Macbeth: Victim or Villain William Shakepear’s Macbeth is a tragedy that contains a perfect example of how lust for power can twist one’s thoughts, emotions, and personality. Even the noblest human being can become malicious when faced with the opportunity to gain power. Macbeth, the play’s protagonist, comes face to face with this exact dilemma, causing him to transform from a valiant war hero into a murderous villain. At the beginning of the play, Macbeth’s future is foretold by three witches.
The first prediction is stated by the first witch saying, “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis” (I. ii. 48)! Thane of Glamis was already Macbeth’s title; therefore the first witch is correct. The second witch predicts that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor. Immediately after the witches disappear, a message comes for Macbeth saying that he will now be the Thane of Cawdor as a result of the preceding Thane’s act of treason. The final prediction made by the witches was that Macbeth would be “…King hereafter” (I. iii. 50. ).
At first, Macbeth dismisses the predictions, but because the first two predictions from the witches are correct, Macbeth concludes that the third must be true as well. The prospect of gaining power as king appeals to Macbeth, but he does not yet know how he will become king. Macbeth decides to take matters into his own hands, creating a plot to kill the current King of Scotland, thereby speeding up the time between now and Macbeth’s coronation. The witches’ predictions have already taken root in his brain and, by dwelling on them, Macbeth allows his evil thoughts to grow and flourish.
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This causes him to carry out his evil deeds along with his wife, Lady Macbeth, who has also become lethal in the pursuit of power. After realizing that he can make himself king, Macbeth concocts a plan to kill Duncan, the present King. Macbeth and his wife decide to kill Duncan when he comes, as a guest, to their castle. At this point, Macbeth can easily change his mind and allow the future to take its course without his interference, but instead, his decision to kill Duncan remains.
After murdering Duncan, Macbeth feels a wave of guilt. As the play goes on, Macbeth’s conscience begins to become numb to the idea of taking the life of someone else. The next major character in the story that is killed is Banquo. In the play, Banquo is also given a prediction by the witches: “Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none” (I. iii. 67. ). This means that although Banquo is not king, his descendants will be. Macbeth realizes that this may be a problem later on and it may interfere with him being king.
Banquo is also suspicious about how Macbeth is able to become king. He says “Thou hast is now: King, Cawdor, Glamis, all, / As the weird women promised, and I fear / thou play’dst most foully for ‘t” (III. i. 1-3). With the prospect of Banquo’s descendants becoming king and the possibility that Banquo is suspicious of how he became king, Macbeth decides that Banquo and Banquo’s son, Fleance, must be exterminated. Macbeth hires murderers to kill the two of them as they both go horseback riding.
Though Banquo is a close friend of Macbeth, this does not stop him from murdering both Banquo and Banquo’s son in Macbeth’s quest for power. Subsequently, Macbeth returns to the witches to get more information about his future. Macbeth is so concerned about keeping his crown that he willingly goes to the witches so he can figure out which action to take next in order to maintain his power. While there, he is given four more predictions in the form of apparitions. The first apparition, which is an armored head, says “Beware Macduff! Beware the Thane of Fife” (IV. i. 71-72. ). This apparition means that Macbeth should be wary of Macduff because he somehow poses a threat to Macbeth. Macbeth refuses to allow Macduff to be the one that ends Macbeth’s rule as king. Without a second thought Macbeth hires murderers to go to Macbeth’s castle and kill everyone there, but what Macbeth does not know is that Macduff is not in his castle. Macduff is in England convincing Malcom, Duncan’s son, to send an army to Dunsinain. This is the same army that ultimately leads to Macbeth’s doom.
This means that Macbeth has killed the innocent people in Macbeth’s castle for nothing. Macbeth has multiple opportunities to change his mind about his pursuit of the crown, but he still chooses to kill innocent people for his own selfish gain. Macbeth’s judgment is repetitively clouded by his quest for power throughout the novel. His apathy towards his murderous ways makes him a villain in the play. His identity changes from a war hero to a bloodthirsty tyrant. This shows that anyone is capable of becoming evil when given the right motive.
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