The values evident in the play, Macbeth, have a profound influence on the tragic outcomes of the play". Discuss
The values represented in the world of Macbeth are pertinent to the tragic outcome of the play; Discuss.
The values represented in the world of Macbeth are pertinent to the tragic outcome of the play. The world of the play is characterised by values such as loyalty, disloyalty, honesty, deception, betrayal, greed, lust for power and ambition. These values contribute to the tragic outcome of the play as characters are blind-sighted by their own self- interests and ruthlessly and opportunistically exploit events that ultimately result in their own ruination. In my opinion, the values that I consider to be fundamental in contributing to the tragic outcome are the values of loyalty and disloyalty.
Normally, when one considers the value of loyalty, one thinks of it as a positive attribute. However, in the play Macbeth, loyalty is often misguided and abused by other for their own selfish reasons. The character of Macbeth is a clear example of this. He is a clearly devoted husband referring to Lady Macbeth as his ‘dearest partner of greatness’ when he confides in her about his strange encounter with the ‘weird sisters’.
She as a Machiavellian character plans to manipulate the uxorious Macbeth and his sense of loyalty and love for her in order to bring the prophecy to fruition. She states ‘I do fear thy nature. It is too full ‘f the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way’. She abuses his sense of loyalty and love for her in order to ensure that he ‘shalt be what art promised.’
Before Macbeth encounters with Lady Macbeth, he had a resolved ‘If chance will have me king, chance may crown me without my stir’. He had resolved to take the morally scrupulous decision and leave things to chance despite the fact that he is highly ambitious to become king. However, Lady Macbeth discerningly knows her husband and makes a reference to his moral integrity. However, she knows she can use and exploit his love and loyalty to her to bring the prophecy to fruition. She embarks on a campaign of psychological and emotional abuse, denigrating his manhood. She denigrates him by asking ‘was the hope drunk wherein you dress’d yourself?’ She belittles and undermines his manhood by accusing him of cowardice ‘When you durst do it, then you are a man’. She callously resorts to emotional blackmail by referring to their dead child In order to get what she wants ‘dash’d the brains had I sworn as you have done to this’. Macbeth is left feeling psychologically and emotionally harassed by his formidable wife.
His overwhelming sense of loyalty and love for her leaves him feeling vulnerable to her manipulations. He knows what the morally correct course of action is and yet he vacillates under her coercive manipulations. She tells him that he must be decisive and resolute ‘But screw your courage to the sticking place and we’ll not fail’. His loyalty and love for his wife is twisted by her so that Macbeth will ‘catch the nearest way’. The psychologically and emotionally distraught Macbeth under the coercive manipulation of Lady Macbeth ends up declaring ‘I am settled and bend up’.
A dramatic transformation is witnessed in the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth after the heinous regicide of Duncan. Macbeth is clearly psychologically and emotionally distressed after Duncan’s murder he complains that ‘O full of scorpions is my mind” He declares that “Macbeth does murder sleep’ ‘Wake Duncan with thy knocking, I would thou couldst’. However, Lady Macbeth does not reciprocate the same love and loyalty that Macbeth exhibited towards her before Duncan’s murder. She is indifferent to Macbeths suffering ‘A little water clears us of the deed’. She callously tells him ‘my hands are of your colour: but I shame to wear a heart so white’. She denigrates and undermines his manhood. Macbeth only committed this crime to impress his beloved wife. Macbeth wanted to prove himself to his ‘dearest partner of greatness’ as he felt inadequate and did not measure up to her expectations.
His blind devotion, love and sense of loyalty are perverted and corrupted for evil purposes. His admiration of her is made evident in his declaration ‘bring forth men and children only’ is suggestive that Macbeth feel inadequate and not good enough for Lady Macbeth and he consequently has to prove himself to her. Unfortunately, Macbeths misguided love and devotion and blind trust results in tragic consequences for Macbeth as he looses everything that was dear to him. He looses his moral integrity and his respected and revered status. He also lost his loving relationship with his wife, ‘My way of life has fall'n into the sere, the yellow leaf, and that which should accompany old age, as honor, love, obedience, troops of friends, I must not look to have, but, in their stead, curses, not loud but deep, mouth-honor, breath which the poor heart would fain deny and dare not’.
Another core value that is fundamental to the tragic consequences of the play is disloyalty. The world of Macbeth is one wherein dishonesty and betrayal reign. Most of the characters are motivated by self- interest. Characters like Macbeth and even the seemingly virtuous Banquo are all Machiavellian opportunists. Each in turn exhibit signs of dishonesty and disloyalty which in turn results in the tragic consequences of the play.
