What Lead to Macbeth's (Mac)death?

By: Katie Clewell

Shakespeare's Macbeth tells the tale of Macbeth, a thane, who becomes a murderous killer. The story follows Macbeth through his rise to power to his downfall, so it can often be difficult to pinpoint which of the many things Macbeth ran into that ultimately lead to his death. Was it the Witches? Was it his wife? The answer to this is quiet simple to find after looking at the text. It is Macbeth himself, or more specifically, his and other's ambition that leads to his downfall. Macbeth's ambition leads him to do things he wouldn't have normally done, for in the start of the book Macbeth is more moral than he is when he is killed.
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Macbeth's ambition started quite early in his story. It all began when Macbeth was told the witches' prophesies, which stated that Macbeth would become Thane of Cawdor and then King. After Ross tells Macbeth that Duncan, the king, wants to make him Thane of Cawdor as a reward for his actions in battle, Macbeth is dumbfounded. While he is shocked that the prophesy was already becoming reality, he still believes that, "If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me, without my stir"(Act 1 Scene 3). He believes that if it is meant to be, then fate will crown him king without his help. This changes when Lady Macbeth convinces him to kill Duncan instead of leaving it to fate. Macbeth is put in a difficult situation at this point, because he feels killing Duncan is wrong, for the king has never done anything cruel to Macbeth, while his wife is telling him that he is a coward if he doesn't kill Duncan. After seeing a floating dagger and discussing his conflict in a soliloquy, he says, "I go, and it is done" (Act 2 Scene 1). This implies that Macbeth is going to kill Duncan. In this scenario, it isn't Macbeth's ambition, but instead, Lady Macbeth's, that leads Macbeth to do the first action that would lead to a long chain of death, and tragedy.
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Macbeth's ambitious acts don't end there though. The next act of ambition is when Macbeth has Banquo killed. Banquo was the only person other than Macbeth present when the Witches' delivered their prophecies. While Banquo was told that he would not be king, he was told his sons would. Banquo is there when Macbeth is deemed Thane of Cawdor as well. It is at that moment that Banquo starts suspecting that Macbeth may take matters into his own hands. While Macbeth claims he's going to leave everything up to fate, Banquo still suspects that Macbeth might do something. These suspicions come to play after Duncan's murder. Banquo fears that, "... Thou play'dst most foully for't" (Act 3 Scene 1). While Banquo is suspecting Macbeth, Macbeth is suspecting that Banquo is on to him, and is a threat to his thrown. He sees Banquo as a threat due to his kingly qualities. He says that, "To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus. Our fears in Banquo stick deep, and in his royalty of nature reigns that which would be feared"( Act 3 Scene 1). Macbeth knows that in order to feel safe on his thrown, he must first get rid of Banquo. He convinces murderers to kill Banquo by telling them that it was Banquo that kept them imprisoned. The murderers kill Banquo in response. Macbeth's ambition to remain king is what drove him to kill Banquo. He saw his friend as a threat and decided that his death would be the best thing for himself. Because of Banquo's murder, Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost and feels a great deal of guilt, knowing that he just had an innocent man assassinated.
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You would think that after feeling great guilt you would change your ways, but Macbeth, even after having Banquo killed, continues to be ambitious. His ambition carries him to have more innocents killed, when he has Macduff's family killed. Macbeth sees Macduff as a threat, so he decided to scare him, by having his family killed. His family is innocent, but instead of being moral, he makes his own wants the priority. He has them killed, but his plan to scare Macduff backfires. Instead of being scared of Macbeth, Macduff says, " Front to front bring thou this fiend of Scotland and myself" (Act 4 Scene 3). He wants face to face battle with Macbeth to avenge his family. This leads to Macbeth's death. When Macbeth and Macduff finally dual, Macbeth feels invincible. He had been told that no one born of a woman would kill him. He tells this to Macduff, only to find that Macduff was a C-section baby, thus making him not woman born. Macbeth's ambition led to his death because his action of having Macduff's family killed made Macduff want revenge. Had he not killed Macduff's family, Macduff wouldn't have wanted revenge.

