Essay, Research Paper: Macbeth

Shakespeare: Macbeth

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Show how Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have to go against their own natures in order
to kill Duncan. Each character in Macbeth has to either fight or give in to the
evil. Because evil is contrary to human nature, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have to
go against their own conscience in order to murder Duncan. When the witches
predict that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor and later, King of Scotland, he
is stunned to silence by their prophecies. When murder enters Macbeths mind he
is frightened by his thoughts. He tries to reject his impulse, declaring that he
will leave everything to chance: “ If chance will have me King, why, chance
may crown me Without my stir.” Very soon he begins to confess a
‘suggestion’ of ‘horrible imaginings’. Soon after, he admits to
possessing ‘black and deep desires’ but he is afraid to speak about them
openly, even to himself. Later on he indites a letter to Lady Macbeth containing
conjecture about the prophecies of the three witches. She immediately wants to
take fate into her own hands. She begs the evil spirits to tear all human
feelings from her, for she knows that she will have to urge her husband, Macbeth,
to become King by murdering Duncan. She will have to give up all the gentle,
tender qualities of a woman, so that she can become a sexless, pitiless demon.
She has to make her husband ignore his own conscience. She declares: “ Thou
wouldst be great, Art not without ambition, but without The illness should
attend it.” By ‘illness’ she means ‘evil’. Macbeth seizes evil, as one
might catch a disease. When Macbeth has the opportunity to think about his
wife’s suggestions and about his desires to become King, he becomes aware of
the duty that he owes to Duncan, his loyal King. Following a great battle with
himself, Macbeth decides not to go through with the murder. He states to Lady
Macbeth: “ We will proceed no further in this business.” Macbeth is not
prepared for all her wrath and abuse. She calls him a coward. When in reality it
is not cowardice that restrains Macbeth, it is his conscience. She also insults
his masculinity, and declares that she would have murdered her child while it
was feeding at her breast, rather than break such a promise as Macbeth had done.
Persuaded by her conviction, he yields to her, and in order to prove himself a
man in her eyes, goes against his own nature and agrees to the murder of King
Duncan.. The night of the murder Macbeth is very troubled; he is living a
nightmare. Lady Macbeth is as tense as he husband, and she has been drinking to
give herself courage. As Macbeth walks to Duncan’s chambers, his imagination
creates a dagger floating in the air. At first he is alarmed by the dagger,
later he seems to enjoy the horror of the moment. After the murder of Duncan,
Macbeth is horrified to think of what he has done. Lady Macbeth, on the other
hand, is bold and confident, because she does not understand that the deed is
morally wrong; her only concern at the time is to destroy the evidence. Macbeth
awakens to a consciousness of guilt that will remain with him until his death.
Trace the effect the betrayal of human nature has on each of them. Following the
murder of Duncan the Macbeths appear to have achieved their hearts desire; in
reality, they only gain torment and dismay. When Macbeth takes the crown by
murder he upsets the natural order of his life. He becomes a cruel and unjust
ruler and is always conscious of guilt. Macbeth brings chaos to Scotland,
breaking up the balance of a well-ordered country, just as he breaks up the
state banquet ‘with most admir’d disorder’, claiming to have seen the
Ghost of Banquo. Soon after the murder of Banquo, Macbeth begins to grasp an
unreality about his life, but that does not seem to change his conduct.