Lady Macbeth for example, is extremely callous to her suffering husband’s psychological and emotional turmoil in the aftermath of Duncan’s murder. She is extremely indifferent to his suffering by saying ‘A little water clears us of this deed’. She denigrates him by saying ‘My hands are of your colour but I shame to wear a heart so white’. She is extremely disloyal to her suffering husband as she denigrates and undermines his masculinity. It is ironic that the power dynamic between these two characters changes so drastically. Tragically Lady Macbeth has herself brought about the breakdown of her marriage because she is insensitive to Macbeths suffering. She manipulates and coerces him into committing a crime that he knew was morally wrong. She deliberately abused his devotion, love and respect for her to get what she wanted ‘thou woulds’t be great, art not without ambition’. She wanted above all for Macbeth to be king. In this respect, She is disloyal for her husband who is blindly devoted to her ‘bring forth men and children only’. Lady Macbeth’s disloyalty towards her husband and his desire to do what is right ‘we will proceed no further in this business’ results in the breakdown of her marriage.
Furthermore, Banquo epitomises the dishonest and disloyal towards Duncan. He lies by omission by failing to speak of his suspicions regarding Macbeth, ‘I fear thou playedst most foully for it’. Banquo fails to speak of his suspicions because he hopes to profit from Macbeths crimes. After all, the witches’ prophesies that he would ‘get kings though thou be none’. He is disloyal to the crown because it is his duty to inform on the depraved Macbeth. However, he shows his disloyalty by saying nothing, thinking that ‘May they not be my oracles as well and set me up in hope? But hush no more’. This proves to be a disastrous decision for the ineffectual Banquo as the paranoid murderous Macbeth kills Banquo in an attempt to rewrite the future/fate.
A redeeming element or a saving grace of the play can be witnessed in the form of the heroic Macduff whose life is characterised by nobility, honesty, integrity and loyalty. It is both his loyalty to his family and his country that lead to Macduff becoming his country’s savior. He is deeply affected by his family’s annihilation ‘But I must also feel it like a man’. He does what Malcolm urges ‘Be this the whetstone of sword’ The noble Macduff uses his anger to bring vengeance against Macbeth, ‘Behold where stands th’usurpers cursed head’.
In summation, the values that are prevalent in the world of the play is loyalty and disloyalty along with many more. Macbeth is absolutely fundamental to bringing about the tragic denouement of the play.
"Macbeth's ambitious nature and his emphasis on self-preservation is the driving force behind the plot in Macbeth"- Discuss
‘I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself and falls on the other’, Macbeth demonstrates self-awareness in identifying his hamartia, his ‘vaulting ambition’ early on in the play. It is Macbeth’s ambitious nature and his emphasis on self- preservation that is the driving force behind the plot in Macbeth. Macbeth is a ruthless Machiavellian opportunist who ruthlessly exploits and takes advantage of others for his own avaricious self-gain and lust for power. It is this that leads to the demise of this flawed hero.
In the opening scenes of the play, Shakespeare portrays Macbeth as a formidable character. He is ‘brave Macbeth’, ‘noble Macbeth’, ‘Bellona’s bridegroom’. These testimonials serve to underscore Macbeth’s heroic status. He exudes military prowess as his sword ‘smokes with bloody execution’. Even in this initial portrayal of Macbeth, a disturbing note is resounded as Macbeth’s ruthlessness and ferocity of character is delineated.
When Macbeth encounters the ‘weird sisters’, Banquo describes him as being ‘rapt’, entranced by their prophecies and wonders why Macbeth ‘start[s] and seem to fear things that do sound so fair?’ Macbeth’s strange reaction to the witches’ prophecies is perhaps suggestive of his guilty conscience ‘Stars, hide your fires! Let not light see my black and deep desires’. Implicit in this quote is the suggestion that the ruthless Machiavellian Macbeth has already entertained the idea of becoming king by unscrupulous means. It is this desire that is the driving force behind the narrative plot.
Whilst some have suggested that the weird sisters act as the catalyst to much of the play’s action, we can see clearly that this is untrue. Macbeth’s deeply ambitious nature and ruthless nature appears to be an intrinsic part of his psychological makeup that is an integral force behind the narrative plot.
Lady Macbeth, Macbeth’s much maligned wife provides us with a further testimonial to Macbeth’s deeply ambitious nature. When she learns of the witches’ prophecies she avers ‘thou wouldst be great, art not without ambition’ but continues to say that Macbeth is devoid of the ruthlessness that should go hand in hand with ambition ‘but without the illness that should attend it’. We see that Lady Macbeth lacks discernment when it comes to her husband as she believes that he lacks the fundamental ruthlessness to get what he wants. She injudiciously says ‘I fear thy nature; it is too full o’ the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way’.
