“Who or what is responsible for the downfall of Macbeth” “For brave Macbeth–well he deserves that name– Disdaining fortune, with his brandish’d steel, Which smoked with bloody execution, Like valour’s minion carved out his passage Till he faced the slave; Which ne’er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,Till he unseam’d him from the nave to the chaps,And fix’d his head upon our battlements. ” – Act 1 scene II “The tragedy of Macbeth” is one of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays about a man who murders his king and continues to commit other acts of villainy to secure his position of power.
The broad spectrum for the downfall of Macbeth would include the three witches, Lady Macbeth and who else but Macbeth himself. For it is his own ambitious nature, insecurity and fear that drives him into creating his own ruination. Our first impression of the character Macbeth is through the words of others, the wounded sergeant who praises him for his valor. This is followed by Duncan’s words of praise as he refers to him as “O valiant cousin! worthy gentleman! ”.
However these heroic accolades do not seem to last long as our perception of his character is tainted after his meeting with the witches. Macbeth is shown to be entranced by the prophecies made by the witches and moves through a dreamlike state and seems to be “possessed” or in a trance (whether it being literal or simply an act of his own doubts this is debatable). Some may see Macbeth simply as a puppet being controlled by supernatural forces as he is twice described to be “rapt” and be quick to blame his downfall on a twisted turn of fate, or inedibility.
Though the witches are held responsible for the initial inception of the idea, judging that Macbeth is one of sound mind and body, he should be strong willed enough to be able to resist temptations. In fact his inability to do so, is further echoed in our hearts by the comparison between his and Banquo’s reaction. After the second prophecy becomes true, Macbeth’s first thoughts turn to murder. He demonstrates his terror at having these thoughts and “horrible imaginings” enter his mind, with his heart “knocking at his ribs”. From this e can gather that Macbeth would have originally possessed the ambitious murderous nature that proceeds to take over, giving the readers a glimpse at his “darker side”. His earlier thoughts of betrayal can also be seen from his reaction to Duncan naming Malcom his successor. “Stars, hide your fires; / Let not light see my black and deep desires: / The eye wink at the hand! yet let that be, /” Macbeth is disappointed in Duncan’s choice and once again thinks about murder to gain kingship, a clear example of how his ambition begins to brew within him.
Though Macbeth is ultimately responsible for his own tragedy, Shakespeare paints the roles of women in the play as evil, manipulative and ambitious, even going far enough to push past traditional female virtues to create characters that enrich the plot. Exploring the relationship between gender, masculinity and power, bringing in ideals of bravery, power, violence and force of will. A correlation between manhood and displays of violence and cruelty is also heavily implied by the characters. Throughout the play Lady Macbeth is seen as a frighteningly manipulative woman, as she constantly emasculates her husband.
Knowing of his desperation to prove his manliness, she calls him a coward and insults his manliness, Macbeth falls a dumb victim to this manipulation. Many argue that since Shakespeare’s treatment of women is misogynistic, the women of this play must be held responsible as it is heavily implied that women are the cause for the bloody action of this play, however this is not the case. Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are the heart of the play, as it is only through their ambitious nature which drives the bloody motion in the play forward.
However later on in the play, Macbeth is shown to act more willfully, shown by his improvisations on the morning of Duncan’s murder, his decision to murder Banquo and Fleance, his decision to kill Macduff’s wife and child and even acts indifferently to the news of his wife’s death. He begins to gradually isolate himself from his wife, clearly indicating how he has cut all ties with Lady Macbeth as his lust for kingship takes over and consumes him, once again acting upon his own free will.
Though a man of unspeakable evil, Macbeth differs from the traditional Shakespearean villain as he is unable to completely conquer his feelings of guilt and self doubt, enabling a much more complex emotional turmoil, displaying the dramatic collapse from what he was to what he became. Throughout the play, Shakespeare brings out the ambivalent personality of Macbeth (this being particularly obvious in the early stages after certain encounters with women) as blind ambition obliterates his earlier attributes as he comes out as a tyrant.
His ambitious nature has clearly lead to ill effects upon himself, as he becomes tempted with these ideals and becomes a tyrant. Throughout the play, Macbeth’s dialogue and actions showcase his overwhelming guilt (appearing in physical forms of apparitions and hallucinations). Demonstrating that Macbeth is fully aware of his wrongdoings and understands that his actions are corrupt. Despite the guilt that is driving him insane, Macbeth makes no effort in stopping his wrongdoings. “All causes shall give way:/ I am in blood Stepp’d in so far that, /should I wade no more, /Returning were as tedious as go o’er”/.
Bringing out his underlying characteristics within his personality, allowing to readers to understand that his subsequent acts of murder are motivated by his fear and insecurity over loosing his kingship and of the discovery of his crimes. Macbeth demonstrates that he has a conscious and knows his thoughts are immoral and evil, “My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, / Shakes so my single state of man that function / Is smother’d in surmise; and nothing is / But what is not”. In spite of all of these , Macbeth makes no attempt to repent or reverse his situation and is therefore responsible for his own tragedy.
In conclusion, Macbeth himself is responsible for his own downfall for several reasons. Though the witches’ predictions are responsible for initiating his downward spiral, Macbeth was the one who first thought about killing Duncan. Lady Macbeth’s ruthless ambition and manipulative nature influenced his thoughts, however it was Macbeth that allowed his wife to gain so much control over him, allowing her influence and putting power into her hands (though eventually cutting all ties with her and acting out of his own evilness).
His ruthless ambition drives him to violence, his insecurities about his masculinity allows him to be manipulated and his lack of courage stops him from trying to reverse or resist his own tragedy. That is why, Macbeth must be solely responsible for his downfall. “Out, out, brief candle! / 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. /” – Act V, scene V