Macbeth’s cruelty in action is shown when Lady Macduff and her son are
brutally slaughtered. When he planned to kill Banquo’s son, Fleance, he could
acquit the murder to himself by referring to the prophecy that Banquo’s
children should be kings. But he is in no danger from Lady Macduff or her son;
the crime is more loathsome because it is motiveless. At the beginning of the
play Lady Macbeth prayed that she should know ‘no compunctious visitings of
nature’ that might prevent her from murdering Duncan. Now she walks in her
sleep, and her mind constantly re-lives the night of the murder. On that night
she declared confidently that ‘a little water clears us of this deed’, but
now she knows that ‘all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little
hand’. Fear and guilt drive her mad, soon she kills herself. By the end of the
play Macbeth sees life as an empty, meaningless sham. He feels old and lonely:
“ My way of life Is fall’n into the sere, the yellow leaf; And that which
should accompany old age, As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends, I must
not look to have.” When he finds out that Lady Macbeth killed herself ‘by
self and violent hands’ he states: “ She should have died hereafter; There
would have been a time for such a word. To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this pretty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded
time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out,
out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and
frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more; it is a tale Told by
an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.” At the end of the play,
as the soldiers move closer to Dunsinane, Macbeth does not respond with
excitement. He has lost the ability to feel fear or, as we see when he hears of
his wife’s death, grief. Macbeth chooses to die in battle. Macduff challenges
him, but he is reluctant to fight: “ Of all men else I have avoided thee: But
get thee back, my soul is too much charg’d With blood of thine already.”
Macduff has a vengence against him for the brutal murder of his family, so he
has no choice but to kill him. How does the play portray evil as a perversion of
human nature? In Macbeth, Shakespeare tries to show us that human nature cannot
be avoided, for evil is a perversion of human nature. Before Duncans murder,
things in the Macbeth household seemed very ‘normal’ and good-natured.
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth seemed to have a blissful and healthy marriage, they
were very happy together, trusting each other with their intimate thoughts and
feelings. Lady Macbeth was a very strong woman. She was very loyal to her
husband and would do anything to make him happy. Lady Macbeth was also very
manipulative and persuasive at times. It was because of her encouragement that
Macbeth decides to murder Duncan, his good-hearted King. Because of her ambition
for her husband, she used all her strength and intelligence for evil purposes.
Macbeth was a mighty and ambitious leader of Duncan’s army. Things were going
well for him, especially after the battle against Macdonwald and his band of
rebels; and then against the Norwegians and the Scottish traitor. He was later
named Thane of Cawdor for his bravery and loyalty to Duncan. When he hears the
witches’ predictions that he will be King, they sound like great news;
actually they lead to death and destruction. For, his desire to become King, he
is willing to turn his back on what he knows to be right. Macbeth and Lady
Macbeth truly believe that by killing Duncan they would attain their hearts
desire, but once Macbeth kills Duncan, he is committed to a course of lying and
killing. He will do anything to keep his title as King of Scotland. His sense of
right and wrong has disintegrated and he seems to be living a nightmare. Macbeth
throws all ideas of honor out the window. Once he has done that, nobody knows in
whom they can trust. His entire alliance with Lady Macbeth is shattered. He does
not tell her about the murder of Banquo or ask her for her notion on the matter.
Lady Macbeth, on the other hand, is suffering from nightmares. In her
sleepwalking she refers to incidents that happened during the night of the
murder: “ Out damned spot! Out, I say! One; two. Why then ‘tis time to do
‘t. Hell is murky. Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear
who knows it, when none can call our power to account? Yet who would have
thought the old man to have so much blood in him?” It is as if she is
re-living that horrible night over, and over again. After the night of the
murder she ‘slept no more’. Because of her lack of rest and her guilty
conscience she decided that she could no longer go on living, she kills herself.
Macbeth does not go down without a fight. Edward the Confessor’s army is
attacking him, yet he puts on his armour and goes out to join in the battle.
Macbeth is at last forced to confront Macduff, who cuts off his head and brings
it to the rightful King, Malcolm. At last order has been reinstated to Scotland,
and affairs will once again be controlled ‘in measure, time, and place’. In
Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s downfalls are caused by
their betrayal of human nature. They both try to ignore their own consciences,
which leads to unfortunate mishaps on both of their parts. After the brutal
murder of Duncan, everything changes. Lady Macbeth feels guilty, and suffers
from nightmares relating to the incident, which lead to her suicide. Macbeth, on
the other hand, is forced to a course of killing and lying. His sense of right
and wrong ceases to exist. He does not give up easily, though. He fights just
until his death, which is brought on by Macduff. Even before he is killed,
Macbeth is dying of a diseased spirit.
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