Macbeth is a play set in the years 995 1057. The main character, Macbeth is depicted as a very important Thane, a loyal servant to the king as well as a husband with a scheming wife. Macbeth was consumed by blinding ambition, which eventually led to his downfall. It was this vice, which allowed him to be manipulated into instigating the horrific murders of his friends. Throughout the play we see Macbeth as a hero a victim and a villain. I intend to show Macbeth in all these guises during the course of my assignment.
During the beginning of the play Macbeth is seen as the greatest hero there is in Scotland. This is because he shows his courageousness and his bravery during the battles with MacDonwald and Norway. The captain called Macbeth `brave . He used this adjective because Macbeth had fought through the whole enemy s army and had killed their leader. This makes Macbeth seem like a hero because he is being very brave and unselfish, as he did not worry about risking his own life, and fought for others. The captain also said that Macbeth was `Distainding Fortune . This means that Macbeth was disregarding fortune and therefore was not fighting for personal reward but for his country. This reinforces the point that Macbeth was unselfish and also very loyal to his country. The captain continuously praises Macbeth showing the reader that fellow soldiers respected Macbeth:
`Like Valour s minion carved out his passage til he faced the slave
This shows us that Macbeth liked to be praised and also liked to receive all the glory of victory. The speech the captain made is the main reason Macbeth is seen as a hero in the play. The captain can be relied upon as suitable evidence for Macbeth s heroism as he fought in the same battle as Macbeth did and he also saved Malcom s life:
`Fought against my captivity
The captain then continues his speech describing how Banquo and Macbeth fought together:
`I must report they were as cannons overcharged with double cracks
This implies that the two soldiers were trying twice as hard as normal and therefore were very loyal and patriotic. Macbeth can, be called a hero in the eyes of Scottish people because he saved their country from defeat. Duncan then calls Macbeth `Noble , showing us that he was very loyal and was probably the least likely to be untrustworthy. Macbeth does seem to be a hero but does not possess many characteristics, which a hero should have. Macbeth only showed his bravery once, and there was no real conclusive evidence that proved he was fighting twice as hard as everyone was. If we were to say that Macbeth was a hero, we would have to call the captain a hero too because he fought to save Malcom s life and also was willing to explain the battle in great detail even though he was injured severely.
After the beginning of the play Macbeth is seen as hero but as the play progress his glory begins to dye down. Sadly Macbeth s ambition, the witches and his wife all get the better of him and therefore Macbeth does not show any features, which are hero like until the end of the play, where he refuses to surrender of commit suicide. The hero inside of Macbeth manages to catch up with him right at the end of the play. Macbeth knows he can easily kill himself, but knows this is cowardly. He says:
`Why should I play the Roman fool, and dye on my own sword?
Macbeth does not want to be remembered as `The Roman Fool but he knows that if he surrenders he will face torment and will be criticised and mocked by others:
`We ll have thee, as our rarer monster are, Painted upon a pole, and uinderwrit’
Macbeth knows whichever option he takes, he will be seen as a coward or monster. He decides not to `play the Roman fool and therefore shows that he is a hero still even after coming this far.
During the course of the play Macbeth is a victim of the witches, of his wife and also of his own ambition. The witches are the main reason for appearing as a victim. From the start, they had picked him out as their target and had done so, because they knew of his great ambition. The witches had planned to meet Macbeth before the battle had even finished and therefore had already planned to cause Macbeth pain and torture. The witches marked Macbeth out as a victim from the start simply because he good. The witches thought good was evil and evil was good and therefore saw Macbeth as a challenge:
`fair is foul, foul is fair
The witches knew off Macbeth s great ambition and realised that if they focused on that part of him they would succeed in causing him pain. When the witches meet Macbeth they work on his great ambition of Macbeth s. They tell him that he will be `Thane Of Glamis , `Thane Of Cawdor and King! They refuse to tell him anything else, because they know that he will not fully understand this and it will really trick his mind. The continue to increase the mental anguish of Macbeth by saying that Banquo will be:
`Lesser than Macbeth, and greater
Not so happy, yet much happier
Thou shalt get kings, though, thou be none
So all hail Macbeth and Banquo
This really aggravates Macbeth, as he does not understand how both can be king. His distress is shown when he says:
`The supernatural soliciting cannot be ill, cannot be good
Macbeth is therefore a victim because of the confusion the witches have caused him. Macbeth had not intended to meet the witches and did not know they were going to tell him or what they did, and therefore he is a proper victim. During Act 3 Scene 5 and Act 4 Scene 1 the witches meet again. In Act 3 Scene 5 Hecate tells the witches to conjure up illusions, which will make Macbeth over confident and therefore lead to his downfall:
`shall raise such artificial sprites, as by the strength of their illusion. Shall draw him on to confusion
Again the witches have planned to cause trouble for Macbeth. This time they plan to do so using apparitions:
`Shall raise artificial spirits
The apparitions were conjured up to cause Macbeth hurt and pain even though he would see them as good signs. In Act 4 Scene 1 the witches showed Macbeth the apparitions. The apparitions made Macbeth a lot more confident. They warned him of MacDuff:
`Beware the Thane of Fife
the witches also told him that he cannot be beaten by anyone born of a woman
`for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth .
