The play 'Macbeth' is a very tragic one. It is about the downfall of a hero who is led by temptation to mass murder and cruelty. Shakespeare uses various styles and techniques to display very evidently how Macbeth's character develops as the story progresses, and thus we see how Macbeth turns from good to evil, from a "valiant cousin" and "worthy gentleman" to a "bloody butcher." The first we hear of Macbeth is with praises to his name. He is called 'brave Macbeth', 'valiant cousin' and 'worthy gentleman,' fighting a war for God, king and county. We hear of further acts of bravery in the same episode as Macbeth and Banquo repelled another assault 'as sparrows eagles' and 'the hare the lion.' These two phrases are significant because they represent bravery and to remind us of the patterned order of the universe, nature and society in which every creature has it's appointed place. For all his gallantry, Macbeth is rewarded with the title 'thane of Cawdor' and well he deserves this decoration. The scene is very important as we get to see opinions of Macbeth from the other characters, and all the good words leave a deep impression of respect and admiration from the reader. It can be noted that already Shakespeare has an effect on the reader, and this is an important aspect in the tragedy. In the next scene we see the three witches upon a heath. They speak of their experiences, in particular how one wreaked havoc and devastation upon a boat in vengeance. This leaves the audience feeling quite horrified and gives one a sense of wariness as doom seems imminent. Now Macbeth and Banquo enter, and quite appropriately the former quotes 'so foul and fair a day I have not seen', although he has just won the battle he can sense a surrounding evil. They see the witches and are greeted by them: 'All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!' 'All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!' Naturally Macbeth is startled by these prophecies, as he has no knowledge that he is going to be made Thane of Cawdor, much less that he will be king. Banquo sees this and questions it ' why do you start and seem to fear things that do sound so fair' he gets no answer but perhaps the prophecy scares Macbeth because deep down he does desire to become king. The next prediction is for Banquo: 'lesser than Macbeth, and greater' 'Not so happy, yet much happier.' 'Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none.' At this the witches disappear, and Macbeth is greeted by Angus and Ross who bestow him with his title. So one prophecy has come true, and Banquo tells Macbeth about the dangers of 'this supernatural soliciting' 'often to win us to our harm the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray's in deepest consequence.' Some say that this is the beginning of Macbeth's downfall, as in his first soliloquy he has already thought of the idea of murdering his king. This small seed planted in his mind will soon sprout and he will indeed commit treason. Already the audience are losing their adoration for Macbeth as we see his mental frailty and evil intention. In the next scene we learn of the execution of the former Thane of Cawdor, who from being a person devoured by greed and corruption has died a true gentleman. Perhaps this is a parallel to Macbeth. We also learn of Malcolm being named Prince of Cumberland, heir to the throne. Here one can see an obvious conflict between Macbeth's ambitions and Malcolm. 'The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step which I must fall down, or else o'erleap, For my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires, Let not light see my deep and dark desires; The wink at the hand; yet let that be which the eye fears, when it is done, to see. The question at hand is what Macbeth should do, is he determined on evil intent or is divine intervention the answer? He contemplates this, and decides that it is not worthwhile to throw everything away for one guilty conscience, instead the solution is murder. The next paragraph is a direct contrast of Banquo and Macbeth; Shakespeare now reinforces the difference in character. Duncan says:' True, worthy Banquo; he is full so valiant, and in his commendations I am fed: It is a banquet to me. Let's after him, Whose care is gone to bid us welcome. It is a peerless kinsman. To Lady Macbeth, her husband is brave, loving, ambitious yet weak. After reading the letter, she already has a plan brewing. However, she fears Macbeth's nature. 'yet I do fear thy nature, it is too full o'th'milk of human kindness', 'Thou wouldst be great, Art not without ambition, but without the illness should attend it', 'What thou wouldst highly, that wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false, And yet wouldst wrongly win.' Macbeth enters the scene tells her that Duncan is coming. She then tells him that his face 'is a book where men may read strange matters', and advises him to 'look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under't.' The planning of the murder of Duncan is one of the most important sections of this tragedy. Here we see a conflict in Macbeth's character, one side wants him to commit the murder, while the other wants to let fate take its course. In a way it is due to his wife that Macbeth is finally persuaded into committing treason. This shows one of the flaws in his character, which Shakespeare exposes. Although the reader is now at the point of hating Macbeth, one feels a certain sympathy for him. A while after Macbeth has certain misgivings about the affair. In his mind he argues out the advantages and disadvantages. The good side of him says that 'he's here in double trust' 'I am his kinsman and subject', 'as his host who should against his murderers shut the door, not bear the knife myself.' The more cunning party says that ' his virtues will plead like angels trumpet-tongued against the deep-damnation of his taking off', 'but only vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself and falls on the other','twere well it were done quickly', could trammel up the consequence and catch', 'but this blow might be and the end all here', 'bloody instructions, which being taught, return to plague th' inventor.' All these things are very typical of his character, not very sure of himself, and