Issues of Morality and Justice Depicted in Shakespeare's Macbeth

Issues of Morality and Justice Depicted in Shakespeare's Macbeth

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In Shakespeare’s Macbeth many characters commit actions that they regret later. These characters try get away with their mischievous deeds, but it ultimately comes back to haunt them until they die. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth fail to cover up the murder of Duncan without people having suspicion of them killing him. While some characters seek to commit injustice other are determine to fight and bring justice and harmony. Characters in Macbeth define what they believe is justice by abiding by their set of morals, this is a mindset of what they think is right and wrong. The mindset and ambition of characters in Macbeth ultimately lead to their actions being justified or help justifying what is wrong. Justice in Macbeth is served on different levels depending on the character’s integrity and desire to do unmoral deeds. The characters in Macbeth are provoked to commit actions out either of personal desire or manipulation, animosity and revenge of one another. Macbeth’s inner desire to suddenly become king portraits how justice is served after he continues to murder, Macduff’s determination to bring proper order and justice without any personal gain shows how he is the true hero and an agent of justice, and Lady Macbeth’s guilt proves her injustice deeds which drives her to commit suicide.
In the beginning of the play, Macbeth is seen as a brave general of Duncan’s army because he had triumphed with victory over the traitor Macdonwald. A Soldier, who has fought alongside with Macbeth states “For brave Macbeth –well he deserves that name --/ Disdaining fortune, with his brandish’d steel” (1.2.17-18.) The soldier’s message makes the reader develop a positive first impression for Macbeth, since his bravery is being praised. Later, when Macbeth first encounters the three witches with Banquo, he is told that he will be King of Scotland after the third witch says “All hail, Macbeth! that shalt be king hereafter” (1.3.53.) Macbeth believes the witches and says to himself aside “My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical/.../ If chance will have me king, why, change may crown me.”(1.3.149-155.) He immediately thinks of killing Duncan to become king, his impression of a brave general completely change. This shows that although Macbeth has the power to bring justice and proper order while fighting for Duncan’s army, he chooses not to and instead uses his power for injustice and he own needs.

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Macbeth gives in to his thought of killing Duncan when Lady Macbeth manipulates him by insulting him, she says “Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life, And live a coward in thine own esteem” (1.7.45-46.) Macbeth is provoked by Lady Macbeth to kill Duncan and have power, but to keep this power he has to keep murdering people to keep the same position. Macbeth orders to kill Banquo, so that there is less witness and people to plot against him. Macbeth fears when Lennox escapes unharmed: “Then come to my fit again: I had else been perfect / Whole as the marble, founded as the rock/ As broad and general as the casing air:/ But now I am cabin’d, cribb’d, confined, bound in/ To saucy doubts and fears.” (3.4.24-29.) this is significant because the reader understands that Macbeth is scared that someone will bring his reign of terror to stop, by killing him. This shows that Macbeth is scared of being caught and killed, which means that even in an unnatural setting of Macbeth, the natural order of morality, where wrong doers will get punished, is still the law of morality. Macbeth’s actions depict what the author thinks is moral, it shows that Shakespeare believed that tyrants and traitor will almost always be justified. Macbeth’s actions are justified to a high degree since he is slain by Macduff. Macbeth deserves this because after realizing that killing Duncan causes so much chaos, he still tries mask his actions by killing more people: “It will have blood; they say blood will have blood” (3.4.151), which ironically worsens his situation. Lady Macbeth’s provocative insult’s was the main influence on Macbeth to kill Duncan and bury him into this problem, but she is brought to justice in a similar fashion.
Lady Macbeth is reason behind the trouble for power in Scotland. She clearly denounces and insults Macbeth about his manliness and masculinities, which provokes him to do what she wants. Macbeth has to prove himself worthy to his wife by killing Duncan and taking the crown. She says “When you durst do it, then you were a man; / And, to be more than what you were, you would / Be so much more the man” (1.7.54-56.) This provokes Macbeth to kill Duncan, even though he refused to before. Lady Macbeth now has adhered and assisted in killing Duncan which makes her feel guilty, even though she is doing this so she can have a higher social status. In Act 2, Scene 3, Lady Macbeth faints hysterically upon hearing news that King Duncan has been killed. She faints by being overwhelmed by the situation and not being able to handle it. This shows her guilt, and her fear of getting caught, she faints so she can leave the scene of crime. Lady Macbeth’s guilt tells the reader of how injustice their acts are, and how characters are afraid that justice will be served to those who do unmoral deeds. Later on in the play, after Macbeth is crowned and has order to kill Banquo, she seems to be going crazy. When the Macbeth’s are living at Dunsinane castle, Lady Macbeth is accompanied by a doctor and her gentle woman to look after her, the gentlewoman says:
Since his majesty went into the field, I have seen her rise from her bed, throw her nightgown upon her, unlock her closet, take forth paper, fold it write upon’t, read it, afterwards seal it, and again return to bed; yet all this while in a most fast sleep. (5.1.3-8)
Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking is cause from the fear of getting caught from what she’s done. Her guilt builds up after no one starts to suspect her of helping killing Duncan. If she is not physically punished, her emotions and mental struggles start to build up. These shows that even if characters in Macbeth get away with crimes and are not punished, their inner conscience and morals make them go crazy with guilt. Lady Macbeth’s integrity completely takes over her orthodox thinking, and she starts to wash imaginary blood from her hands in hallucinations: “It is an accustomed action with her, to seem thus washing her hands: I have known her continue in this a quarter of an hour” (5.1.26-28.) The author makes the reader feel like Lady Macbeth needs to be punish in order to satisfy her soul, or else she will be living under a mental torture of killing Duncan and continuing to keep living under the radar. This is because her integrity continues to haunt her and drives her to kill herself. This proves that justice can be served to an extent even if guilty people are not caught. In the world of Macbeth justice is found even through the conscience of the wrong doers. Macduff, unlike other characters, cannot stand do be a bystander and wait just justice to be served. He acts like the physical conscience that seeks to enforce and keep proper order intact and running, he is an idol for proper morality.
As well as being the enemy of Macbeth, Macduff is also the hero and agent of justice in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Macduff’s actions throughout the play are always truthful, he wants what is right for the people of Scotland, which is the opposite of Macbeth who only wants what is right for himself. Instead of killing Macbeth and attempting in becoming King himself, Macduff goes are retrieves Malcolm. He says to Malcolm:
Bleed, bleed, poor country!
Great tyranny, lay thou thy basis sure,
For goodness dare not check thee. Wear thou thy wrongs;
The title if affeered. – Fare thee well, lord.
I would not be the villain that thou think’st
For the whole space that’s in the tyrant’s grasp (4.3.32-37)
This shows how Macduff has pride in justifying falsehood, he cannot stand for a tyrant like Macbeth to rule the country. He is trying to set this right, and be the hero to stand up for the people of Scotland and bring Malcolm to the crown. Under no circumstances does he ever try to achieve personal gain in the play. Macduff also justifies the unlawful slaughter of his wife and son. Macbeth orders to kill Macduff’s family:

To crown my thoughts with acts, be it thought and done:
The castle of Macduff I will surprise,
Seize upon Fife, give to th' edge o' th' sword
His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls
That trace him in his line. No boasting like a fool.


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