Literary Devices

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Definition- A contradictory/ absurd statement

"Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother's womb untimely ripped" ( Act 5 Scene 8 ).

When Macduff tells Macbeth that he was a C-section baby, it was a major loop in the plot. Macbeth had been told that he wouldn't be killed by anyone born of a woman, so he felt invincible. He boasts about it in the final battle against Macduff, where he finds out that Macduff wasn't born from a woman. Macduff then proceeds to kill Macbeth.

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Definition- A dramatic monologue where a character is alone and reveals their inner feelings

"Is this a knife I see before me, the handle toward my hand? Come let me clutch thee! I have thee not, and yet I see thee still"(Act 2 Scene 1).

When Macbeth sees the floating dagger in front of him, he goes into a dramatic monologue, discussing his internal conflict. Macbeth in this situation is faced with a difficult choice, for he can kill Duncan and satisfy his wife, or he could chicken out and have his wife forever see him as a coward. As he goes on about this difficult scenario, he reveals his inner feelings, and asks that he would be like a ghost; he didn't want to be seen. At the end of the monologue he decides to go and kill Duncan, which is only the start to Macbeth's murderous tendencies.

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Definition- Something being used, to represent something else

" On Tuesday last a falcon, tow'ring in her pride of place, was by a mousing owl hawked at and killed" (Act 2 Scene 4).

After Duncan's murder, weird things began happening. These weird things were absurd, like horses eating each other and an owl killing a hawk. While strange, the owl killing the hawk has another meaning. First, it displays that nature is off kilter, because an owl would regularly not kill a hawk. Secondly, a hawk generally flies higher, and is generally higher on the food chain than a mousing owl. This represents that Duncan's killer was someone of a lower class. ( Macbeth was a Thane, Duncan was King).

Connection #1: Sonnet

A ghost in the night, a killer is he,

His wife rings the kneel, his hands drenched in blood,

Oh who could this murderous person be?

His hands are stained, can't be cleansed by a flood

His soul is now drenched in treacherous guilt

For he killed the king, an innocent man

His realization of when the blood spilt

though he thought he was acting on fates plan

Now, he was a king, oh marvelous him

It was a kingdom ran by a killer,

As people were dying, it all looked dim

as his wife went insane, her mind killed her

He thought he was ruler, king of it all,

and that is what lead to Macbeth's downfall.

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Connection #2- Movie connection- Frozen

While Macbeth's tale has been famous for centuries, our current generation may be more familiar with a similar character. Hans from the Disney movie Frozen shows many similar qualities to the very ambitious Macbeth. In the beginning of Frozen, Hans is seen to be a sweet, lovable, stereo-typical Disney prince. He claims to love Princess Ana, and they happily sing and rejoice about their new love for each other. At the end of their cheery duet, Hans asks Ana to marry him, and Ana quickly says yes. This is similar to the start of the play Macbeth because in the start, Macbeth has just killed a traitor in battle. Duncan the king, is very happy about this and rewards Macbeth with the title of Thane of Cawdor. This is similar to Frozen because in both the movie and the play we are presented with someone who appears to be a good person. Macbeth had just done something for the king, and Hans had asked Ana to marry him. It is only until later that we realize that both Macbeth and Hans are not as good as they seem. In Frozen, the viewer is lead to believe for almost the whole movie that Hans is a good person, that is until he betrays the dying Ana. He tells her of his evil plan, to kill Elsa and marry Ana, becoming king of Arendelle. He does this because he's last in line for the thrown in his home country, for he is the youngest of many brothers. Macbeth, like Hans, has an evil scheme to become king. He kills Duncan, and scares off Duncan's two sons, so that he can become king. He then proceeds to kill just about everyone who gets in his way. Both characters have the ambition and ruthlessness to be king, They both betray many people in order to get what they want. Both characters also have a downfall of sorts. In Frozen, Hans gets sent back to his own country, where his many brothers were sure to punish him. Macbeth gets killed by the very angry Macduff, who is getting revenge for the murder of his family. Both Hans and Macbeth are punished for their ambition, making two characters who come from very different eras, more similar than they may have originally seemed.
Disney's Frozen Official Trailer