Macbeth

Sydney Bearden

The Downfall of Macbeth

Although Macbeth's own ambition brought him to write the letter concerning the witches, his wife was ultimately the one who brought about his downfall. Without his wife by his side, Macbeth would have not gone through with killing even Duncan, not to mention everyone else he killed later, due to his guilt and fear. First, Lady Macbeth promises to herself that she will get him to follow through with killing the king. She vows, alone in her house, that she would convince her husband to murder Duncan; "That I may pour thy spirits in thine ear, and chastise with the valor of thy tongue"(Shakespeare 33). At the very beginning of the book, she reveals how she will make her husband kill without feeling. As her plans succeed, it is clear he is becoming the dictator she wanted. However, Lady Macbeth's greatest tactic to make him do what she wanted was hurting her significant other's self esteem. At the dinner with Duncan, when Macbeth has left the table for his uneasiness, his wife hunts him down and reassures him to do kill the king by calling Macbeth "a coward in thine own esteem" (Shakespeare 43). Just after the deed is done, Macbeth is worried and his wife attacks him again, comparing him to a child with his petty fears; "The sleeping and the dead are but as pictures. 'Tis the eye of childhood that fears a painted devil" (Shakespeare 57). Just later in the same scene, Lady Macbeth tells her husband that he has no courage; "Your constancy hath left you unattended" (Shakespeare 59). In these instances, Macbeth's wife insults her husband to belittle him and make him feel weaker than her, and he would try to become stronger by doing the deed she wanted him to. The way she enticed him to follow through with all of his horrendous acts, it seems she wanted the throne more than he did.
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Literary Devices

Aside: a character's dialogue is spoken but not heard by the other actors on the stage

By speaking to himself alone, Macbeth seems disturbed enough, but his speech to himself was included to describe his strange ambition and even more disturbing actions yet to come. In Act 1 Scene 3, Scottish soldiers are returning home from battle when they are stopped by three witches who prophesy to them, calling Macbeth Thane of Cawdor and King. After the witches mysteriously vanish, Macbeth has some questions that the women did not answer him. Since the information he seeks is not appropriate to discuss around his fellow soldiers, he goes over his confusion out loud to himself, saying, "My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical shakes so my single state of man" (Shakespeare 25). The addition of the aside first introduces Macbeth's horrific fantasy of killing the king and taking the throne. It is the early characterization of Macbeth; already giving the audience the idea of his uneasy mind and murderous ambition.

Foil: two characters that are completely different in personality and morals

With the changing personality of Macbeth in action, Shakespeare adds a scene that contrasts good and evil. In Act 4 Scene 3, Macduff and Ross speak with Malcom in England to convince him to establish himself and become king back in Scotland. As the men talk, Malcom gains more and more courage to return. Based on what he was told, Malcom even refers to the new ruler as "Devilish Macbeth" (Shakespeare 143), due to Macbeth's truly evil behavior and tyrannical rule as king. However, what really makes him want to return is the way Ross describes the homeland; "It cannot be called our mother, but our grave" (Shakespeare 147). Such talk of Scotland's king brings about the conversation of England's king. King Edward of England is known, in Macbeth, as a truly amazing king. Malcom explains the "most miraculous work in this good king" (Shakespeare 145), which is his bizarre ability to heal evil. Malcom goes on to describe his Highness's goodness; "With this strange virtue, he hath a heavenly gift of prophecy, and sundry blessings hang about his throne that speak him full of grace" (Shakespeare 145). Although the topic changes again fairly quickly, the minor character King Edward makes a bigger splash than it seems. In order to emphasize Macbeth's new changes in character, he had to be compared to someone whose entire existence was the meaning of good. In the character comparison between the two kings, Edward is good and Macbeth is clearly evil. Making the foil for Macbeth verifies the idea that he is definitely the evil antagonist. Where Macbeth is killing his country, Edward is healing his.

