Macbeth – Downfall of a Hero
Macbeths strive for power affects every aspect of his life, and this motivation eventually leads to his demise. Many different factors play a pivotal role in deciding his ill-fated future. With his wifes cajoling, and the three witches foretelling of his future Macbeth, will stop at nothing to gain position as King of Scotland.
The witches and their prophecies are the first major influence on Macbeths actions. Macbeth, Thane of Glamis is content with his position, until the three witches tell him, “hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor, thou shalt be King hereafter.” (I, iii.). After hearing this, Macbeth and Banquo, his loyal friend, find out that King Duncan has named Macbeth “Thane of Cawdor.” They contemplate about how the rest of the prophecy will come true. The witches also advise them that Banquos son would be King one day. Macbeth writes a letter to Lady Macbeth explaining what has happened.
Macbeth comes to the realization that for him to in fact become King, he will have to defeat recently named heir to the throne, Malcolm, the Kings son, and also prevent Banqous son from gaining access to the throne. Macbeth returns home and he and his wife must play host to the King. Lady Macbeth begins to contemplate what “impedes thee from the golden round” (I, v). She desperately wants her Macbeth to be King and she calls upon the “aids of sprits”(I, v) to help her in her quest for the throne.
Lady Macbeth requests that the, “sprits that tend on mortal thoughts,” to unsex her, and fill her with the “direst cruelty” (I, v.). The supernatural world will aid her in the hardening of her heart and make it possible for her to carry out her malicious plan. Lady Macbeth wishes to throw out her morality for the sake of gaining a title. With the help of invisible sprits, she wants to make herself able to commit a heinous act of murder to make her dreams of the royal life come true, without having reservations or remorse. She approaches Macbeth with her intent to kill King Duncan. Macbeth, although wanting the prophecy to come true, and become king, lacks the enthusiasm as his wife does, to commit the murder. Lady Macbeth urges Macbeth to act on his desires or he will think of himself as a coward.
King Duncan is invited to Macbeths castle, and it is there that he will be killed. Lady Macbeth encourages Macbeth to “look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it.” (I, v). Lady Macbeth wants Macbeth to act as he normally would, to appear to be happy with the Kings visit and keep his malevolent plan in the confines of his mind. Macbeth still has reservations but, Lady Macbeth has already taken preparations towards the evil act, and his mind begins to wander. Macbeth shows signs of insanity, as he follows a dagger up stairs to King Duncans bedroom, “is this a dagger which I see before me, let me clutch thee.” (II, i) He chases it and King Duncans reign as King of Scotland ends. Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth the “deed is done.” (II, ii)
Macduff, Macbeths once friend refuses to attend Macbeths coronation to be King of Scotland. Macduff feels uneasy about the circumstances surrounding the kings murder, and Macbeths rise to power. Banquo feels that Macbeth may have had something more to do with the murder as a result of trying to fulfill the prediction.
After he is named king, Macbeths misery and eventual downfall is caused by his own insecurities and misguided determination to take control of his future. The witches prophecy concerning Banquos descendants and Macbeths feeling of inferiority to Banquo lead Macbeth to arrange for the murder of Banquo and his son Fleance. Having Banquo around reminds Macbeth of the evil deed that he had committed. Also, the thought that it will be Banquos son to take over the thrown from Macbeth rather than his own children makes him very angry. Macbeth believes that “none but he BanquoI do fear.” (III, I)
At a banquet, Macbeth sees an apparition of Banquo and speaks to him amongst his guests. Lady Macbeth makes light of the situation and asks that her guests leave and that Macbeth retire to his room. Macduff does not attend the feast and this sparks suspicion in Macbeth, he wishes to have him killed, not knowing that Macduff has gone to England.
Macbeth goes to visit the three witc…..hes. He asks them questions and three ghosts give him the answers: “beware Macduff, laugh to scorn the power of man, for none of woman born, Great Birnam Woodshall come” (IV, I) Macbeth feels that he does not have to fear any man, because all men are born from women, and trees cannot walk. He also asked the apparitions if Banquos sons would take over the throne, and they showed him a string of eight kings, the last one with a glass in his hand, reflecting the image of the line of kings continue to go on and on.
When Macbeth learns that Macduff is in England, he makes a cowardly decision to get revenge upon Macduffs family, by murdering them. During the time that Macduff is in England, he meets with Malcolm, and the two decides to wage war on Macbeth. They fear that he is ruling Scotland under tyranny, and will assist in the demise of the country. Macduff wants action, but Malcolm wishes to wait in order to test Macduffs loyalty. They plan to go to Scotland.
Macbeths sanity is deteriorating and his wife, Lady Macbeth, is slowly going mad herself. She sees red spots of blood on her hands and tries to constantly wash them, saying, “out, out damn spot.” (V, I) She is afflicted with the guilt of the evil deed for which she took a part in. Her conscience has caught up with her, and has tangled her into a maze where she may never find the way out. Macbeth is miserable by the deterioration of Lady Macbeth. He begs the doctor to “find her disease and purge into a sound and pristine health,” (V, iii) but the doctor tells him that only “god” can save her.
Macduff and Malcolm are going to Scotland and are going to try to get Macbeth off the throne. His lack of sanity and reason are factors for his weak leadership. They are going to meet in Birnam Wood.
They know that Macbeth is scared about how the prophecy will come true. He will however, fight, ’til from my bones my flesh be hack’d.” (V, iii) and then he asks for his armour. He also asks that the doctor cure his wife of her ailment. Macbeth is told that the forces are coming.
The men are preparing for battle and then they hear a “cry of a woman.” (V, iii) Macbeth is told, “The Queen, my lord, is dead.” (V, iii) Macbeth is so enthralled in the imminent battle that he has little concern for his dead wife, he wishes that she had, “died hereafter, there would have been time for such a word.” (V, iv) He wished her to die at a more convenient time. He feels that death is, “told by an idiot, full of sound and fury.” (V, iv) and signifies nothing. At this point in the play, Macbeth does not care about death, he cares only for the battle. Death signifies nothing to him, whereas the approaching battle means so much to his own future as King.
One of Macbeths people comes in and tells him that he though he saw the “Wood begin to move.” (V, iv) Macbeth now knows that the end is near. Macduff comes to his castle and the two fight. Macbeth feels that he has nothing to fear of Macduff because he was born of a woman, however “Macduff was from his mothers womb. Untimely rippd.” (V, viii) Macbeth now knows that it is Macduff that will kill him. Macduff does kill him.
Macbeth entire demise was due to his pursuing his goals. The witches awakened Macbeths ambition and Lady Macbeth encourages the crime necessary for his ambition to be realized. Both of these influences helped lead to his failure and death. His insecurities paved the way to fast decions and rash actions to get rid of his perceived enemies, actions that he later often regrets.
Only at the end does he realize that he has made mistakes. He “struts and frets his hour upon the stage.” (V, iv) He is like an actor that cannot make a mistake. If a mistake is made, it is too late, the audience has seen it, and all you can do is apologize. Much of his life was based on, “Fair is foul, foul is fair,” meaning that you can disguise how things really are. He disguised his whole life; the evil that he caused, his insanity, his wifes mental health condition, and the fact that he murdered people and destroyed lives, just to guarantee a seat on the throne and play King of Scotland. This also shows that time catches up with, even when the “perfect crime” is committed, eventually you will suffer, by your own doing, and the facade that you once hid behind, will crumble.