. They mention MacBeth’s name before the audience have even been introduced to him. Shakesphere intentionally does this so that it hints to the audience that the witches have something against MacBeth. The witches use words like “fair is foul and foul is fair” and “Hover through the fog and filthy air.” Shakesphere does this to show the audience that the witches are nasty and full of evil.
The second time the audience meets the witches, they are meeting with MacBeth. First though they are on their own talking about MacBeth and then he arrives. MacBeth uses the same words that the witches use in the first scene to describe the day that they will meet. MacBeth proclaims, “So foul and fair a day I have not seen.” Shakesphere does this so that the audience can see that they are making correct predictions about the future before they even know what is going to happen in the play. The witches greet MacBeth by saying “Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis” which he knows he is. Then the next witch calls, “Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor”. This is called dramatic irony when the audience knows more than a character in the play. This is very strange to MacBeth because he doesn’t know that he has just been crowned this title in the previous scene. Even stranger though when the third witch proclaims “All hail MacBeth, that shalt be King hereafter”. This amazes both MacBeth and Banquo, who then calls to the witches jealously “To me you speak not. If you can look into the seeds of time. And say, which grain will grow and, and which will not.”
The witches try to pit Banquo against MacBeth by telling him he will be “Lesser than MacBeth, and greater”, “not so happier, yet much happier” and “Thou shalt get Kings, though thou be none”. Basically they tell Banquo that he will be less than MacBeth and not so happy but eventually he will be greater and happier. Also he wont be King but his children will be.
In the next scene, MacBeth is crowned Thane of Cawdor and it is announced that Malcolm will be next in line to the throne. What the witches have said to MacBeth starts to bring out his ambition and is excited because what the witches predicted is starting to come true.
The witches have placed this ambition inside MacBeth. Shakesphere has deliberately done this so that the whole of the next few scenes are happening just because of the witches.
The witches have succeeded in corrupting MacBeth’s life and causing him to not only kill the King (regicide), Duncan, but also the guards as a cover-up and to send murderers to kill Banquo and Fleance.
When the witches next appear they are stereo-typically composing a nasty and foul brew. Shakesphere has made MacBeth believe the witches predictions so that he will continuously go back.
This plays right into the hands of the witches who are manipulating the situation. On MacBeth’s second visit to the witches they give him four apparitions. The first of which, they tell him “Beware Macduff”. The second is “None of woman born, shall harm MacBeth”. Shakesphere intentionally and cleverly places this apparition because at first you immediately think, well everybody is born of a woman so what does he need to worry about. This is exactly what MacBeth thinks and is even more confident when he hears the third apparition. Once again cleverly and deliberately written to cause confusion by Shakesphere, because a wood cannot climb a hill. The fourth and final apparition shows eight Kings with Banquo last and a glass in his hands.
Shakesphere has now mentally destroyed MacBeth with the use of the witches but MacBeth is still confident because of the apparitions. The witches’ predictions have caused MacBeth to act in such an evil way. They have made a massive contribution to the evil in the play. Had it not been for the witches picking on MacBeth right from the beginning then the play may have turned out completely different but that does not mean that MacBeth would have been totally brave, loyal and full of goodness.
The play starts completely different from MacBeth’s point of view. The audience hears of MacBeth’s bravery and loyalty in the battle that takes place before the play begins. Shakesphere deliberately does this to make MacBeth appear to be the ideal thane to the King. This makes the audience assume that MacBeth has no evil in him before he meets the witches. Once MacBeth finds out he is thane of Cawdor he starts to get ideas about being king like the witches promised. He writes a letter to Lady MacBeth who gets introduced to the play by reading it and then she speaks a soliloquy. MacBeth is told that Duncan, the king, will be visiting them and staying the night.
Shakesphere shows MacBeth’s conscience in a soliloquy, battling his conscience, deciding whether or not to kill Duncan so he can become king. This is his major psychological struggle as he weighs up the pros and cons. He says that if he could get away with it then he would but he shouldn’t because “First, as I am his kinsman, and his subject” and also because he is a guest in his home. Lady MacBeth manages to persuade MacBeth into doing the deed. MacBeth says “we will proceed no further in this business” but Lady MacBeth responds by saying she’d kill her own baby if she had made a promise. MacBeth feels obliged to agree.
MacBeth now starts another long soliloquy and starts “is this a dagger, which I see before me, the handle toward my hand?” and “I have thee not, and yet I see thee still”. He faces another psychological struggle.
MacBeth is clearly not thinking straight because he brings the daggers back to Lady MacBeth. He feels the guilt immediately as he cannot sleep he hears voices “MacBeth does murder sleep,… MacBeth shall sleep no more”.
MacBeth’s evil shows again when he sends an assassin to kill Banquo because he knows MacBeth killed Duncan. In another soliloquy MacBeth realises he has killed the king for no reason because his children shall not be king.
“Fruitless Crown” and “Barren Sceptre”.
Lady MacBeth now is showing “doubtful joy” but puts on a brave face for MacBeth.
MacBeth can’t sleep now; he envies Duncan at peace “Affliction of these terrible dreams, that shake us nightly”. “O, full of scorpions is my mind dear wife”, the state of mind brought on by his guilt. Shakesphere does this to show that MacBeth is not evil.
MacBeth after seeing Banquo’s ghost, realises “I am in blood stepp’d in so far, that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er”. Showing his evil side.
MacBeth meets the witches who tell him of his 4 apparitions and MacBeth leaves feeling confident that he can’t be beaten but once he comes face to face with Macduff he knows it is over. MacBeth’s evil is most injected by the witches and aided by
Lady MacBeth but once it is within him he can’t help but make it worse by turning thoughts into actions.
As for Lady MacBeth, right from the first words that she speaks in the play, other than the reading of MacBeth letter, you can see that she is not a nice person.