Monday, October 29, 2007
My MacBeth Paper...
In William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy of MacBeth, the main character, MacBeth pays the price of his life for his amoral ambitions to obtain Kingship. MacBeth is known as the Thane of Clamis and is depicted as the traditional hero who has just returned from a war. He has gained his status through his victory in battles, such victory goes unnoticed by the King Duncan. Thus Duncan rewards MacBeth another title as the Thane of Cawdor. Through this act and that of which three witches predict that MacBeth should become king, the hidden side of MacBeth begins to surface and thus the readers discover that MacBeth is not the hero that he appears to be. MacBeth begins to ponder whether it is possible to become king. As MacBeth plays with the notion of being king he realizes that to obtain this he must do an unnatural act. Throughout the play several characters appear that maintains a foil to MacBeth. These foils are that of four characters: King Duncan, Malcolm, Banquo, and Lady MacBeth.
Duncan is the present King of Scotland as the play opens. He is regarded by his people as kind and generous. MacBeth professes his “service and the loyalty …owe[ed]”(I,iv,22) to Duncan, who serves as a foil to MacBeth. Duncan is rewarding to those that are loyal to him, thus he is loved by his people. MacBeth on the other hand is not loved by his people when he is king. Where Duncan is generous in that he rewards others for what they have done, MacBeth punishes them. Duncan shows compassion, where MacBeth shows ambition and greed. This shows the difference between Duncan and MacBeth as Kings of Scotland.
Malcolm is the son of recently deceased Duncan. After the death of his father, Malcolm decides that the best course of action would be to flee to England. He believes that the “safest way is to avoid the aim”(II,iii,140-41) of the murderer of his father is to “not consort with them”(II,iii,146). This shows how perspective Malcolm is in that he realizes that the murder of his father is within the court. Unlike MacBeth he only sees what he wishes to see or believe, such the prophecy of the three witches in which they state that “none of women born shall harm”(IV.*il.102-3) him. Malcolm shows another quality that MacBeth lacks, the testing of loyalty. Malcolm shows his concern for Scotland by testing Macduff’s loyalty and determining if he is loyal to his king or to his country. He makes sure that those near him are loyal while MacBeth is not concern with loyalty but betrayal as he constantly worries whether Banquo knows of his actions.
Banquo shares victory with MacBeth in winning the war for Duncan, but he also shares the knowledge of the prophecy that the three witch sisters proclaim to them. Banquo is not affected by the prophecy as MacBeth is. Where he shows little interest in it, MacBeth begins to plot to obtain it. Banquo believes that the witches are the “instruments of darkness tells…truths…in deepest consequences”(I.iii.124-26). After Duncan’s murder, Banquo believes that MacBeth has “play’dst most foully”(III.i1.1) for the crown of king. By MacBeth becoming King of Scotland he begins to wonder if his sons will become kings as well, but immediately shuns the notion away from his thoughts. Banquo’s loyalty to Duncan is to strong for him to consider murder but it keeps him suspicious of MacBeth after Duncan is killed. He believes nothing good will come of MacBeth’s actions for he was not truly loyal to the king.
Lady MacBeth is the most notable foil for MacBeth. Lady MacBeth is willing to go to extremes to achieve her goal, in this case MacBeth’s. When she reads of the prophecy from MacBeth she is willing to “unsex”(I.v.40) herself to gain the courage needed to reach her goal. Where she is certain that her plan to assassinate Duncan will work MacBeth is in turmoil. He is uncertain of his actions, but when Lady MacBeth tells him to “screw [his] courage to the sticking place” (I.vii.60) and that they will not fail, he goes along with it. With Lady MacBeth’s taunts MacBeth of his manhood she manages to drive him to kill Duncan. Lady MacBeth is clear headed as she places the bloodied daggers upon the chamberlains while MacBeth is in shock at his actions in killing Duncan. In her actions the readers see that she is the driving force behind MacBeth’s actions and that she can manipulate him to an extent in order to get what he wants, to be king.
Once MacBeth is able to kill Duncan, the action becomes natural to him as he easily plots the death of Banquo and Lady Macduff and son. MacBeth’s ambitions drives him to the point of depending on the three witches to prophesize his stay as king. With characters such as Lady Macbeth, Banquo, Duncan, and Malcolm to enhance MacBeth’s personality the readers are able to see how truly ambitious he is.
"I stand alone, everything that I believe in is fading."