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Who is Ultimately Responsible for the Tragedy that Unfolds in Macbeth?

The novel ‘Macbeth’ written by William Shakespeare, is one of the great tragedies. In the play Macbeth, Macbeth, Macbeth transforms from a gallant war hero to a tyrannical murderer. As soon as Macbeth enters this life filled with tyranny, his fate is doomed to a tragic downfall. In Macbeth, we find not gloom but blackness, a man who finds himself encased in evil. Macbeth is a novel that demonstrates the foundations of vaulting ambition, temptation, guilt, corruption, and choice. Shakespeare successfully intertwines these issues into the plot through the main characters. The story of Macbeth was destined for destruction. Throughout the play, Shakespeare makes Macbeth responsible for his actions. Still, Shakespeare also uses other characters as influences upon him, which gives Macbeth only partial responsibility for what he has done.

Throughout the play, Macbeth is almost always under the influences of the three witches and his wife, Lady Macbeth. Macbeth has the free will to choose to do what he wants, but he frequently chooses to do what others want or predicts of him. Macbeth is in no way under a spell, curse or fate; he chose to create a path of evil for himself through his own decisions. In Act, I, Scene 1, Macbeth can’t withhold himself from hearing about his prophecies from the three witches. He himself decides that what they were saying was important, and he says, “Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more.” From this point, Macbeth had chosen to listen to the witches and gives them control over him. The witches didn’t ask Macbeth to kill King Duncan. When the second prophecy becomes a reality, Macbeth immediately thinks of murdering Duncan. “If good, why do I yield to that suggestion whose horrid image does unfix my hair…” (Act 1, scene 3). This is when the audience starts to sense and see a dark side to the brave and noble Macbeth.

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Even though Macbeth is horrified by the idea, he cannot shake away his ambitions of seizing the throne. Another example of Macbeth’s thoughts of treachery occurs when King Duncan decides to name his son Malcolm formally. “Stars, hide your fires, Let not light see my black and deep desires… (Act 1, scene 5). This quote shows that Macbeth wishes to overleap the situation with murder. It also draws upon imagery, using the elements of darkness to paint an image of darkness. Darkness is a tool in which Macbeth utilizes to lead himself to cruel acts. Darkness is portrayed as a blanket to cover up bad deeds, but as the play progresses, darkness evolves into a personality that haunts Macbeth. In the scenes which lead up to the murder of Duncan, Shakespeare uses Lady Macbeth as an unnatural being with a strong influence on Macbeth who drives Macbeth to his fatal flaw, which is similar to the witches at the beginning of the play.

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To gain control over Macbeth, Lady Macbeth questions his masculinity in Act 5 Scene 1. Within it, she expresses her worry that Macbeth’s kindness will hold him back, and so she says, “Come you mortal spirits, that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here…… of direst cruelty.” She calls upon the evil spirits to aid the hardening of the heart, which then makes it possible for her to carry out her wicked deeds. Macbeth is responsible for putting power into the hands of Lady Macbeth and letting her influence him. Lady Macbeth tries to persuade Macbeth to kill Duncan, but Macbeth listens to her demands. “This night’s great business into my dispatch.” (Act 1, scene 6). Macbeth could have told his Lady to stop her plans. Instead, he lets himself be influenced. Macbeth puts power into the hands of Lady Macbeth by letting her arrange Duncan’s murder.

If Macbeth truly did not want to commit evil, he could have refused his Lady’s arrangements. Instead, Macbeth accepts the plans and goes further by asking Lady Macbeth to “mock the time with the fairest show” (Act 1, scene 7). She seemed to lose all her feminine qualities, including her love for children. She even goes as far as saying that she would have “dashed the brains out” of a child if she had had one. Also, she oversteps her duties as a wife by taking over from Macbeth, defying the belief that women were weaker and less important than men. Macbeth is relating his fear that he may have to do something violent to become king. Immediately after the witches had visited him, Macbeth begins to take their prophecies as a reality. He is almost trying to fulfil the tempting predictions, now that his mind is lustful for power, instead of remaining loyal to the King.

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The ambition of becoming king, when the witches’ tell him his fortune is stronger than his conscience and ability from knowing right from wrong. The first thought in his mind when the witches’ tell him his great fortune of becoming king is to kill King Duncan to take his place. The witches also gave Banquo the news. They informed him that his children would be kings, yet he did not feel moved to murder. Banquo, who had never thought of murder, did not now think of murder. If the witches influenced mortals, then Banquo, too, would be plotting not only Duncan’s death but the death of anyone else who was not of his line. The witches tempted him, but it was his own ambitions that lead him to commit the crime. Although Macbeth’s temptation started with the words of witches’; the true cause of his downfall was from his inner struggle, as well as greed and ambition. Macbeth chose to believe he was cursed by fate. The witches presented Macbeth with false ambitions and hopes.

The witches can only influence and manipulate, but they cannot force the person to do their work for them as they have no authority, the sole decision rest on Macbeth’s decision itself, so whatever Macbeth did to conquer the whole empire, how many countless of people he slaughtered to achieve his ambition for success and glory, he cannot blame anyone but himself, when he comes to find out that he will have to get rid of those in his way by killing them to become king. This is when he switches from destiny to free will. The prophecies become a mind game to him, and he struggles with his consciousness between right and wrong. He then strides to make what the witches prophesized true. Lady Macbeth first takes control over her husband in Act I, Scene v. She tells Macbeth that they will kill Duncan during his sleep. Macbeth has a strong intuition to kill to gain the spot of King. During a soliloquy, Macbeth states, “I have no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which overleaps itself and falls on the other.”

Macbeth knows that killing is wrong but, his wanting to be king is so strong that he will do anything to become king. He can’t stop himself from wanting to be king; his greed is so strong that he chooses to do wrong and kills Duncan. Here Macbeth is struggling to choose between right and wrong, his evil thoughts overpower his goodness, and he chooses to kill. Macbeth lists several reasons for going against the plan to kill Duncan. Therefore, Macbeth has time to think over his intentions and to take direct action. Macbeth is fully aware of the consequences of his actions and is thereby liable to be blamed for his fate. Spurred on by his own ambition Macbeth is responsible for his destructive fate.

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Through his thoughts, actions, and decisions, Macbeth demonstrates his overwhelming guilt. First, Macbeth’s desire to become king drives him to introduce plans for Ducan’s murder. Second, Macbeth puts power into the hands of Lady Macbeth by sending her the letter that informs her of the prophecies. Lastly, Macbeth acknowledges his guilt in several places in the story. Macbeth is aware that his thoughts are corrupt, and he knows that justice will somehow punish him. However, even with all his power, Macbeth does not attempt to reverse the situation and is responsible for his tragic fate.

  • He was engulfed in his lust for power and his battle with his conscience. This led to his insomnia and ultimate downfall.
  • Macbeth’s poor judgment and ignorance slowly paved the dark path into doom; Macbeth journeyed to his murderous doom through his own free choice.
  • The witches influenced Macbeth’s tragedy, but he condemned himself. To be an ambitious man is a good thing, but when ambition leads to ignorance of other people, it damages the people you are hurting and yourself.

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Who is Ultimately Responsible for the Tragedy that Unfolds in Macbeth?. (2021, Aug 13). Retrieved December 1, 2022, from