A Rather Bloody Tale

By Gracie Allan

Ambition's Many Faces

There are numerous opinions as to who or what exactly drove Macbeth to his breaking point and, ultimately, his demise; however, there is only one true cause: Macbeth's own ambition. Macbeth was so eager to fulfill the witches' prophesies that he became desperate and ignorant of moral. When the witches first tell Macbeth of the Prophesies, he is so impatient to be crowned that he begins to fantasize different plans to take the throne: "My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, Shakes so my single state of man that function is smother'd in surmise, and nothing is but what is not'" (1.3.52-55). Disturbingly, Macbeth's first thought to take the role of king is to murder Duncan, and when childish ambition is curved to fit the ugly pattern of murderous thoughts, problems are guaranteed to rise. Directly before Lady Macbeth's vision was put in to play, Macbeth's sane-side begins to shine through his vale of insane false hope. Macbeth finally is honest with himself, and admits that there is no reason to kill Duncan other than his ambitious hunger for power: "'I have no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition, which o'rleaps itself And falls on the other'" (1.7.25-28). With no valid reason to kill Duncan, Macbeth questions himself, but decides to go through with the plan. Fueled by the false assurance of the witches' questionable Prophesies, Macbeth knows he will stop at nothing to take what he longs for: the throne. After Macbeth has taken the throne, there is no reason for him to be eager anymore, so his eagerness is morphed in to obsession with his position as king. He knows that he can't allow anyone to take the crown from him. He begins to think about the witches' Prophesies and he recalls that they spoke of Banquo's children becomming kings. Because of this, he feels that he can't trust his most loyal friend anymore, and begins to think of Banquo as a threat to his title: "'But to be safely thus.--Our fears in Banquo Stick deep; and in his royalty of nature Reigns that which would be fear'd: 'tis much he dares; And, to that dauntless temper of his mind, He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valour To act in safety. There is none but he Whose being I do fear: and, under him, My Genius is rebuked; as, it is said, Mark Antony's was by Caesar. He chid the sisters When first they put the name of king upon me, And bade them speak to him: then prophet-like They hail'd him father to a line of kings: Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown, And put a barren sceptre in my gripe, Thence to be wrench'd with an unlineal hand, No son of mine succeeding'" (3.1.52-67). His ambition for the crown, now a crazed obsession, will soon become petty pride and false confidence gifted so generously by the witches. This false confidence will inevitably lead Macbeth to his own demise because, after all, confidence is a flame that is easily extinguished, righteousness is not.
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Denial with a Side of Guilt

The song "Polarize" by Twenty One Pilots accurately represents Macbeth's feelings of guilt throughout the novel. In the song, Tyler Joseph, the lead singer of Twenty One Pilots, captures the attention of listeners with some very guilt-stricken lyrics about facing feelings of denial: "You know where I'm coming from

Though I am running to you
All our feelings deny, deny, denial, oh

I wanted to be a better brother, better son
Wanted to be a better adversary to the evil I have done
I have none to show to the one I love
But deny, deny, denial, oh" (Twenty One Pilots "Polarize"). Macbeth can't deal with the guilt of murdering Duncan, but he knows that he can't tell anyone, or he will be removed from the throne. When Duncan is found dead, Macbeth admits to killing the guards, but he says it was out of anger for them killing his king. Macbeth denies his part in the murder, and even goes as far as faking being in mourning for the king.


***Note: The YouTube video below is of the song and the lyrics described above. The point of the lyrics found above is from 0:29 - 0:51.

twenty one pilots: Polarize (lyric video)
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Symbolic Cypresses

Van Gogh's famous painting, "Cypresses", is a blend of beautifully happy, bright tones used to depict such a sad plant, much like Macbeth. Macbeth hides his guilt with an innocent face, or, as Lady Macbeth says: "'Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under't'"(1.5.74-5). Also, the cypress tree is a symbol of mourning, and Macbeth fakes his own surprise and sadness to his king's death: "'Had I but died an hour before this chance, I had lived a blessèd time, for from this instant There’s nothing serious in mortality. All is but toys. Renown and grace is dead. The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees Is left this vault to brag of'" (2.3.68-73). Though Macbeth is seemingly only mourning his king, the audience knows he's just playing the victim as this is no one's responsibility but his own. "Cypresses" by Vincent Van Gogh is a wonderfully timeless painting that represents how Macbeth hides his guilt from his comrades, and it shows how his guilt is of no fault but his own.

The Porter's Comic Relief

Comic relief is a witty snapshot of humor to lighten the gloomy mood of a tragedy. Right after Duncan is found dead, MacDuff and Lennox come knocking at the Porter's door, and, in the midst of a very serious situation, the Porter tells a simple joke about drink: "'Marry, sir, nose-painting, sleep, and urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes and unprovokes. It provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance. Therefore, much drink may be said to be an equivocator with lechery. It makes him, and it mars him; it sets him on, and it takes him off; it persuades him, and disheartens him; makes him stand to and not stand to; in conclusion, equivocates him in a sleep, and, giving him the lie, leaves him'" (3.2.13-21). The Porter's joke about the three things that drink provokes is very accurate in lightening the mood of the play after Duncan's very heartbreaking death.
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Macbeth's Metaphor

A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or a phrase is applied to an item which is not literally relevant. When Macduff and the rebels are marching to take down Macbeth, Macbeth knows that he's trapped, so he expresses his hopelessness in the statement,"'They have tied me to a stake'" (5.7.1). Macbeth is referring to himself as a bear ready to be baited because the rebels have trapped him in his own castle, meaning that he is forced to face them.
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The Soldier's Personification

Personification is the giving of living attributes to an inanimate object. When Duncan is speaking to a wounded soldier about Macbeth's defeat of Macdonwald, the soldier makes it known to Duncan that he needs medical attention by saying,"'My gashes cry for help'" (1.2.41). The gashes aren't actually screaming, but the expression is used to describe the pain the soldier is going through due to his injuries.
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