Date of publication: 2017-07-08 21:36
Macbeth’s conscience works on many levels he identifies the following reasons against usurping the throne. (See one of his major soliloquies: Act 6, Scene 7. AS Shapiro notes, 8775 few soliloquies have ever captured a feverish mind at work or traced an arc of a character 8767 s moral crisis more memorably 8776 . Shapiro: 86).
Shakespeare depicts Macbeth as a person who is morally astute, honourable and loyal. Fearing his dishonourable intentions, and his 8775 horrible imaginings 8776 Macbeth concludes, 8775 if chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me, Without my stir 8776 .
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Is Macbeth a tragic hero?
Macbeth is tragic in the sense that he predicts his downfall but cannot control his ambition. He is also tragic in the sense that, as a fine and noble soldier, he becomes corrupted. As a tyrant, he becomes steeped in blood for evil purposes.
(Remember that Macbeth believes that they have “earnest of success” and refers to the prophecies as “perfectest report”.) Sensing his ambition, the witches are able to play their “hurly burly” and create moral confusion. They hover through the “filthy air” so that what is “fair” is “foul”. This use of antithesis clearly shows the extent to which they have corrupted Macbeth, precisely because of his fascination and horror. Unlike Banquo, Macbeth is willing and capable of eating on the “insane root” which so repels Banquo.
The expression of futility also occurs after the recognition of his brutality and callousness Macbeth realises he has become insensitive to the pain of others. “I have supp’d full with horrors/Direness familiar to my slaughterous thoughts/ Cannot one start me.”
Macbeth is also aware that he is not serving the “greater good”. Shakespeare expressly characterizes King Duncan as a king for whom the angels plead ( 8775 his virtues will plead like angels, trumpet-tongu 8767 d against The deep damnation of his taking-off 8776 ) and Macbeth humbly recognizes that there is no reason to kill Duncan rather he should be protecting him honourably. He tries to resist and informs Lady Macbeth that “we will proceed no further in this business”.
So we could argue that it is because of his “overleaping” ambition that Macbeth places too much trust in the witches. Earlier, he mused about his 8775 horrible imaginings 8776 also born of the pursuit of power.
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The first point you can explore is the statement that Macbeth's fate is "dangling in front of him." From this, you can discuss the witches' initial prophecies that he would become thane of Cawdor and "king hereafter." Describe Macbeth's responses to these and contrast them with those of Banquo when they also divulge his future. Do these predictions act as a spur, or are they definite markers of the fates of both? It is interesting to note that Macbeth himself muses:
With regards to the scale of the threatened destruction, some believed the plotters were demons. Lancelot Andrewes delivered a sermon one year later claiming that such evil could not have originated in the minds of men. It had been “propounded by Satan”. The John Milton’s poem on the Gunpowder Plot focuses on evil 8767 s satanic origins.
However, Macbeth differs from the ancient Greek tragic hero. Aristotle’s tragic hero is someone who commits an “act of injustice” either through ignorance or from a conviction that some greater good will be served. He is unaware of his moral shortcomings he acts out of his good intentions and benefits from a greater awareness of self.
It is again Macbeth himself who chooses to kill Banquo and his son, Fleance, though Banquo didn’t pose any threat to Macbeth’s power and authority. Fleance was on the hit-list only because of the prophecy of the witches as regards Banquo.
What is the role of fate?
Shakespeare presents Macbeth as if he were at the mercy of the forces of evil. The witches target Macbeth for their “hurly burly” and are determined to wreak moral confusion. (They are planning to meet Macbeth “upon the heath”, when the “battle’s lost and won”).