Who is responsible for the downfall of Macbeth and how far does he fit the role of a Tragic hero?
In my essay I am going to be writing about who is responsible for the downfall of Macbeth and how far does he fit the role of a tragic hero.During the play we see how Macbeth’s attitude changes.For example, at the beginning of the play, when he meets the witches, it is the witches want to meet him, “There to meet with Macbeth,” When he first meets them he talks in mannered voice.
However after he becomes a king, he goes back to meet the witches and he is more demanding. In my opinion, there are many people responsible for Macbeth’s downfall, Lady Macbeth, the witches and Macbeth himself. I am going to be discussing how they individually responsible and how they contribute to his downfall. For the second part of my essay I have been asked to discuss how far he fits the role of a tragic hero.
A tragic hero is the main character who at the beginning is good, brave and noble but who changes because of a fatal flaw. A fatal flaw is a kind of mistake that is very dangerous. It could lead to lots of people suffering. I think Macbeth does fit the role of a tragic hero. He was born of Noble blood. At the begging he is a brave man, known as a noble man, and would do anything for his country and his king. “For brave Macbeth, well he deserves that name,” This tells us that people at the beginning people thought that he was brave.
However, at the end becomes bad and kills the king, his friend Banquo and Macduff’s family. The fatal flow of Macbeth is his ambition and desire. His ambition and desire made his country and himself suffer. “My way of life is fallen into the sere.” This shows that he has realized his mistake, which is another thing related to the title ‘tragic hero’. At the end the tragic hero realizes their mistake. In my essay I will be discussing who is responsible for his downfall which leads him to become a tragic hero.
Macbeth was based in the 16th century. Supernatural belief during the 16th Century was a huge part of the resulting deaths of thousands of innocent people. Many years ago, people couldn’t find any evidence to what caused the natural things like lightning in the sky, rain, birth and death. Because of this, they believed that natural things were controlled by the witches. They believed that witches can do various things, for example, they can control the weather, they can predict the future, they could fly, they could swim and also mostly they were women. Some women were put in the witch test. They would drop somebody in the water and if they can swim, they were witch and they would be punished to death. If they can’t swim, they would drown and die.
In my opinion, the first people who could be held responsible for Macbeth’s downfall are the witches. At first Macbeth was a noble and a loyal man who would never even think about killing his king. However, the witches gave him the idea of becoming king. They prophesied his future. The prophecies were:
1 WITCH: “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis!”
2 WITCH: “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!”
3 WITCH: “All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be King hereafter!”
These prophecies were saying that he is the Thane of Glamis; he will become the Thane of Cawdor and would eventually become the king. At first Macbeth didn’t believe in them. However, as soon he found out that he was the Thane of Cawdor, “He bade me, from him, call thee Thane of Cawdor.” He started to think about the prophecies again. “This supernatural soliciting cannot be ill, cannot be good. If ill, why hath it given me earnest of success, Commencing in a truth? I am Thane of Cawdor. If good, why do I yield to that suggestion?” On the other hand, the witches never told him to kill the king. They never told him he had to do anything. He could become the king like he became the Thane of Cawdor. In my opinion, we cannot really say they are entirely responsible for his downfall. God gave free will so he could have chosen not to listen to the witches.
I think Macbeth could have ignored the witches’ prophecies like Banquo. Banquo was also given prophecies. The prophecies for Banquo were:
FIRST WITCH: “Lesser than Macbeth, and greater.”
SECOND WITCH: “Not so happy, yet much happier.”
THIRD WITCH: “Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none.”
Macbeth went on to not only kill the king; he also killed his friend Banquo and Macduff’s family. He did this because he thought that Banquo’s children would become the king and that the witches had placed a “barren sceptre” in his hand. So he tried killing Banquo’s son but was failed to kill him. He wanted his children to become the king after him.
Also the witches were involved in giving him the idea of killing Macduff’s family. After he became the king of Scotland, he went back to the witches to find out more. They gave him three more prophecies, these prophecies were given by the witches’ master, and they were:
FIRST APPARITION: “Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! Beware
Macduff; Beware the Thane of Fife.”
SECOND APPARITION: “Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn the power of man, for no one given birth to by a woman shall harm Macbeth.”
THIRD APPARITION: “Be lion-mettled, proud, and take no care who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are: Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him.”
