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.