Macbeth is one of the William Shakespeare’s works that have a tragic ending. In this tragic tale, Macbeth is described as a virtuous man by has been negatively influenced by greed and power (Baloyi 5). The character, Macbeth, is presented in the story as a Scottish general who has been corrupted by the prophecies of three witches who predicts even a more powerful and greater power for him. In line with these prophecies, Macbeth is willing to use all his powers and courage in order to ascend to the throne even if it entails murder. After ascending to power to become the King of Scotland, Macbeth continues to commit atrocities. Macbeth’s response to problems is mainly through violence and murder which is attributed to his lack of the necessary skills to lead the kingdom (Burrow 16). As Macbeth become incessantly uncomfortable by being a criminal, he becomes increasingly vulnerable to psychological torture and distress.
The downfall of Macbeth can be attributed to three main reasons. These reasons include the influence of the witches, his wife Lady Macbeth and himself. This paper, therefore, analyses Macbeth’s character in relation to the reasons highlighted in the text.
Quotes and lead-ins
The quotes below shows that Macbeth is aware of the atrocities he is committing, but he is unwilling to change his ways. For instance, in the first quote, Macbeth talks about the need to stop the business of murdering people after he murders Duncan. Macbeth states that,
“We will proceed no further in this business” (Shakespeare, I, vii, 32)
Furthermore, Macbeth claims that he is not committing the atrocities intentionally but to spur him in the realization of his ambitions. That is, Macbeth exclaimed that,
“…I have no spur
To prick the sides of intent, but only
Vaulting ambition…” (I, vii, 25-27)
Lady Macbeth’s quote
Lady Macbeth’s quote below show that she was in support of what Macbeth was doing and even implored him to continue with his atrocities,
“When you durst do it, then you were a man” (I, vii, 79-80)
Quotes of the three witches
Just like Lady Macbeth, the three witches showered Macbeth with praises highlighting Macbeth’s greatness in some of their exclamations i.e.
“All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee Thane of Cawdor!”(I, iii, 49)
In addition, the witches continue to predict even greater gains Macbeth continue to commit the atrocities i.e.
“The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s
In deepest consequence” (I, iii, 124-126)
“Weary sev’nights nine times nine
Shall he dwindle, peak, and pine:
Though his bark cannot be lost,
Yet it shall be tempest-tossed” (I, iii, 22-25)
Commentary and analysis
Macbeth’s downfall was as a result of his failure to listen to his conscience and greed. From the quotes highlighted above, Macbeth can be said to be responsible for his own actions regardless of the amount of provocations from Lady Macbeth and the three witches. These external forces had no direct control over the actions and decisions of Macbeth. These actions were mainly informed by his ambition to gain more tyrannical power and his unwillingness to listen to what his conscience was telling him (Theatrehistory.com 1). The path of darkness chosen by Macbeth was, therefore, a decision made with clear knowledge of the potential outcomes. From the first quote highlighted in the essay, Macbeth is fully aware that his actions are not correct and he needs to change i.e. “We will proceed no further in this business” (I, vii, 32). However, he convinces himself of the need to achieve his ambitions thus unwillingness to stop his actions. In this case, Macbeth’s decision making has been clouded by greed and quest for more power.
Lady Macbeth’s pressure and provocations considerably contributed to the downfall of Macbeth. After the death of Duncan, Macbeth is willing to stop his atrocious activities of murdering people. However, Lady Macbeth insists that he is doing the right thing and there is no need for him to stop. Here, Macbeth’s decisions and judgments are seen to be influenced by the emotional feelings of love towards Lady Macbeth (Powell 9). Lady Macbeth even provokes him by questioning his manhood i.e. “When you durst do it, then you were a man”. This quote implies that Macbeth will be even much greater if he decides to continue with his deeds. In this case, Lady Macbeth can be said to have shown him the path of death and destruction.
Finally, the role of the witches in Macbeth’s life could have significantly influenced his actions. Apart from hailing Macbeth’s greatness, the witches continued to make proclamations and prophecies that made Macbeth even more ambitious towards realizing of his political objectives and establishing his power in the Kingdom of Scotland. Admittedly, the witches used unholy ways together with proclamations that showed that they were in control of Macbeth. For example, by declaring Macbeth the future king of Scotland, the witches are using supernatural powers in order to control the future of Macbeth. For instance, the third witch proclaimed, “All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!” (I, iii, 50). Since most of the prophecies by the witches had come to pass, it became increasingly difficult for Macbeth to ignore their proclamations and prophecies (Bradley 13).
The goal of this essay was to use quotes from William Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ to establish the causes of his downfall. Though Macbeth’s wife, Lady Macbeth, and the three witches had a massive influence on Macbeth’s actions and decisions, the most realistic argument would be to say Macbeth was responsible for his own downfall. From the essay, Macbeth is seen to succumb to his own urges, ambitions, and greed for greater power. These ambitions and greed show that the tragic fate of Macbeth was influenced by events or things of his own making. Nevertheless, the witches and provocations of Lady Macbeth were also decisive factors in Macbeth’s life. However, one cannot be able to establish if Macbeth was controlled by black magic or he purposely led himself to his tragic fate. Finally, Macbeth can be said to have allowed his flaws to destroy him.