Macbeth, a Scottish noble man and a highly respected person in the society, popular for his valiant nature, a prime agent behind protecting Scotland’s kingdom from invasion by Norwegian invaders, is subject to the miseries by the misleading influences in his life. As the play opens, Macbeth is portrayed as an ideal nobleman, brave, courageous, patriotic, with immense love and regard for the King (King Duncan) and his country, Scotland. He is seen to be regarded by the people of Scotland, the king and his men. Macbeth’s success as a nobleman and his appointment as the Thane of Glamis and then as the Thane of Cawdor is a result of his bravery and ambition. His ambitious nature, a very strong, powerful and driving element in his life, is responsible for the lordly stature he has.
Macbeth, the protagonist, as depicted in the play, is a virtuous person, looked up to as an idol by his countrymen. He is incapable of being a traitor or committing ghastly deeds. As a result he carries a clear conscience and a mind devoid of guilt. He has always been known for his heroism in the times of crisis, and has taken the right path until one day when he has an interaction with the weird sisters. The weird sisters were evil witches who prophesied that one day Macbeth would become the king of Scotland and Banquo his friend and aide would his descendants rule over Scotland. This thought instantly shoots a stream of events in Macbeth’s mind about the possibility of killing the king and usurping the throne. He had never thought of such a thing before, and the very possibility of committing such an act, makes his head heavy and fills his mind with disquiet. The weird sisters prophesy that Macbeth would become the Thane of Cawdor. At first, the witches’ prophesies seemed incredible and baseless, but the discovery of the old thane of Cawdor as the main perpetrator behind the invasion of Scotland and the following appointment of Macbeth as the thane of Cawdor reinforces their belief on the witches. Macbeth, up to now pure in heart and guilt-free in mind, starts fantasising about killing King Duncan and taking over his throne. Thus starts his journey of inordinate appetite for power, control and unrestrained, unguided ambition that drags him to his own grave of doom.
Apart from his own ambition, Macbeth’s wife and the weird sisters are causative factors behind Macbeth’s unthinkable act of the murder. Succumbing to the taunts of his wife, that he is too weak and kind hearted to do such a thing, and that it would be test of his manhood whether he can get what he wants, he and his aide Banquo eventually murder the King. Thus starts the journey of guilt and silent suffering of Macbeth, from the heinous crime he committed. Macbeth’s main torment was the burden of the crime he had committed, despite knowing that this very deed would seal his fate of doom. He knew from the beginning that his crime would rob him of his peace, happiness and self respect. He fell in his own eyes and a constant guilt, manifesting in the form of ghosts and strange apparitions surrounded him. Now that he had realised his greatest ambition of becoming the king, he was left empty hearted and ridden with shame and remorse. He had the crown on his head, but its burden would not let him live in peace. Meanwhile he gets Banquo murdered, realising that he could be a potential threat to the continuation of him as the king of Scotland. According to the witches’ foresight, Banquo’s line would one day rule Scotland and this drives him to murder his friend, his aide and his companion. The transformation of Macbeth from a kind hearted, valiant nobleman, into a power hungry monster, capable of betrayal and heinous deed, makes him plummet into the tunnel of sin and wrong doing. His realisation of the fact that he has changed drastically from what he used to be, adds to his miseries and torments his mind. He no longer thinks rationally and realises he is no longer the same person. His wife passes away, perhaps due to suicide, which further tightens the noose of doom on his neck. His meaningless life torments him further, stained by his acts of murders and betrayal. The fact that he believed he was invincible, no matter what he did, and that doom would never come upon him was the major cause of his downfall and the growing mental disquiet.
1. Coursen, H. R., (1997). Macbeth: A Guide to the Play. Greenwood Press.
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