Which version of Macbeth do you prefer?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Shakespeare’s Macbeth is about a courageous, respected loyal man who turns to evil and loses everyone and everything he values. In murdering his loved and respected king, in order that he may get the throne, Macbeth loses his friends, followers and his family. Macbeth, the once admired nobleman, becomes a ruthless bloody murderer laughingly dismissed as a “dwarfish thief” by those people who once respected him. Macbeth does great evil but he never completely erases the good man he once was. It could be said that it is because he is a good man he can see he has behaved with great evil.

Because Macbeth can see his own evil, he suffers enormously, realizing that he is doomed to go to hell. As the play opens we see Macbeth slaughtering his traitorous enemies. We hear how he “carved” his way thought the battlefield. Though he is capable of great brutality, we are encouraged to see him as worthy and noble. Macbeth’s battlefield murders are done in a noble cause. He acts with good intentions, killing his king’s enemies and bringing peace to Scotland. Macbeth is fighting in defence of his country. He fights for the rightful King. Macbeth is highly regarded at this early point of the play. He is seen as a “worthy” gentleman by his peers and by his King. The soldiers who saw Macbeth fight report to King Duncan that Macbeth single handedly turned the battle against the traitorous Macdonwald. As the play begins, Macbeth is praised by all and admired by all.

Macbeth is highly regarded and a loyal gentlemen but he is only human. As he is rewarded by his loyal king, he reveals to us he has had thoughts of overpowering his king and taking the throne. He asks stars to hid these evil thoughts; these “black and deep desires”. These evil thoughts were echoed by the three witches he met as he returned to camp with his friend Banquo. Macbeth was amazed at the prophesies the “weird sisters” made. Their word left him “rapt” with awe as they seemed to speak his own thoughts. In contrast, Banquo just laughed at the witches and seemed not to be tempted by what they said. In a split second Banquo saw into Macbeth’s mind and could see how ambitious his friend was. The witches’ words were like a “serpent” in Macbeth’s mind. Like the biblical “serpent” the talk of being king tempts Macbeth to turn his back on goodness and defy his God. The good, loyal feelings he has are drowned out by the evil prophesies by the witches. These words echo his evil thoughts and encourage Macbeth to have “black” thoughts.

Even though Macbeth is clearly tempted to do evil and take the throne, he soon regrets such thoughts. The evil side of Macbeth seems to wrestle with the goodness inside the man. When Macbeth tries to retreat from doing evil, his wife urges him back to the murder. She humiliates him, calling him cowardly and demanding that he shows he loves her by sticking to their plan. The good man tried to turn back from evil, but his own ambitions, his love for his wife and the words of the witches all drown out his desire to be good. Outside the king’s chamber Macbeth’s mind is balanced by thought that he must not do evil. Macbeth knows that if he gives into evil and clutches the dagger he will be doing the bidding of the devil.

Macbeth has been the smiling “flower” all his life and when he realizes that his kinsman will pass the crown on to the undeserving son Malcom, he finally decides to be the “serpent” underneath the flower and take what he deserves. Macbeth is driven to bloody, traitorous murder by desires he cannot drive away. Macbeth kills Duncan in a brutal way believing that the crown will be worth the high price he has to pay. Immediately after the murder he sees what he has done. This traitorous act brings him to his knees and as we can see Macbeth reduced to a shocked state as he wanders back to Lady Macbeth, still holding the weapons he used. This proves that Macbeth knew it was a terrible act that he had committed. His hands are bloody and he knows “evil dreams” will swamp his brain. He knows “Glamis hath murdered sleep”. He realises what he has done. He has sold his soul to the devil. These are the thoughts of a good man who can very clearly see what is good and what is evil.

Macbeth becomes king, but to stay in power, he has to kill anyone who becomes suspicious of him. Macbeth sends assassins to kill Banquo and his son Fleance as Macbeth feels they threaten him by being alive. He raves that has lost everything he values by this murder, and in the future Fleance who is not even his own son will become king. Macbeth is wild with anger and self hatred. He knows the murder of Banquo and Fleance are wrong but he has to act if he is to remain king. Macbeth’s conscience forces him to see the ghost of Banquo shaking his “gory locks” at him. This hallucination is his own guilty mind, accusing him of doing evil.

If Macbeth were an evil man, there would’ve been any nightmares or fears. By the end of the play Macbeth is reduced to ruin. He has lost everyone around him. In the final fight between himself and Macduff he knows he will lose and yet he takes up the sword, not seeming to care about the outcome. He knows he is hated, laughed at, and alone. He knows he deserves a traitor’s death and he seems to give his life up to Macduff. Macbeth is a good man who gave himself over to evil, but never lost his strong sense of what was right and what was wrong.


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