At the start of the play, Macbeth was portrayed as a heroic and courageous man. He created this image for himself by fighting long and hard in the King of Scotland’s battle. The King of Scotland (along with all his people) was very impressed with Macbeth. He was rewarded for his efforts, being presented with the title of the Thane of Cawdor. After the battle, he and Banquo were out riding when they bumped into a group of incredibly strange women that had a strange aura of power about them (the witches). It was here that Macbeth was confronted with the prophecy that someday he would become King of Scotland.
There were many reasons Macbeth could become King without murdering anyone – the current king could die, renounce his throne and appoint Macbeth as King, or Macbeth could overthrow him. Macbeth did indeed think for a while that he could become King without murdering anyone. “If chance will have me king, why chance may crown me without stir. ” There were a lot of reasons why Macbeth was reluctant to murder King Duncan. For a start, he was a good King. He had been treating Macbeth very well, showering him with praise and rewards. The King wasn’t the only one who thought highly of Macbeth. The people of Scotland also held him in high regard.
If he killed or tried to kill the King and got caught, his reputation would be gone. The final reason he had for not murdering King Duncan was that he was his host, and he should be protecting not endangering him. These reasons were all forgotten when Macbeth’s wife, Lady Macbeth, convinced him to murder King Duncan. She told him straight out that he ‘wasn’t a real man’ if he didn’t do this. She was involved in the murders both by convincing Macbeth and by drugging the men who stood guard in front of the King’s sleeping chambers. King Duncan’s sons feared that after their father was murdered, they would be next.
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They were very wary of everyone, and wanted to leave the castle as soon as possible. Banquo strongly suspected Macbeth was involved in the murder. He had also heard the witches’ prophecy, and he feared that Macbeth had ‘played foully’ to make the prophecy come true. Meanwhile, Macbeth was shocked by what he did. He wondered whether in killing King Duncan he had not made the position available to himself, but to others. The prophecy played heavily on his mind, and he wondered whether he had now made the Crown available to children that are not his, namely Banquo’s.
Macbeth decided to kill Banquo and his son Fleance for more than one reason. The major reason was the prophecy predicted that Banquo’s children would become kings. By killing Banquo and his son, he would be able to prevent Banquo from having more children and stop Fleance himself from becoming King. The other more minor reason was that Macbeth thought that Banquo was suspicious of him, and he was worried that Banquo would tell someone or act on his suspicions. Macbeth didn’t tell Lady Macbeth about what he was planning to do because he thought his wife would think that it would upset their plans.
The appearance of Banquo’s ghost made Macbeth very scared and worried, it definitely made him appear incredibly disturbed to all the people around him. Macbeth then decided to go to the witches. He had become caught up in events and felt he had lost control of the situation. He desperately wanted to know what was going to happen next.
This did help him a bit, or so he thought, because he knew more about what was going on. This was due to three new prophecies made by the witches – ‘Beware Macduff’, ‘No fear until Birnam Wood come to Dunsinane Hill’ and finally ‘No man of woman born can harm you. After hearing these prophecies, Macbeth felt much more confident. He scoffed at the idea that a wood could climb a hill, and after hearing that ‘no man of woman born can harm you’, the only thing he felt threatened by was Macduff.
Since he was a threat, Macbeth wanted to kill Macduff (just like everyone else who had been a threat to him). But he couldn’t get to Macduff, so instead he killed everyone that Macduff loved and destroyed everything that he cherished. As expected, this had a very negative affect on Macduff. Macduff most likely would’ve preferred to have been killed himself.
Lady Macbeth at the end of the play was very different from the composed lady at the start. Her guilty conscience had gotten to her, and by the end of the play she was a guilty, stuttering mess. She began admitting to some of the terrible deeds she had done. Finally she just couldn’t take it anymore, and committed suicide. Macbeth kept on going because he thought that the prophecies would protect him. He figures he’s killed so many people he might as well keep going. Finally, he didn’t want to look weak in front of everyone and he wanted to keep his honour.
The witches were the starting point and basis for all the murders Macbeth committed. No matter who he killed, it could always be linked back to the witches and their prophecies. They were the ones who first put the idea into his head about becoming King of Scotland. Lady Macbeth also played a major part in him becoming a murderer. When he was undecided about whether he was going to kill King Duncan, she urged him on until he finally made the decision to kill him. This first murder resulted in all subsequent deaths. Nevertheless, Macbeth wasn’t forced to kill anybody.
He has to take some responsibility for his actions. If he was not so egotistical and keen to hold power, the witches prophecies would not have has such an effect on him. Macbeth was obviously responsible for all the murders, and Lady Macbeth played her part in them too, but I think the people most responsible for the murders were actually the witches. Before he met them, Macbeth led a perfectly normal life, free of any thoughts of treason or murder. But when he met the witches they planted all sorts of thoughts into his head via the prophecies.
He wouldn’t have thought of being King of Scotland, let alone killing the current King, if he hadn’t heard the prophecy about him being King. He wouldn’t have killed Banquo and attempted to kill his son if the witches hadn’t told him that Banquo’s children would one day be kings. Macbeth wouldn’t have ordered that Macduff’s family be killed and his household destroyed if the witches had not told him to beware Macduff. Therefore I think I can safely say that the witches were the ones who were most at fault for the murders, and for the downfall of Macbeth.
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