Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Describe the character of Macbeth in detail Essay

Describe the character of Macbeth in detail, showing clearly in what way his character changes as a result of the action of the play. Consider carefully why you feel Macbeth is a tragic hero and whether you feel any sympathy for him. NOTES: * Beginning – honest; noble; valiant; brave; loyal * End – â€Å"butcher†; not honest, loyal; still brave and prepared to fight till his death – â€Å"at least we’ll die with harness on our back†; he has become cruel and hardened – â€Å"I have almost forgotten the taste of fear†. He is corrupted by power and greed * So What Changes Him? : o Witches give him idea o Wife encourages him/builds on idea o Ambition/determination to be king o Once he starts killing, he can’t stop * Macbeth kills Macduff’s family – turning point for L. Macbeth – she realises what she has turned her husband into. * He can no longer control his ambition and it takes control over his actions * In the very first scene when we meet the witches, we see that Macbeth is closely connected to them, because they are talking about him, saying they will meet him and talk to him – â€Å"there to meet with Macbeth†. However, this is strongly contrasted in the next scene when we hear Duncan talking favourably about Macbeth, saying that he fought bravely and is to be rewarded for his loyalty – â€Å"oh valiant cousin, worthy gentleman†, â€Å"they smack of honour both† * Although it may seem from the start that Macbeth is weaker than his wife, this is not always the case – she never actually kills anyone: she gets Macbeth to kill Duncan because she thinks Duncan looks like her father when he sleeps – â€Å"had he not resembled my father as he slept, I had done’t†. * â€Å"Glamis and Thane of Cawdor: the greatest is behind.† – Here we see Macbeth’s own ambition before his wife has intervened. Also, before he talks to his wife, he considers the witches and if they are telling him the truth or if they are just evil, and he also thinks about ways he could fulfil their prophecy, the murderer of Duncan being one of them – â€Å"my thought, whose murder is yet but fantastical.† * Dramatic irony – just as Duncan and Malcolm are talking about deceit and saying how â€Å"there’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face†, Macbeth enters. We know he is already deceiving people. * He starts to become evil when, in act 1 scene 4, he thinks about killing Malcolm. Here he starts to rhyme as well, like the witches, – a sign of him changing – â€Å"stars hide your fires†¦when it is done to see† * When Macbeth and his wife are discussing Duncan’s murder, Macbeth is unsure about it – â€Å"we will speak further† – but his wife keeps encouraging him. â€Å"Macbeth† by William Shakespeare is a play about deceit, ambition and betrayal, in which some of the characters change dramatically because of the fast-moving action of the play. One of these characters is the play’s tragic hero, Macbeth himself. Macbeth as we see him at the end of the play is barely recognisable as the same man we meet at the beginning: he has turned from a loyal, noble man to a cruel and hardened â€Å"butcher†, driven mostly by his own ambition to become King. Because Macbeth is a true tragic hero and we can clearly see all his good qualities as well as his bad ones, we do feel some sympathy for him as well. This play is set in Scotland, where Macbeth is a gallant Thane who is recognised and rewarded by King Duncan for his heroic efforts in battle. However, Macbeth is given the idea by three witches that someday he himself will be King and, especially after speaking to his wife on the matter, he becomes determined to fulfil the witches’ prophecy and claim the throne of Scotland. Although, this is not easy and Macbeth resorts to murder and begins to kill anyone who might pose a threat to him, and this eventually leads to his own death. From the very first scene, we see that Macbeth is somehow connected to the supernatural as the three witches speak of meeting Macbeth and talking with him – â€Å"there to meet with Macbeth†. However, this is contrasted is the next scene when we hear Duncan speaking favourably of Macbeth, saying that he fought bravely and is to be rewarded for his loyalty – â€Å"o valiant cousin, worthy gentleman†, â€Å"they smack of honour both† (Macbeth and Banquo). Therefore, before we have even met Macbeth ourselves, we have a mixed opinion of him; is he a valiant and â€Å"worthy gentleman† or does he have a darker side to him as the witches suggest? The answer to this question is that he has both qualities, but they each arise separately. During the course