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In my opinion, there are three main people that should be held responsible for the death of King Duncan: Lady Macbeth, the witches and of course, Macbeth himself. In this essay, I will be looking at the three people and how they each played a role to cause the death of Duncan.
Firstly, I think that Lady Macbeth was hugely to blame. We see that both husband and wife are highly ambitious and hope to achieve a lot. Macbeth trusts Lady Macbeth and is very close to her. He informs her straight away of his meeting with the witches through a letter in which he also calls her his ‘dearest partner of greatness’.
This shows us that they are close and are partners or colleagues in everything.
As soon as Lady Macbeth reads the letter, she is already making plans to achieve Macbeth’s title as the King and hers as the Queen. We see this when she says ‘That I may pour my spirits in thine ear/And chastise with the valour of my tongue’. This could give away a hint of evil in her to us. In addition, we see that she fears that Macbeth is too kind to achieve it. This means that she is already thinking that there is dirty work involved and Macbeth is too incapable of doing it.
She says that he lacks ‘the illness’ that should attend the ambition. She also thinks that Macbeth’s nature ‘is too full o’ the milk of human kindness’. This shows us that Macbeths natural instincts would be to leave this prophecy and wait for it to come to him, not commit the murder. Therefore, we could argue that Macbeth is a kind-hearted man who was innocently wound up and captured in his wife’s evil plans of regicide. We can see this supported hugely when Macbeth is reluctant to carry out the murder and refuses to do so. Lady Macbeth steps in and presses on, using different techniques to make Macbeth change his mind.
At first, she mocks him saying ‘Was the hope drunk/Wherein you dress’d yourself? ‘ Then, she begins making him feel guilty, making him think that his love for her is shaky. Because they are so close, we could see this as an insult. She says to him ‘From this time/Such I account thy love’. She also makes him feel guilty by telling him that she knew what it was like to breast-feed and she knows how tender it is to love the baby that milks her, but she would have plucked the baby from her nipple and dashed its brains out if she had promised to do so, like Macbeth had done to their promise of killing the King.
She also questions him, asking whether he would like to ‘live a coward’. Another technique she uses is questioning Macbeth’s manhood, making him feel low. Soon Macbeth was trapped in her persuasion and manipulation, and gave into the murder. Lady Macbeth also seems to have a manly, monstrous side to her. Its almost as if she’s tired of being a dainty woman and wants evil to enter her so she may achieve more, with the help of evil spirits. She calls upon the spirits to come and ‘unsex her’. She also says to the evil spirits to ‘stop up the access and passage to remorse’.
In other words, she does not want the natural feelings of remorse and regret to get in her way because she is so determined to do the murder. We could say that Lady Macbeth is already on the evil side, stopping herself from any natural feelings. We could argue that she is the driving force behind the whole murder and she is the only reason Macbeth killed Duncan. However, Macbeth is accountable for his actions and he had complete control over what he was doing. Lady Macbeth’s character shows us how eager she is to achieve high positions and we see that she will let nothing get in her way or stop her.
Her character and actions play a big role in the murder. They are the two things that convince Macbeth to murder Duncan. The witches also play a very important role in Macbeth because some people argue that they put the idea into Macbeth’s head. In those times, the topic of witches or evil spirits was something very serious. It was so serious, in fact, that the king of the time, wrote a book about demons and evils, such as witches. A lot of people took interest in this field and many precautions were taken to protect themselves form witches and evils of the sort.
In contrast to today, witches were not amusing subjects and their prophecies were, in a way, very valuable. The witches know when to appear, and purposely appear at the right moments to play on Macbeth’s conscience and manipulate him to do things. They know exactly how and when to enter so that the most amount of tension and dramatic effect is created at the right times. Shakespeare uses the witches very carefully to create the right dramatic effects and moods. When being performed in the Globe Theatre, there were no special effects or any dramatic lighting to create atmospheres.
