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CLASSIC LITERATURE ANALYSIS

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Reports & Essays: Literature - Shakespeare

"AND""OR"


MacBeth - Disastrous Attributes
Character or fate. Which of these two forces (external or internal) led to the downward fall of a great military hero and worthy Thane, Macbeth, turned evil and murderous when led astray by the prophecies of three old witches. Some people argue that Macbeth is the victim of fate, while others argue that his character decides his downfall. The argument for fate is strongly led by the actions of others, with Lady Macbeth being the prime influence on Macbeth. While the opposition is led by Macbeth^s troubled conscience, his own internal conflict and his hamartia. It is clearly visible that Macbeth^s own character is at fault for his tragic downfall. It is the opinion of many, that Macbeth is a victim of fate. These critics state that Macbeth is heavily influenced by his overpowering wife, Lady Macbeth. Macbeth decides that he cannot kill Duncan as he is his "kinsman, and his subject"(Act 1,Scene 7: 13) yet Lady Macbeth taunts him saying: "I have given suck, and know How tender ^Ñtis to love the babe that milks me : I would, while it was smiling in my face Have pluck^Òd my nipple from his bone less gums, And dash^Òd the brains out, had I so sworn As you have done to this" (Act 1, Scene 7: 54-59) This graphic view of the extent to which Lady Macbeth would go to keep a promise would have been more accepted in our society than in that of Shakespeare. In the days of Shakespeare, women had no business arguing with their husbands and even less often was their argument or threat taken into consideration. Men were the "be-all" and "end-all" and this speech made by Lady Macbeth would have been of little persuasion. The Macbeth of Shakespeare was a military man, strong in his views and opinions and was definitely a victim of his own character. Conversely, Macbeth was warned of his assuming downfall by his weary conscience. On three occasions his conscience wearied him. Firstly, with the vision of the dagger before the murder of King Duncan. Macbeth is horrified and says: "Is this a dagger, which I see before me, The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee. I have thee not, and yet I see thee still." (Act 2, Scene 1: 33-35) This clearly shows the way in which, subconsciously, Macbeth knows his future actions are wrong and not acting on the warning signs of his conscience in this chilling scene he is haunted twice more by the wrath of his conscience. In the next scene, after the vicious murder of Duncan, sounds are heard by both Macbeth and his wife that are purely of their guilty conscience. Finally, in the scene following Banquo^s brutal murder Macbeth is haunted by a bloody ghost. This bloody ghost of Banquo rises out of Macbeth^s conscience to avenge its death and leave Macbeth uneasy. This is viewed by the outbursts of Macbeth at his feast shouting at the ghost to "never shake thy gory locks" at him. All three views of Macbeth^s guilty conscience show that indeed his downfall was his the fault of no one but himself, as he did not heed the advice of his conscience early in the play, and consequently his guilty conscience avenges him throughout the following scenes. Secondly, Macbeth^s internal struggle is lost and he spiraled downward to his eventual death. Throughout the opening of the play Macbeth is plagued with an internal struggle of whether or not to kill the King. The internal battle changes sides many times before he eventually lets his ambition rule. In this passage Macbeth is arguing with himself as to why he shouldn^t kill Duncan: "This even-handed justice Commends the ingredience of our poison^Òd chalice To our own lips. He^Òs here in double trust; First, as I am his kinsman, and his subject, Strong both against the deed." (Act 1, Scene 7: 10-14) He battles here between right and wrong, the long time inner struggle won by his selfish ambition which is blossoming within himself at this point. He knows very well that what he is about to do is wrong and that it could destroy him, his doubts of the success of the murder prove his knowledge of the consequences. Therefore, Macbeth has accepted the mission and his downward spiral from thereafter is the fault of no one but himself. Ultimately at fault for his final choice in his internal struggle is Macbeth^s overwhelming ambition. This ambition is described as Macbeth^s hamartia, and rightfully so as it claims the lives of many on his escapade to the crown. Macbeth blatantly blames his ambition as being the motive for Duncan (and the following) murders in this passage: "I have no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition, which o^Òerleaps itself,, And falls on the other." (Act 1, Scene 7: 25-29) Describing his ambition as the only thing the murder clings to, points us to the fact that no one else was pushing Macbeth along to go through with this murder. Macbeth also realizes in this passage that his "vaulting ambition" could cause him to destroy himself as he "o^erleaps" himself. This ambition is at no one else^s fault, but that of Macbeth. In Conclusion, the argument that Macbeth is a victim of fate is obviously false as his wife has no control over her husband. Macbeth is controlled by himself, accepting no warning signs of disaster from his conscience, letting his ambition rule his internal struggle and finally letting his ambition rule himself. Macbeth is the victim of nothing other than his own character.

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