of the play, we see Macbeth quickly changing from a â€Å"gentleman† to a â€Å"butcher†. The first time we meet Macbeth is with the witches, and his first words â€Å"so foul and fair a day† echo the witches’ in the first act – â€Å"fair is foul and foul is fair†. This gives the immediate impression that he is closely connected to them, and in his first soliloquy he is giving second thoughts to what the witches said about his future and he is clearly ambitious from the start – â€Å"Glamis, and Thane of Cawdor: the greatest is behind†. Although Macbeth is thinking about the witches’ words and already considering the possibility of murdering Duncan, he makes it clear he would never actually do it – â€Å"my thought, whose murder is yet but fantastical†. In the next scene, Duncan and Malcolm talk about deceit and they say that â€Å"there is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face†, when, ironically, Macbeth walks in: he is hiding his thoughts about the witches and we know he will be deceitful when he murders Duncan – â€Å"stars hide your fires, let not light see my black and deep desires†. Again, when talking to Lady Macbeth, he is still unsure of the idea. She is trying to persuade him that Duncan’s death would be best but he still says â€Å"we will speak further† and he is worried about someone finding out what he will have done – â€Å"if we should fail†, and it is easy to see that Macbeth is a good and moral person. In Macbeth’s first major soliloquy he weighs up both sides of the argument, thinking about how much Duncan trusts him and thinks he is a good man – â€Å"he’s here in double trust†. Macbeth knows that Duncan is also a good man, and a wonderful king, and it would not be right to kill the king simply because of his own greed, but his ambition to be king leads him on. Macbeth knows that people have â€Å"golden opinions† of him, and he likes being looked upon in such a way, and he does not really want to loose that; he knows that he will if he carries out this murder, and these opinions would be â€Å"cast aside so soon†. However, Macbeth is now determined, although not as much as his wife, to become the King of Scotland and he says that the only thing leading him on is his ambition – â€Å"I have no spur†¦but only vaulting ambition†. Just before, and after, Macbeth murders Duncan, he is at his weakest and feels very culpable. His imagination begins to play on him. In the moments leading up to the murder, his thoughts are filled with evil; he imagines seeing a dagger covered in blood – â€Å"is this a dagger I see before me†¦or art thou but a dagger of the mind, a false creation?†, and he imagines actually killing Duncan – â€Å"I see†¦gouts of blood†. He thinks that â€Å"nature seems dead† and he thinks of wolfs, ghosts, and witches – all symbols of evil. Once Macbeth has murdered Duncan, he still imagines things: he claims to hear voices telling him that he will never sleep again – â€Å"sleep no more: Macbeth does murder sleep† and he cannot wash the blood stains off his hands – â€Å"will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No†, to which his wife replies, â€Å"a little water clears us of this deed† (only to prove herself wrong later). When Duncan is discovered dead by Macduff, Macbeth acts surprised and angry – â€Å"the wine of life is drawn†, â€Å"th’expedition of my violent love outran the pauser, reason†. However, this may not be just an act: Macbeth could really be feeling that way, and he is angry with himself for what he has done when he sees other people’s reactions. Hence, Macbeth travels to Scone and is crowned King of Scotland. Even though Macbeth has achieved what he wanted – to be king – he does not stop killing. He fears Banquo knows that he killed Duncan, so Macbeth is now suspicious of Banquo, as Banquo is of him – â€Å"there is none but he, whose being I do fear† Therefore, the only option Macbeth sees is to kill Banquo, so he arranges for three men to murder Banquo and his son, Fleance, on the night of a banquet. He tells them that he cannot murder Banquo himself because the risk of being found out is too great – â€Å"certain friends that are both his and mine†¦wail his fall†. This is the point at which we see a major change in Macbeth’s character: he is still nervous and slightly afraid, but is now a little more confident; and he organised the murder by his own free will and without any help – he did not need his wife to set it up or to assist him, whereas et the murder of Duncan it was she who organised everything. Lady Macbeth did not even have any knowledge of Banquo’s murder before it took place and she asks Macbeth â€Å"what is to be done?