cowardly. However, we see at least some rationality in him as he tells his wife 'we will proceed no further in this business, he hath honoured me of late, and I have bought golden opinions from all sorts of people, which would be worn now in their newest gloss, not cast aside so soon.' Yet he cannot maintain this spark of morality as, under the influence of his wife he commits treachery. After the murder Macbeth experienced remorse, guilt and regret", I am afraid to think what I have done.". He is troubled by his conscience, he realizes that he is cut off from heaven. He is in fact so hampered in his actions by the conflict between his knowledge that he has committed the crime and his abhorrence of it, that he becomes immobile. After the murder, when the two realize that Macbeth has brought the daggers from the murder chamber, Macbeth cannot return, even though returning means the difference between discovery and success. When Lady Macbeth has returned from placing the daggers near Duncan"s attendants and hears the knocking at the gate, she almost has to push Macbeth into their bedroom so that they will look as though they have just been awakened. He also hears voices telling him that he has murdered sleep 'Glamis has murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more." This is ironic because it may mean that he has killed his own ability to be in peace. Macbeth's evil is so great that he cannot even say amen to his prayer ",I could not say amen." By now he realizes he is too deep into his acts of violence to turn back. Although the efforts of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to attain the crown are successful Macbeth"s awareness that he has given up his eternal soul makes his especially sensitive to his desire to make his kingship secure. Also contributing to his sensitivity is the fear that his crime may be discovered. Nothing must stop him from living securely: "But let the frame of things disjoint,both the worlds suffer, / Ere we will eat our meal in fear, and sleep / In the affliction of these terrible dreams, / That shake us nightly." The two motives make him first turn on Banquo and Fleance, Banquo"s son, as the cause of his anxiety. Another important factor was the witches prophecies at which Banquo was present. That fact may make him especially able to discover Macbeth"s crime. Also the Witches had predicted that Banquo"s children rather than Macbeth"s children would be kings. Perhaps Macbeth projects onto Banquo his own turn of thought and presumes that Banquo will attempt to attain the crown just as Macbeth himself had done so. Macbeth says, " . . . to that dauntless temper of his mind, / He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valor / To act in safety." At any rate, even if Banquo himself does not make an attempt, Macbeth"s children will not succeed Macbeth and Banquo"s will. In that case Macbeth will have lost not only his soul but the fruit of his labor in this world as well. For a man does not work only for his immediate profit in this world but also for the benefit of his children, who will make his name live on in honor. Macbeth therefore decides to have Banquo and Fleance killed. The scene before we see the murder of Banquo, there is an important part where one sees both Lady Macbeth and Macbeth feeling depressed and insecure. Macbeth is tormented, he cannot sleep and in a way wants to be like Duncan, dead and in peace. "Better be dead"¦to gain out peace." Surprisingly even Lady Macbeth is repentant "nought's had, all's spent" Here she is reflecting to herself that they have gained nothing and lost everything. At the end of that scene we see a reversal of roles. Macbeth now is the malicious and cunning planner, while Lady Macbeth is a mere onlooker. Indeed she asks '" what's to be done?" It even reaches to the extent where Macbeth doesn't even tell his wife of his planned murder of Banquo, he has now taken charge and will have complete control from now on. Ironically Macbeth makes a statement similar to that of his wife a few scenes earlier "Make our faces vizards to our hearts," and also calls upon the spirits of evil "come seeling night"¦tear to pieces that great bond." finally completing the reversal of roles. By this time one see a clear, acute contrast between Banquo and Macbeth. Skillfully Shakespeare uses them carefully as a contrast against each other. In general terms Banquo represents the good while Macbeth the evil. Banquo is shown to be honorable, loyal, honest and true, whereas Macbeth is treacherous, ruthless, scheming and cruel. One can also see a deterioration in the relationship of Macbeth and his wife. For a start he does not have enough confidence to tell her his planned murder of Banquo. We see that they start playing different roles from that of the beginning as they slowly drift apart. The banquet scene is possibly one of the most important scene in the entire play.. It is here that Macbeth meets Banquo's ghost. Although the host makes repeated attempts to be a cheerful host, he fails as each time he sees the ghost. There is a lot of irony present here, for example in the beginning he says "were the graced person of our Banquo present" knowing full well that Banquo is dead, the irony in this is that Banquo does indeed attend the banquet but in the form of a ghost. The banquet is a state occasion, and it should have been a triumph for Macbeth- a display of his power and position as king. It should also have been a sign of order, unfortunately this was not to be. When confronted by Banquo he replies "I am in blood / Stepped so far," he says, "that, should I wade no more, / Returning were as tedious as go o"er." Macbeth says that he finds it too tiresome to repent. But to someone who understands the worth of repentance, the process of repentance, hard as it may be, is hardly too tiresome. What has happened is that in making his first decision for evil instead of good and in accustoming himself to the thoughts necessary to maintain the results of that decision, Macbeth has confused the values of good and evil. That is, he has confused fair and foul, which confusion has all along been the devil"s aim. Lady Macbeth once again tries her tactics of shame to intimidate her husband to remain calm ",are u a man?" But the ghost is a far more important element