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Macbeth:  Death and the Supernatural

 

Throughout William Shakespeare's Macbeth, many characters evolve and many disappear into the background. The main character, Macbeth, travels through utter chaos when he proclaims himself monarch. When he first meets the witches of the supernatural, they tell him of the future. One of the themes amplified throughout the play is the circle of life, from the beginning to the end. The visions provided by the three witches begin Macbeth's quest for dominance. The three main effects of this theme are: the death of Macbeth's friends and family. Second, the deaths of his mortal enemies. The last point is the death of himself. The supernatural amplifies the theme of death.

            From the first brief encounter of the witches, to the last nightmarish visions that Macbeth has, many close friends and relatives have died because of his visions with the supernatural. The death of his wife in Act V, Scene IV is the death that sends him over the abyss and into mental instability. Lady Macbeth is like a joined appendage to Macbeth. They work as one, communicate as one, and when that appendage is lost, so is MACBETH's grip with reality. Lady Macbeth was the only person he could truly confide in. The supernatural also had another key factor to her death. In the first act of the play, she calls on the powers of the supernatural to make her strong. The following quote, "Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe, top-full of direst cruelty! make thick my blood, stop up the access and passage to remorse… Come to my woman's breasts, and take my milk for gall…", is possibly the most important passage that leads to Lady Macbeth's death. She calls on the evil spirits to "unsex" her, and to replace her "milk" with "gall". It seems that she wants to be the most cruelest being in the world. The theme of the life cycle is amplified in this situation because of her request to the spirits. This event is the beginning of the end for Lady Macbeth's life. She is the one who insists Macbeth should kill the king and reign as the king of Scotland. It is her ideas and plans that lead herself and Macbeth into the pits of hell. She is not solely to blame for this catastrophe though. It is Macbeth that decides to go forward with the plans. Throughout all the chaos in the remaining scenes of the play, she is eventually killed by one of Malcolm's associates. Therefore, it is her own foul play with the supernatural that leads to her death.

            This play shows how one man can turn himself into a barbarian just by one simple vision. Throughout this play, many of Macbeth's enemies, and traitors (Banquo) are killed by Macbeth or his hired assassins. In the first vision provided by the witches, Macbeth seems himself as king of Scotland, and Banquo's children future heirs to the throne. When Macbeth finally kills King Duncan, the turning point has vanished. There is no going back to the past and changing what has happened. This event signals the gates of hell to unlatch the door that holds the chaos that will torment Macbeth to his own death. This regicide happens all because to path to what Macbeth thinks of freedom is open. After the Thane of Cawdor is executed, MACBETH believes that he can then crush his remaining enemies with one swift stroke. This is not so, as Macbeth finds. After he commits regicide, he realizes that he must kill all the enemies that oppose him, mainly Malcolm, the king's heir to the throne. When Banquo sees through MACBETH's falsehood, he then turns traitor. When Macbeth realizes that one of his closest friends has become his mortal enemy, he sees to it that Banquo is murdered. Once again, these significant deaths on the timeline all happen because of the supernatural. The visions from the three witches, and the summonings of evil from Lady Macbeth are the two events that mainly lead to this path of destruction. The first paradox from the witches serves to confuse the reader into thinking what will happen to Banquo. Macbeth knows that he must become king of Scotland before Banquo or he will not fulfill his prophecy.

            All these events lead up to end, the murder of Macbeth himself. From the very beginning of the play, Macbeth sees himself as a visionary, who can see into near future. Only after his wife is killed does he suddenly loose grip with reality. With this event, Macbeth can now be compared to as Adolf Hitler. Both loose their sanity after they loose something very dear to them. For Macbeth, it is his wife. For Hitler, it is world domination. After both of these figures loose these "possessions", they suddenly go haywire. Although Hitler did not reign on the powers of the supernatural, he did go completely off the edge after the Allied forces started to invade Germany. Both these figures made one horrible mistake. Macbeth listened to the prophecies and vowed to kill the king. When he committed regicide, that was his horrible mistake. That was when everything turned against him, and when he could never turn back. When Hitler invaded the U.S.S.R. in 1944-5, the Allies had a chance to conquer Germany. That single tactical error was what made him go over the edge. After both of these leaders go mad, they are killed in battle or commit suicide. Macbeth has a chance to flee at the end, but chooses not to and is slain in battle. Hitler also has a chance to "run away" but he and his wife commit suicide by having his officers douse him with gasoline and set both of them on fire. Macbeth's mistake, originally started by that one supernatural encounter with the three witches eventually leads to his demise.

            In conclusion, the use of the supernatural amplifies the cycle of life or the beginning of the end. Throughout each encounter that Macbeth has with a supernatural prophecy, he proceeds one more step towards insanity, and eventually his own death. The death of his closest companion, Lady Macbeth, also brings him one more step towards his own death. In Macbeth, a pattern resides, where one death after another caused by the supernatural brings him closer to insanity and to his own death. In some spots, it looks like Macbeth needs to be told to put one foot in front of another. This tragic tale of one man's cycle of life lead by the supernatural, also paints a vision of the beginning of his plunge into insanity. Macbeth's first encounter with the three witches is truly the beginning of the end.

 

 

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