The Tragedy of Macbeth

The Tragedy of Macbeth

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“Macbeth,” written by William Shakespeare initially described the main character, Macbeth, as an honorable, brave, loyal hero. He was a Scottish General and thane of Glamis. Macbeth fought for his country and supported the king. Macbeth was looked up to and admired for being so courageous and brave. He understood the difference between right and wrong. Macbeth was a man who seemed to have everything, including a loving wife! So what happened to this great man? How did he change from a hero to a villain in a very short time? Macbeth had a very bad character flaw. He was a powerful man, but he was not virtuous; thus, he allowed many outside influences to invade his thoughts and he acted on them! He was immoral.

The first outside influence that allowed Macbeth to begin showing his true colors was the three witches. The witches addressed Macbeth as Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland (1.3.49-51). Initially Macbeth is stunned by the way they addressed him and he had many questions. He was confused and, yet a bit excited. His best friend, Banquo, was with him and both of them began asking questions. Banquo was told that he would father a line of kings (1.3.68). While Macbeth and Banquo were still talking with the witches and asking them questions, they disappeared. Two of the king’s men arrived and told Macbeth that King Duncan had sent them to thank him for defending the country and that King Duncan wanted to see Macbeth to give him good news. They told Macbeth that King Duncan told them to call him thane of Cawdor (1.3.107). When the witches’ first prediction came true, Macbeth began to think that he might become King of Scotland. In doing so, he immediately began to think about murdering King Duncan (1.3.135-141). This is the first sign of the evil that lies within Macbeth!

Macbeth sent a letter to Lady Macbeth to tell her of the witches’ predictions and how the first prediction came true. While reading the letter, Lady Macbeth, thinking about her husband’s nature as she knew it for many years, felt that he had ambition but that he did not have a mean streak that would allow him to kill King Duncan (1.5.15-19).

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As she was considering this information, a servant came to her room and told her that King Duncan would be arriving tonight. Lady Macbeth was surprised by this revelation; however, it did not take her long to begin envisioning killing King Duncan to assist Macbeth in becoming King of Scotland (1.5.40-55). When Macbeth arrived, he told Lady Macbeth that King Duncan planned to leave tomorrow. Lady Macbeth told him that tomorrow will never come (1.5.63). She began to tell Macbeth how he should act, to look like an innocent flower but in reality be a snake that hides within (1.5.67-68).

Macbeth wanted to be King of Scotland and Lady Macbeth wanted him to be King of Scotland. Macbeth still had some ethical characteristics at this point as he struggled with right and wrong, knowing the difference and making choices to perform acts that would never allow him to return to the honorable, brave, loyal heroic image he projected in the beginning of the play (1.7.10-29). Lady Macbeth understood that Macbeth was struggling with the decisions that he had to make in order to realize his ambition. She decided that she would provoke him by questioning his manhood and telling him that he would be more of a man if he did whatever it takes to become king (1.7.48-51). Lady Macbeth was the second influence that allowed Macbeth to completely remove his cloak of goodness and show his immoral self. Macbeth decided that he would kill King Duncan and become King of Scotland (1.7.80-82). Macbeth, indeed, killed King Duncan and made it look like two guards did it (2.2.14).

After killing King Duncan, Macbeth continued to pretend to be an honorable, loyal hero, killing the two guards who supposedly killed King Duncan (2.3.102-103). In actuality, this was only to protect himself and cover his evil acts. It didn’t stop there. He felt no remorse. In fact, he began to look at anything and everything that might cause him to lose his position. He decided that he must have Banquo and his sons killed in order to ensure that they could not take his position as King of Scotland away from him (3.1.116-126). Banquo was killed; however, Fleance escaped (3.4.20). This was only a temporary setback in Macbeth’s view and he knew that Fleance could be killed later. Since he was not around, he was temporarily no longer a threat. Macbeth decided that Macduff should be killed because he refused to come to King Macbeth when he was summoned (3.4.129). After this decision, King Macbeth was informed that he did not act soon enough and Macduff had fled to England, but this did not stop King Macbeth from performing more evil acts. He decided that he would have Macduff’s castle raided, seize the town of Fife and have Macduff’s wife and children killed (4.1.145-155). Even when Lady Macbeth killed herself because she was so disturbed by the killing of King Duncan, King Macbeth was indifferent saying that she would have died sooner or later anyway (5.5.17-19). Macbeth was a villain who had not morality. His evil acts prove that his character flaw was his downfall; thus, the tragedy of Macbeth.


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