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Shakespeare's Macbeth - Creating Sympathy for Macbeth

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Creating Sympathy for Macbeth

The dark aura surrounding Shakespeare's Macbeth is well deserved, as is the darkness shrouding its title character. Although Macbeth is certainly a villainous, evil man based solely on his actions, a fuller examination of his character's portrayal leads to a more sympathetic view of him. The play does not portray Macbeth simply as a cold-blooded murderer, but rather as a tortured soul attempting to deal with the atrocities surrounding him.

Before any of the murderous activity occurs, Macbeth does not experience small, ambiguous premonitions, he is directly told by mysterious, dark figures things that are "ordained" to happen. Although these mysterious prophecies seem doubtful at first, after Macbeth is named Thane of Cawdor, the third prophecy, his ascending to the throne, no longer seems remote. The fact that Macbeth sees his ultimate goal, his childhood dream, as an attainable thing that he simply must reach out and take should serve to evoke some sympathy from the audience. "I have no spur / To prick the sides of my intent, but only / Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself / And falls on the other-" (I vii 25). Failing to act now would only be a show of Macbeth's cowardice and failings. Everyone has an ultimate goal; not everyone gets the chance to attempt to reach it, and fewer still actually achieve it. Examining the brutal, bloody, repeated stabbing of Duncan as Macbeth's one chance to finally realize his childhood dream of becoming king sheds a different light to the normal horror of his act.

Before the murders, Macbeth has no positive guidance to help deter him from the killings. His closest confidant, Lady Macbeth, is portrayed as a crazed, conniving, wom...

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Works Cited and Consulted:

Campbell, Lily B. "Macbeth : A Study in Fear." Readings on Macbeth. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1999. 126-35.

Gates, David. "Shakespeare: Dead White Male of the Year." Newsweek 30 Dec. 1996: 82+.

Kinney, Arthur F. ed. William Shakpespeare: the Tragedies. Boston: Hall and Company, 1985.

Noble, Adrian. "At age 436, His Future is Unlimited." New York Times 23 Apr. 2000, late ed., sec. 2:5.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Macbeth. Elements of Literature. Sixth ed. Austin: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1997.

Wadsworth, Frank W. "Shakespeare, William." World Book Online American Edition. Online Edition. Online. Netzero. 26 Mar 2002.

"William Shakespeare." BBC Homepage. Online. Available . 26 Mar. 2002.

Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1999. 30-37.
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