In one of Shakespeare’s most tragic plays, Macbeth is the protagonist who journeys from a brave hero to his downfall becoming a hated tyrant. Shakespeare shows that Macbeth is responsible for his own downfall through the exploration of ambition. He explores this theme through the use of character contrast, symbolism and the setting of the play. The way that Shakespeare begins the play, is the foundation to his development of the idea that Macbeth was entirely responsible for his own downfall.
Shakespeare deliberately opens the play the way he does to introduce both a fascinating and uneasy theme to the reader. Witchcraft and the supernatural are concepts that are completely foreign to the natural world of the other characters. At first there is confusion and uncertainty for the reader as to the extent of the power that the witches have. The Thane of Glamis could very well be a puppet to “the instruments of darkness”. The witches’ prophesize Macbeth becoming Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland. Judgement can be made by the audience that the witches are never in control of Macbeth’s actions.
While it can be argued that without the prophecy Macbeth would never have been alerted to the evil potential of his own ambition, this is not so. It is well known that fate does not determine the outcome of our lives because Macbeth, like everyone, has free will. He is fully aware that he is in control of his actions before he commits the evil betrayal of Duncan. Macbeth privately confesses that “Now o’er the one half world/Nature seems dead”. He has convinced himself to follow through with the murder and attain himself success in his current life, only to willingly condemn himself to go to hell in the next.
Macbeth Literary Analysis Krystal Macbeth Literary Analysis Essay, Research Paper Krystal Abbott Pat Patterson English IV Friday, December 03, 1999 Macbeth In Shakespeare? s lifetime he wrote many plays. Many of them were critically acclaimed and others cast aside. The crowd always wanted to be more thoroughly entertained and Shakespeare always tried to keep up with the people? s needs. In 1605, ...
The contrast that Shakespeare uses to juxtapose Macbeth with Banquo is another technique that effectively shows the reader why Macbeth is responsible for his own downfall. Macbeth and Banquo are indirectly introduced to us as equals. Nothing is to say that one is more superior to the other as they are both characterized as brave and “worthy gentleman” who both ”smack of honour”. Banquo and Macbeth are together when the witches deliver their first prophecy to the two but the way each man reacts to the predictions is what sets them so far apart.
Banquo immediately rejects the witches’ comments, showing anger toward the suggestion of such events happening. However, Macbeth contemplates them and the prophecy triggered some of his “black and deep desires” to become active possibilities. Banquo instantly recognizes this, questioning Macbeth “Good sir, why do you start; and seem to fear. Things that do sound so fair? ” Banquo’s decision to ignore the “weird sisters” words is contrasted with Macbeth’s choice to probe for further information and believe the prophecy which promises him such great future success.
Shakespeare employs this character contrast to reinforce the ever-looming idea of freewill versus fate and to validate Macbeth’s responsibility for his own downfall. In many ways prior to the first prophecy, Banquo and Macbeth are near identical. However after their first encounter with the witches they are revealed to be polar opposites. Banquo is “Lesser than Macbeth, and greater”. Banquo remains a loyal, honourable man while Macbeth’s tragic flaw, ambition, drives him to commit the murders and attain the fortune the prophecy foreshadows.
Macbeth attains success by embracing evil, whereas Banquo resists it and is ultimately perceived as a greater hero. Shakespeare uses the technique of symbolism to great effect to show Macbeth’s responsibility for his own downfall. Darkness is an obvious symbol that is employed to represent the occurrence of evil. When Macbeth is informed that The Prince of Cumberland is the heir to the throne, he says “Stars, hide your fires! Let not light see my black and deep desires”. This direct reference to the cover of darkness is so his actions go unseen. The reader knows that the darkness will result in an evil act taking place.
In Macbeth by William Shakespeare, Lady Macbeth’s desire for power prompts her interest in controlling Macbeth’s actions; consequently, when she loses control of Macbeth, she loses control of herself. Lady Macbeth relies on Macbeth to be the brawn so she can be the brain; she has somewhat of a symbiotic relationship with him. After the murder of Duncan, Macbeth slowly starts losing the ...
But Macbeth calling for darkness also means that he doesn’t want anyone, including himself, to know of the unthinkable crime he has committed. Macbeth develops an extremely guilty conscious because of his evil thoughts and the evil actions he takes. Before and after he murders Duncan, Macbeth is struck by hallucinations that can be clearly linked to the guilt he is feeling. Macbeth knows what he has done is completely “against the use of nature” and it meddles with his state of mind. Macbeth refers to the dagger that appears in the hallway as a “dagger of the mind”.
This perfectly preludes Macbeth’s downfall as it is an object that he will use to kill Duncan, setting in motion further unnecessary murders to protect him. The dagger of the mind also demonstrates Macbeth’s last chance to make a different decision, the chance to stop and live out his life so that it doesn’t end up “signifying nothing. ” But by his own freewill and his “vaulting ambition” Macbeth is driven to commit regicide and condemn himself to a life of emptiness without friends, love or the noble qualities that he had previously acquired respect through.
Shakespeare utilises a range of techniques to explore ambition in the play, and ultimately display why Macbeth is responsible for his own downfall. Through the use of character contrast, vivid symbolism and a convoluted setting, Shakespeare takes Macbeth from a brave hero to a murderous tyrant. Shakespeare’s ability to show the impact that a tragic character flaw can cause is one of the core messages that he delivers in many of his plays, and he does so in Macbeth to undoubtedly show that it is Macbeth who is responsible for his actions and his downfall.