This boosts Macbeth s confidence because he thinks that everyone is born of a woman. The final apparition tells Macbeth that he is not going to be beaten until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane.
`Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill shall come against him
These apparitions make Macbeth a victim because he has been forced to do things he did not want to. The witches are therefore deceiving Macbeth and therefore Macbeth is a victim of the witches.
Lady Macbeth also made Macbeth a victim because she forced him to commit murder. She insulted his pride and continuously put him down until he was forced to do what she wanted and therefore he is a victim of his wife. On line 62 Lady Macbeth uses a simile to insult Macbeth. She says he looks like a flower and not like a bear or a serpent
`Look like the time; bear welcome in your, eyes, your hand, your tongue like an innocent flower
This simile insults Macbeth because he thinks he is a big strong man, but his wife is saying he is weak and like a flower. This is a real blow to Macbeth s ego and is one of the contributing factors, which help him kill Duncan. Lady Macbeth tries to manipulate him again by saying she wants him to be more like a serpent and she uses a simile to express this:
`look like th innocent flower, But be the serpent under t
These similes really annoy and anger Macbeth. He is really upset with what his wife has said and uses a personification to show this:
`Bloody Instructions, which being taught return to plague th inventor
This shows us that Macbeth could easily be wound up and therefore could be a victim quite easily. He did not want to commit the murder but, because he had such pride in his manhood he became a victim easily.
Macbeth could also be seen as a villain because he kills Duncan, orders the murder of Banquo and his son and sends his army out to brutally kill MacDuffs family. Macbeth killed Duncan brutally while Duncan was sleeping. This is the act of a villain as he was ruthless and evil. He wanted to commit the murder and was eager to do it:
`I am settled, and bend up, Each corporal agent to this terrible feat, away, and mock the time with firest show: Fake face must hide what the false heart don t know
This proves he wanted to murder Duncan and knew and understood what he was to do. Therefore Macbeth was a villain for killing Duncan but was talked into it by his wife. Macbeth s character quickly changed from having to be talked into a murder, to a mast murderer. He organises Banquo and Fleances murders and deviously finds out where they were riding. Macbeth finds out where they were riding to by putting Banquo on the spot while he was asking him to attend a banquet.
`Tonight we hold a solemn supper, sir, and I ll request your presence.
This question by Macbeth shows his ruthlessness. He knows that Banquo will be dead but invites him anyway. He knows that he can use what he has said as an alibi for later reference, if need be. Macbeth also knows that he will not be able to commit the murder because he will be needed at the banquet so he manipulates two murders into murdering Banquo. He uses the same tactics that his wife used on him to make the murderers do what they wanted. He blames everything that has gone wrong in there lives on Banquo, and manages to get them so angry that they are anxious to get on with the murder:
`know that it was he in the times past which held you, so under fortune
Macbeth also tries to persuade the murderers, to murder Banquo by saying they are not `real men until they kill Banquo.
`Not I th worst rank of manhood, say t, and I will put that business in your bosoms
This shows he is a villain because he was prepared to use violence and to manipulate innocent people into his way of thinking. He did not show any regret or guilt at this point in the play and certainly did not show any signs of a conscience. As the play progressed Macbeth began to show more and more of a conscience as he committed more crimes. He still thought he was invincible but began to see Banquo s ghost, which is a sign of guilt and conscience.
Macbeth can not be seen as a total villain because he does show a conscience at times in the play. He sees Banquo s ghost at the table which shows us that he still has a conscience. Another factor, which shows us that he is not, a total villain is that he refused to kill MacDuff:
`I ll not fight with thee.
He is again is showing guilt, a conscience and even some resentment.