† and Macbeth tells her to â€Å"be innocent of the knowledge†¦till thou applaud the deed†. Macbeth is pleased to hear of Banquo’s death, but the news of Fleance’s escape troubles him – â€Å"then comes my fit again†¦I am cabined, cribbed, confined†. We can see that Macbeth does still have a conscience when he is at the banquet, as he sees the ghost of Banquo in the hall – â€Å"the graced person of Banquo preset† and he talks to it – â€Å"thou canst not say I did it; never shake thy gory locks at me†; so it is clear that Macbeth still has remorse for what he has done and he cannot hide it, despite his wife telling him to â€Å"look like th’innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t† and he said himself that â€Å"the false face must hide what the false heart doth know†. Macbeth speaks to his wife alone after the banquet, and he says that he will visit the witches again and from now on he will kill anyone who might get in the way of him keeping the throne – â€Å"we are yet but young in the deed†, so we can see Macbeth changing again, this time becoming more confident. This is the last time that he and his wife see each other. Macbeth goes to see the three witches again and his confidence is boosted even more. The witches plan, and succeed, to make Macbeth over-confident and this will be his down fall. They show him three apparitions, each telling him something; the first is an armed head (which is actually his own) and it tells him to â€Å"beware Macduff†, the second is a child covered in blood (Macduff) who tells him â€Å"no man born of a woman shall harm Macbeth†, and the third, a crowned child with a tree in its hand (Malcolm) tells him that â€Å"Macbeth shall never be vanquished until Great Birnam Wood† moves to Dunsinane hill. Finally, a procession of eight kings passes with Banquo following behind them. These apparitions, especially the second and third, make Macbeth more confident in himself and he thinks he cannot be killed by anyone. With his newfound confidence he vows to continue killing, as he cannot be stopped – â€Å"the very firstlings of my heart shall be the firstlings of my hand†, and with the knowledge of Macduff travelling to England, Macbeth turns to murdering every other member of Macduff’s family – â€Å"give to the edge o’th’sword his wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls†. As Lady Macbeth grows weaker, Macbeth grows stronger. Lady Macbeth is now the one feeling guilty, and she begins sleepwalking and hearing â€Å"foul whisp’rings†, just as Macbeth was before. Macbeth heads into battle against the English army, knowing that his â€Å"way of life is fall’n into the sere†. He has now become hardened and does not care for much, except his wife; when the doctor brings him news of Lady Macbeth’s illness, Macbeth asks him to make her better – â€Å"cure her of that†¦perilous stuff which weighs upon the heart†, so we can clearly see that he still loves her and cares about her, and has not yet completely lost everything that was good about him. Despite this, Macbeth is now a more cruel and, in a way, evil man and he says he has â€Å"almost forgot the taste of fears†, and he is not surprised to hear of his wife’s death – â€Å"she would have died hereafter†. He thinks about life and how it is a â€Å"brief candle† and now his life has lost it’s meaning, so he might as well die fighting – â€Å"life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player†¦then is heard no more†¦signifying nothing†. Macbeth knows he is going to die when he hears that Birnam wood is moving toward Dunsinane but still he is brave – â€Å"bear-like I must fight the course†. Macbeth meets with Macduff outside the castle, where he learns that Macduff was not born of a woman and he can kill him. Now Macbeth knows for sure that he will die there and then and he could have just let Macduff kill him, but he decided to fight bravely till his death – â€Å"at least we’ll die with harness on our back†. Macbeth is truly a tragic hero as he had many of the qualities needed to be king – he was a good man: noble, brave, loyal, caring and loving toward his wife, and he never lost the will to fight bravely, no matter what the outcome may be. However, he changed in a very short space of time to become cruel and hardened, influenced, first by the witches, then by his wife. Because of this, we do feel sympathy for him; because he was good man who was changed by supernatural beings, but also partly by his own ambition. This is a tragic tale of how ambition can tarnish a person and make their life seem pointless, or as Macbeth said â€Å"Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury Signifying nothing†.

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