After hearing these prophecies, Macbeth felt invincible. He thought everyone is born of women so why should he be scared of Macduff, “Then live, Macduff. What need I fear of thee?” He also, after hearing the third prophecy, said “That will never be. Who can impress the forest, bid the tree unfix his earth-bound root? Sweet bodements, good! Rebellion’s head, rise never, till the Wood of Birnam rise, and our high-placed Macbeth.” These prophecies led him to kill innocent people, the Macduff’s family.
I also think that Lady Macbeth can also be held responsible for her husband’s downfall. The witches gave Macbeth the idea of becoming the king but Lady Macbeth persuaded him to kill Duncan. Lady Macbeth urged her husband to commit murder and it was this action that led to Macbeth’s downfall but she did not know that he would go on to kill again and again. Nevertheless, she was just responsible for the murder of King Duncan but after he decided to kill more people, like Banquo and even Macduff to hide his sins.
After Lady Macbeth receives the letter about how one of the prophecies from the witches came true, she calls upon the evil spirits. “Fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full of direst cruelty.” She knows that Macbeth is a good person and he would not kill Duncan, “Yet do I fear thy nature: it is too full o’ the milk of human kindness.” In Shakespeare’s time women weren’t treated equal as men. She would’ve have had more powers because if Macbeth becomes the King, then she can become the queen. Macbeth, on the other hand, does not like the idea at first of having to kill his king to take his position. He gives lots of reason to not to kill the king, “First as I am his kinsman and his subject, strong both against the deed; then, as his host, who should against his murderer shut the door, not bear the knife myself.”
He also says that Duncan has been a good king. “…Duncan hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been so clear in his great office, that his virtues will please like angels.” Lady Macbeth becomes aware of her husband’s weakness, and persuades him, allowing his ambitions get the better of him, and believed that it was her responsibility to guide Macbeth to being king. She accuses him of being coward and not a man. “And live a coward in thine own esteem,” here she says that is she living with a coward. Also she says what she would do if she promised something, “How tender ‘t is to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums, and dashed the brains out, had I sworn as you have done to this.” This shows that she would have done anything she promised, although she is a woman, so he should do as he has promised to be a man.
Macbeth tries to make Lady Macbeth understand the possible consequences for killing the king. He always tries to back down, “We will proceed no further in this business: he hath honoured me of late; and I have bought golden opinions from all sorts of people,” but she is always calling him coward and says he is not a man. He is scared if somebody finds out. He is ready to take on the consequences of the hereafter but he is afraid of the consequences of this life. “But, in these cases, we still have judgement here,” this confirms that he knows he is going to get punished on earth, which he is scared of.
The final thing that is responsible for Macbeth’s downfall is Macbeth’s ambition. Macbeth could not control his urges to be King. He followed his ambitions without regard to humanity or the affects his actions would have on the people around him. He carried on and listened to his wife and the witches. Macbeth had a choice but he picked the bad choice and chose to kill the king and then later decided himself to kill again and again. “I have done this deed.” Lady Macbeth only manipulated him to kill the king, but the decisions to kill and Banquo and the Macduff family were his own.
He decided to kill these people listening to the prophecies of the witches. He killed Banquo, and tried to kill Banquo’s son, because he didn’t want Banquo’s children to be the king. He decided to kill Macduff because of the prophecies that were given by the witches the second time. Evidence that shows that he wanted to become the king is he wrote the letter to his wife. He wanted support from his wife. He should not have written the letter to his wife and not let her know about the prophecies. He chose to let her know and chose to let her persuade him to kill King Duncan. Writing the letter to his wife informing her about the witches and their prophecies shows that becoming king was initially in his mind. Macbeth was not weak but his ambitions made him morally weak.
At the beginning of the play, Macbeth was described as a brave warrior who was loyal to his king. The king also liked him, “And, when he reads thy personal venture in the rebels’ fight, his wonders and his praises do contend,” but like any other person, he had his fatal flaw. His fatal flaw was he had ambitions “vaulting ambition”.
In conclusion I think that it was the witches and Lady Macbeth who are responsible for the start of his downfall. If the witches had not given him the idea of becoming a king then he probably would not have thought about becoming the king. If Lady Macbeth had not influenced him, then he probably would have stopped. However, Macbeth did listen to the witches and Lady Macbeth. Then he is the one who is actually responsible for his downfall. He is the one made the final decision and he is the one who led him self into the role of tragic hero. He made himself suffer, “My way of life is fallen into the sere.”