to Macbeth, and he ignores his wife. Seeing that she has had no effect she asks all the guests to leave at once to forestall questioning. When they leave the ghost seems to leave with them and Macbeth returns to his normal self. With it returns his cunning and he immediately remarks why Macduff didn't attend the banquet ",Macduff denies his person at our great bidding?" One also sees another of his ruthless characteristics. He has a spy in each house "in each house"¦I keep a servant fee'd" He will now return to "the weird sisters," the Witches, whom he now recognizes as evil, so that he may "know / By the worst means, the worst," He repeats his determination that nothing shall stop him in his quest for security. "For mine own good / All causes shall give way . . . ." And all "Strange things" that he thinks of will immediately be acted out. Macbeth has completely committed himself to evil. At the beginning of the play Macbeth had a good deal of stature. But his attempts at self-aggrandizement have reduced Macbeth to the size of a small man ineffectively flailing at a large world completely beyond his control. Really knowing this, Macbeth finds it "tedious" not only to repent but also to "go o"er," that is, to go on in his life. However, he is not yet ready to admit the implication of this remark, which tells us that Macbeth despairs of this life as well as of the next. And in fact he never does completely despair. No matter how much he comes to hate himself and life, his egotism also prevents him from ever simply surrendering his life. He therefore works harder and harder to maintain his security. Banquo, his first object of fear, is now dead. But Macbeth is now frightened of Macduff and attempts to kill him. When Macduff escapes, Macbeth capriciously murders Macduff"s family. Soon we hear that all of Scotland is frightened of Macbeth. The only way in which Macbeth can cause people to obey him is through fear, for that is the only motive for obedience that Macbeth can understand. Macbeth has therefore turned Scotland into a reflection of his own mind; he has turned Scotland into hell. By this point, Macbeth is hated by all his subjects. Indeed he is called a "tyrant," in addition people only follow him because they have to ",those he command move only in command"¦nothing in love." However he has some sympathizers who call him a "valiant fury," they know that he is feeling guilty and say so "his secret murders sticking on his hands." Macbeth is also isolated from the one person outside himself whom he has loved and for whom he has acted, his wife. She, too, had begun suffering the torments of a guilty conscience. Mainly because he loved her, he stopped telling her about his dire deeds so that she would not have them on her conscience. But she has felt responsibility for them as well as for those she actively helped to commit, and her conscience has increasingly paralyzed her mind. Macbeth, partially because he loved his wife and acting therefore more and more on his own, partially because her own conscience caused a mental breakdown, and finally because his wife dies, finds himself toward the end of the play in total isolation. Thus isolated at the end of the play, Macbeth"s final hope is the second set of prophecies of the Witches. They had told him that he would be harmed by no man born of woman and that he would not be defeated until Birnam Wood came to Dunsinane. Macbeth, thoroughly committed to evil and careless in his desperate search for assurance, believed them, although he should have realized from past experience that their promises of hope look good only on the surface. Now that he is isolated, the impossibility of his defeat, which the Witches" prophecies seemed to indicate, seems incredible. Yet Macbeth hopes on. But he only hopes; he barely believes. He is in a fever of anxious activity. He commands his servant to dress him in his armor; then he commands his servant to take it off. But one decision seems firm. He will stay in the castle of Dunsinane, which is easily defended against a siege, and starve his enemies into defeat. But this resolution holds only until he sees Birnam Wood. It seems, he says, as though the Witches were only fooling with him. His desperation grows, and feeling the imminence of defeat, he orders what remains of his army out into the field, for he wishes to die at least actively fighting. But he also says that he is beginning to wish himself dead. Such a wish is not surprising. For when Macbeth wished earlier to see the destruction of the world if he should not be secure, when he found life too tedious to continue, when he felt anxious with guilt and fear, implied always was a hatred for himself and for life. And now in his final, desperate straits he expresses the hatred overtly. And so Macbeth goes out into the field. Like a bear tied to a stake, he "must fight the course." He has one last hope, that his life "must not yield / To one of woman born." But finally he meets Macduff, who was "from his mother"s womb / Untimely ripped." On hearing this bit of information Macbeth does not wish to fight with Macduff. But when Macduff threatens to make him a public show, Macbeth fights. He would rather die than bend to Malcolm or "be baited with the rabble"s curse." Macbeth dies, then, not wholly to be scorned. His terrific egotism prevents him from bowing, as he should bow, before the rightful king, Malcolm. But it also prevents him from submitting to the indignity of being "baited with the rabble"s curse." Although that indignity would present him as the monster he has become, Macbeth still thinks of himself as a man, and as such would rather die than suffer the indignity. This feeling in him reminds us of the worthy Macbeth at the beginning of the play. We also see that he still has the courage to act on his convictions, desperate though that courage may be. And it is not merely an animal courage. For he knows now that he must die. He fights as a man. In conclusion, from the very start we have progressively come to abhor Macbeth, however, we cannot help but feel a certain admiration for him. But much more we have a sense of irony and waste: irony because some sterling qualities have been put to such evil use, waste because Macbeth was a potentially great man who was lost. 0 User(s) Rated!