She is an injudicious judge of character as she believes her husband lacks the necessary evil and duplicity to bring his ruthless desires to fruition. We see this when he dissembles his evil plan to kill Banquo and Fleance ‘Be innocent of the knowledge dearest chuck till thou applaud the deed’. This proves it is Macbeth’s deeply ruthlessly ambition that is the driving force behind much of the play’s action. Many critics of the play would seek to attribute blame to the witches and Lady Macbeth for Macbeth’s crimes. However, this is unjustified because it is Macbeth’s ruthlessly ambitious nature that makes him an utterly reprehensible villain. It is his avarice and lust for power that is the driving force behind the play’s narrative plot and the internal psychological turmoil that ensues as a result.
Macbeth’s ingrained ruthless ambition is such that it forces his to commit a crime that is morally abhorrent to him and yet he is undeterred by any such moral scruples. His vacillation offers us an interesting insight into his ‘heat-oppressed brain’ ‘If it were done; when tis done, then ‘twere well’. In the famous ‘Is this a dagger which I see before me’ soliloquy Macbeth describes how he is ineluctably drawn to commit the heinous crime of regicide ‘I see thee yet, in form which now I draw’.
Macbeth’s ruthless ambition eventuates in tunnel vision – he only cares about getting and retaining the crown. This point is particularly elucidated in his dealings with his wife and the complete disintegration of their relationship. Lady Macbeth feels it is incumbent on her to dedicate herself to the forces of evil in order to bring Macbeth’s ‘deep and dark desires’ to fruition. She prays to be ‘unsex[ed]’ because she fears that Macbeth though ambitious blacks the concomitant evil. However, we see that this is rather erroneous on her part because Macbeth shows his commitment to executing his ambitious ‘deep and dark desires’ when Duncan proclaims Malcolm heir to the throne ‘The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step which I must fall down or else o’erleap for in my way it lies’.
Lady Macbeth foolishly risks perdition for a man who is fully capable of getting what he wants. Lady Macbeth damns herself because of her devotion and dedication to her husband. She sacrifices everything for her husband’s ambition. Not once in the play does she allude to her being queen. It is one of the play’s many tragedies that it is Macbeth’s ruthless ambition that proves detrimental to this once partnership of love, devotion and equality.
Lady Macbeth is consumed by guilt and remorse by her part in Duncan’s crime and yet Macbeth remains callously indifferent to her suffering. The only thing that he cares about once he has the crown is keeping it. Lady Macbeth’s lament over Macbeth’s obsession is rather pitiable ‘Naugth’s had, all’s spent where our desire is got without content’. She realises her sacrifice has been futile. The self-absorbed Macbeth’s betrayal of his wife is exemplified in his callous indifference to the news of her death ‘She should have died hereafter; There would have been time for such a word.’
Once Macbeth has gained the crown he becomes completely paranoid. This paranoia completely overwhelms him as he tells Lady Macbeth ‘To be thus is nothing but safely thus’. At the heart of his paranoia is his ruthless ambition and his impulse towards self- preservation ‘We have scorch’d the snake, not killed it’. The purblind Lady Macbeth is unaware of her husband’s capacity to likewise dedicate himself to the forces of evil as he prays ‘Come seeling night, scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day’. Macbeth is sufficiently equipped with all the evil impulses and tendencies required to allow him to embark on his tyrannical reign of genocide. Macbeth’s ruthless ambition and his impulse towards self- preservation makes him want to rewrite his fate as prophesised by the witches. Disgruntled by the witches’ prophecies regarding his ‘fruitless crown’ and his ‘barren scepter’ Macbeth’s self- preservation is evident as he evolves into a genocidal maniac in order to retain power. Macbeth’s moral probity has been vitiated by his Machiavellian ambition and his impulse towards self-preservation ‘I am in blood stepp’d in so far, that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er’.
Macbeth’s paranoia and fear that he might lose the crown, a crown that he chose perdition to have force him to seek out the witches for reassurance. He learns that he leads a ‘charmed life, which must not yield to one of woman born’. Macbeth’s ambitious nature and his emphasis on self- preservation results in his moral declension around which the dramatic impetus of the play revolves.
Great Opening Lines Competition: Many of you may have already noticed the great opening lines from novels display in the E area. We are calling on all students to submit what they consider to be a great opening line from a story that they have read recently and give a short explanation why they think their selection is a great opener to a story. Students can select an opening line from a novel/play/poem. Entries can be submitted on the online library. The online library can be accessed by scrolling down to the bottom of the school website and clicking on the link to the online library. The winning entry will receive a 20 euro one for all voucher. Deadline for submissions is Thursday the 14th of February.
Operation Read:In the same vein as Operation Transformation, BCS will soon be initiating its very own Operation Read in order to encourage and promote a love of reading among our students. We are looking for students to design a poster that encourages students to read/explains the benefits of reading. The winning design will be used as the Operation Read Target Setter Leaflet and the winner will receive a 20 euro one for all voucher. Entries must be submitted by Friday the 15th of February to Ms Quinn.