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MACBETH ESSAYThe proposition that 'Macbeth is a villain in whom there is little to admire'; is an inadequate judgement of Macbeth's character. Macbeth is not consciously and naturally malevolent, and there are many aspects of his character and his downfall which serve to support this. Macbeth was not only a victim of his own actions, but also of the human condition and the extremely powerful forces of both his wife and fate. Throughout the play the audience undoubtedly experiences feelings of horror at Macbeth, but we are also driven, through an understanding of his character, to admiration and sympathy. This would not be the case if Macbeth was a totally vile and reprehensible villain, and thus the tragedy of Shakespeare's Macbeth is clear.Macbeth was certainly no villain to begin with. He is introduced to us as a man of great honour, nobility and strength of morals. He is held in high regard by King Duncan, who addresses him as 'valiant cousin, worthy gentleman';- so highly, in fact, that Macbeth is granted a promotion over Banquo (who seems to be of an extremely worthy and loyal character).
But there is a fatal difference between Macbeth and Banquo- Macbeth's ambition and lust for power. He is a man with an unsurpassable desire to advance himself. He himself identifies this quality while he contemplates an action that he is wholly repulsed by; 'I have no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting Ambition which o'erleaps itself, And falls on th' other.'; This 'Vaulting Ambition'; is what makes Macbeth vulnerable and leads him to commit possibly the most vile deed he can imagine, setting him on a path of destruction. There is a temptation to use the fact that he could comprehend the vileness of his deed as a reason as to why we should condemn Macbeth as even worse a villain. But this is a simple view that does not take into account Macbeth's later torment or give credit to Shakespeare's intention to create a true - to-form tragedy. Macbeth is not a ruthless, callous villain devoid of all pity and humanity, and there are several issues in the play that serve to illustrate this.Firstly, Macbeth had an extremely active conscience and recognition of human moral values.
His conscience put up a great deal of resistance to the prospect of murder, and after the act it continued to torment him until his death.In Act one scene seven, Macbeth voices the terrifying images which deter him from crime - the protestations of his deepest self. He tells himself that by killing Duncan he would be committing a triple murder; 'He's here in double trust; First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, Strong both against the deed; then, as his host, Who should against his murderer shut the door, Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan hath borne his faculties so meek, that his virtues Will plead like angels trumpet-tongued against The deep damnation of his taking -off ... '; Macbeth can fathom the damnation that will follow the deed, and he is unprepared to face it. He also sees his ambition as doomed to miss it's mark and pictures himself ending up on the other side of the murder, floored by it's consequences; 'Vaulting Ambition, which o'erleaps itself and falls on th'other';. The images are so extremely clear, intense and disturbing and Macbeth is so speculative that it is clear that he is not a natural villain. These are not the reservations of a ruthless, unconcerned, killer.
We are reminded of Lady Macbeth's criticism of Macbeth's nature when she began to contemplate the murder of Duncan on her own in scene five of Act one; 'Yet do I fear thy nature. It is too full o' th' milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way.'; Lady Macbeth doubts her husband's ability to carry out the murder of Duncan on his own. It is quite obvious that she is correct to have such suspicions, for by the end of his own soliloquy he has decided against the murder. He tells Lady Macbeth; 'We will proceed no further in this business: He hath honoured me of late ... '; Despite this apparent resolve, just 49 lines later Macbeth has changed his mind and is set on murdering the King. Lady Macbeth was extremely influential in turning him around.
He would not have committed the murder if it weren't for her. Lady Macbeth is an element of extreme power. Macbeth's ambition and conflicting morals make him hopelessly vulnerable to Lady Macbeth's terrible resolution and unnatural, daunting, power. She begins by frankly questioning his ambition; preying upon his weakness as a man of pride and challenging his determination, valour, courage, and preparedness to fight for what he desires: 'Art thou afeared To be the same in thine act and valor as thou art in desire?'; She even questions his manhood, so that he feels the need to tell her; 'I do all that may become a man, Who dares do more is none';. He is still morally cognitive and has deep reservations; committing the murder would be inhumane. His conscience has not yet been put aside.
But now Lady Macbeth, sensing that all the fruits of her ambition are at stake, shows a degree of determination and commitment to the cause that Macbeth must match if he is to maintain his own sense of purpose. She tells him that she would have dashed the brains out of her own infant 'had (she) so sworn as (Macbeth) had done to this.'; He would be lesser than herself if he were not to show such determination. Furthermore, Lady Macbeth establishes a plan for the murder, telling him that they will be able to escape without suspicion. The act closes with Macbeth saying; 'I am settled ... to this terrible feat ... Away, and mock time with fairest show.';So Macbeth's ambition has overcome his conscience.
But he is still not a villain. When the time comes for him to commit the murder there is no glorious determination. He carries it out under a haze of consciousness, hallucinating a dagger before him that leads the way to Duncan's chamber. This 'dagger of the mind'; (as he calls it) is symbolic of the feelings inside of him, which cry out against the deed- the feelings which he felt the need to hide; 'False face must hide what the false heart doth know.'; This brings us to a significant aspect of Macbeth's attempt to attain the Kingship. Macbeth thought that he could 'mock time'; and overcome any consequences of the deed. In his soliloquy before Lady Macbeth got the chance to exert her influence over him, he explained that the murder would not ' ... be done when 'tis done ...
';. But this is what he greatly desired. Macbeth wanted the ultimate benefits of Duncan's death, but not to have committed the murder. He wanted the single blow to be 'the be-all and the end-all';, allowing him to carry on a normal, secure, existence as King. He desired t ....
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