The Disastrous Attributes of Shakespeare's Macbeth

The Disastrous Attributes of Shakespeare's Macbeth

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MacBeth - Disastrous Attributes

Character or fate.  Which of these two forces (external or internal)

led to the downward fall of a great military hero and worthy Thane,

Macbeth, turned evil and murderous when led astray by the prophecies of

three old witches.  Some people argue that Macbeth is the victim of

fate, while others argue that his character decides his downfall.  The

argument for fate is strongly led by the actions of others, with Lady

Macbeth being the prime influence on Macbeth. While the opposition is

led by Macbeth^s troubled conscience, his own internal conflict and his

hamartia.  It is clearly visible that Macbeth^s own character is at

fault for his tragic downfall.  It is the opinion of many, that Macbeth

is a victim of fate.  These critics state that Macbeth is heavily

influenced by his overpowering wife, Lady Macbeth. Macbeth decides that

he cannot kill Duncan as he is his "kinsman, and his subject"(Act

1,Scene 7: 13) yet Lady Macbeth taunts him saying:

                              

                               "I have given suck, and know

     How tender ^Ñtis to love the babe that milks me :

                               I would, while it was smiling in my face

                                    Have pluck^Òd my nipple from his bone less gums,

                               And dash^Òd the brains out, had I so sworn

                                    As you have done to this"  (Act 1, Scene 7: 54-59)

 

This graphic view of the extent to which Lady Macbeth would go to keep

a promise would have been more accepted in our society than in that of

Shakespeare.  In the days of Shakespeare,  women had no business

arguing with their husbands and even less often was their argument or

threat taken into consideration.  Men were  the "be-all" and "end-all"

and this speech made by Lady Macbeth would have been of little

persuasion.  The Macbeth of Shakespeare was a military man, strong in

his views and opinions and was definitely a victim of his own

character.  Conversely,  Macbeth was warned of his assuming downfall by

his weary conscience.  On three occasions his conscience wearied him.

Firstly, with the vision of the dagger before the murder of King

Duncan.  Macbeth is horrified and says:

              

                               "Is this a dagger, which I see before me,

                                    The handle toward my hand?  Come, let me clutch

                               thee.  I have thee not, and yet I see thee still."  (Act

                                    2, Scene 1: 33-35)

 

This clearly shows the way in which, subconsciously, Macbeth knows his

future actions are wrong and not acting on the warning signs of his

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conscience in this chilling scene he is haunted twice more by the wrath

of his conscience.  In the next scene, after the vicious murder of

Duncan, sounds are heard by both Macbeth and his wife that are purely

of their guilty conscience. Finally, in the scene following Banquo^s

brutal murder Macbeth is haunted by a bloody ghost.  This bloody ghost

of Banquo rises out of Macbeth^s conscience to avenge its death and

leave Macbeth uneasy.  This is viewed by the outbursts of Macbeth at

his feast shouting at the ghost to "never shake thy gory locks" at

him.  All three views of Macbeth^s guilty conscience show that indeed

his downfall was his the fault of no one but himself, as he did not

heed the advice of his conscience early in the play, and consequently

his guilty conscience avenges him throughout the following scenes.

 

Secondly, Macbeth^s internal struggle is lost and he spiraled

downward to his eventual death.  Throughout the opening of the

play Macbeth is plagued with an internal struggle of  whether

or not to kill the King.  The internal battle changes sides

many times before he eventually lets his ambition rule.  In

this passage Macbeth is arguing with himself as to why he

shouldn^t kill Duncan:

              

                              

"This even-handed justice

                                    Commends the ingredience of our poison^Òd chalice

                               To our own lips.  He^Òs here in double trust;

                                    First, as I am his kinsman, and his subject,

  Strong both against the deed."  (Act 1, Scene 7: 10-14)

 

He battles here between right and wrong, the long time inner struggle

won by his selfish ambition which is blossoming within himself at this

point.  He knows very well that what he is about to do is wrong and

that it could destroy him, his doubts of the success of the murder

prove his knowledge of the consequences.  Therefore, Macbeth has

accepted the mission and his downward spiral from thereafter is the

fault of no one but himself.  Ultimately at fault for his final choice

in his internal struggle is Macbeth^s overwhelming ambition.  This

ambition is described as Macbeth^s hamartia, and rightfully so as it

claims the lives of many on his  escapade to the crown.  Macbeth

blatantly blames his ambition as being the motive for Duncan (and the

following) murders in this passage:

              

                               "I have no spur

                                    To prick the sides of my intent, but only

                              Vaulting ambition, which o^Òerleaps itself,,

                                    And falls on the other."  (Act 1, Scene 7: 25-29)

 

Describing his ambition as the only thing the murder clings to, points

us to the fact that no one else was pushing Macbeth along to go through

with this murder. Macbeth also realizes in this passage that his

"vaulting ambition" could cause him to destroy himself as he

"o^erleaps" himself. This ambition is at no one else^s fault, but that

of Macbeth.  In Conclusion, the argument that Macbeth is a victim of

fate is obviously false as his wife has no control over her husband.

Macbeth is controlled by himself, accepting no warning signs of

disaster from his conscience, letting his ambition rule his internal

struggle and finally letting his ambition rule himself.  Macbeth is the

victim of nothing other than his own character.

 
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