Verbal Irony: a figure of speech/ what is said is not what is meant

In order to create tension between Lady Macbeth and, unknowingly, the king, verbal irony is used; further exhibiting the acting and faking abilities of Lady Macbeth. In Act One Scene Six, Lady Macbeth is visited by Duncan, who tells her they will have a feast at her home tonight. Since she has already received her husband's letter about the witches' prophecy, she knows that the king will be killed in her house that night. Lady Macbeth than makes an over-the-top attempt to hide her intentions from the king, giving him praise and telling him, " All our service, in every point twice done, and then done double, were poor and single business to contend against those honors deep and broad wherewith your Majesty loads our house" (Shakespeare 39). Lady Macbeth uses flattery to make the king feel welcome and comfortable, but she doesn't mean any of it. In reality, Lady Macbeth is just trying to make him feel relaxed so he has no reason to be suspicious and avoid the party. The whole point of speaking well of the king is to get him into her house to kill him. The verbal irony is being used to show the face that Lady Macbeth can make. Through the entire murder night and morning of king Duncan, she remains calm and acts as though she knows nothing of the things that are happening. This scene just further shows Lady Macbeth's cruel and heartless death wish for Duncan. After this scene, it is easy for readers to conclude that Lady Macbeth is evil.

Character Analysis - Malcom

During the plot in Macbeth, several characters change out of fear, and Malcom, son of Duncan, is one of them. The first characterization of Malcom comes when his father is killed. Him and his brother plan to leave for fear of their lives. Malcom urges Donnalbain to refrain from telling the others they plan to leave, because he doesn't trust anyone who could have killed his father; "Let's not consort with them. To show an unfelt sorrow is an office which the false man does say" (Shakespeare 71). This early characterization does not show Malcom in a good light. Though the audience knows he isn't the killer, his actions do portray him as cowardly, since he wants to run away, and distrusting, since he will not let others know he is leaving. However, his old characteristics go away with his later encounter. Macduff and Ross travel to England to speak with Malcom. While they are there, they explain the poor condition of their land, which sparks the fire for Malcom. Although Malcom wants to help, he feels he is not worthy of being king. Malcom fears he does not have the virtues of a king; "As justice, verity, temp'rance, stableness, bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness, devotion, patience, courage, fortitude, I have no relish of them..." (Shakespeare 141). Malcom worries more about how well he governs and less about helping his country that instant, but, with one final attempt, Macduff compares Malcom to his father and his goodness and saving his country. Overwhelmed, Malcom wholeheartedly agrees to march to war against the tyrannical dictator Macbeth, with a whole new goal in mind. With lots of convincing, Malcom is turned from a frightened coward to a noble leader. After the fight is over, and it is clear that Malcom will become king, he gives a speech to all his men. He shows how like his father he is in his ways and his vows to save his country; "This, and what needful else that calls upon us, by the grace of Grace we will perform in measure, time, and place..." (Shakespeare 185). Finally, Malcom becomes the king everyone needs him to be, showing his will to help and lead the nation, as well as his willingness to heal the country in whatever way it needs. What lead Malcom to become his ending character was his nobles. The men who cheered him on and made him feel needed brought him back to his country to become king. Without them, Malcom would not have gone back to save his homeland.

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What's the Difference? - Book Style

Often times, the downfall of someone can be something very important to them. To Macbeth, that thing was his wife. However, a woman creating the downfall of a man is not an uncommon theme in literature. In the book of Judges, written by the prophet Samuel, a very strong man named Samson falls in love with a woman named Delilah. He is an outsider in her town and the men of her town had heard of him due to his size and strength, and thus wanted to kill him. They offered Delilah money to find out his weakness. Surprisingly, Samson refuses to tell Delilah what his weakness is three times, and after the third time, Delilah was extremely upset and ready to leave him, saying, "How can you say 'I love you', when you won't confide in me?" (New International Version, Judges 16:15). Finally, the strong man shared his weakness with her and she sold him out to the men of her town who planned to kill him. Although Lady Macbeth did not intentionally lead her husband to his death, she did bring about his downfall and convinced him to do what she wanted without any explanation of why she wanted it that way. Lady Macbeth, unlike Delilah, was truly in love with her man, but she led him in a dangerous way that harmed both of them. Delilah deliberately brought about his end for a bribe, unlike anything Lady Macbeth would have done to her husband, but the fact that the future queen wanted to warp her husband's mind and convince him of murder makes her a manipulating woman after the throne, just as Delilah was a manipulating woman after money.