So, Shakespeare used stagecraft and the entrances of the witches to get the audience to feel the tension. Also, on their first meeting, the witches leave Macbeth and Banquo confused. They give unsteady prophecies about Banquo, contrasting against each other. They also seem to know what Macbeth is thinking at all times, to make themselves more powerful in the eyes of Macbeth and use him to create all the havoc. In addition, I think that some people could argue that the witches are entirely to blame because they are so powerful supernaturally, that a normal person like Macbeth would have no control over himself if the witches were ruling him.
Their main motive is to create havoc, and Macbeth seems to be the easiest way to do so. Therefore, we could say that he is pulled into their evil plans and it’s not at all his fault. However, some people contradict this and say that the witches were not sparking any havoc, but rather telling and informing Macbeth of the events to come. Because of their powers, they could see in to the future and so were merely telling Macbeth what was in store for him, but Macbeth took the wrong turning with this information and himself decided to kill King Duncan.
We can see that the witches did not refer to regicide in any of their appearances. Maybe, the throne was destined to be his but he did not need to kill Duncan to do so, and because he did, he caused trouble for himself and did not achieve anything. Macbeth, from the start, has a very ambitious and determined character. We see that when the witches disappear after stating their prophecies, Macbeth wants them to carry on and is unhappy that they left. We see this when he says, ‘Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more’. This shows us that he is interested in the witches predictions and wants to know more as he is allured.
Also, some say that Macbeth already had the idea of doing something to calm his craving for the throne. When the mention of the Prince of Cumberland comes, he says that it is a step which Macbeth ‘must fall down, or else o’erleap’. This shows us that Macbeth wants to do something to get rid of him, or move him out of the way. In addition, Macbeth is already thinking evil things. We see this when he says ‘Stars, hide your fires;/Let not light see my black and deep desires’. ‘. . Black deep desires’ could suggest many things. In my opinion, we know that he is planning something evil, although we don’t know what.
Many people argue that the witches plant the idea into Macbeth’s head. However, I think that Macbeth already had the idea and was just shocked and scared to hear his thoughts being said aloud. We see this when Banquo says to Macbeth ‘Good sir, why do you start; and seem to fear/Things that do sound so fair? ‘ We see that Macbeth fears the witches predictions and there could be a number of reasons for it. He could fear the witches themselves. He could fear the predictions, or, in my opinion, the predictions could be something that’s already in his heart but he has learnt to control his ambitions and desires.
When the witches speak of the prophecies, it starts the ball rolling and Macbeth is unable to control his actions. He feels inclined toward the witches and their prophecies and wants to achieve what they predicted. Therefore, he gets rid of anything in his way and as a result, kills Duncan. Macbeth takes the witches words quite literally every time and gets himself in even more trouble. For example, the incident of Birnam Wood. Toward the end, Macbeth relies solely on the prophecies, and depends on the witches. Throughout the play, we see him change.
At first, he is very shaky and we see Lady Macbeth take control of the situation, leading Macbeth. But, toward the end, Macbeth becomes the leader and her true conscience shows. This is almost a transformation from good to evil for Macbeth. At the end of the day, Macbeth was the one to do it physically, so he should be blamed. He had power over his actions and when committing the crime, he should have been prepared for the consequences of his actions. Aside from the above arguments, I also think there are two other people to blame. They are Banquo and Duncan himself.
Although they do not play as big as a role as the other people do, they still hold some blame. Banquo had suspicions of Macbeth but failed to do anything. He knew what Macbeth was thinking and knew he was up to something, but didn’t take any action and was so killed. Although Banquo’s motive may not have been to get the king killed, he still didn’t do anything about it. In those times, loyalty to your king was very important. It came before anything. Therefore, we could argue that Banquo had more loyalty toward his friend than toward his King, who should actually come first.
In this way, Banquo is partly to blame. I also think that Duncan is to blame because he is too much of a trusting man. He only comes to stay with Macbeth with two bodyguards. Macbeth, who isn’t even King, has more bodyguards than the King. Also, the King is too nai? ve and vulnerable. Maybe it would have been better that Macbeth was the King because he would be a firm ruler, not a push-over like Duncan. Overall, I think that Macbeth is mainly to blame because at the end of the day, Macbeth did the crime and he went ahead with the plan. We see him change from a good, noble man to a cruel, harsh, evil man.