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Humanism And The Importance Of Its Users’ Intentions In Macbeth

1010 words - 5 pages

In today’s world, people are often judged not only by their deeds, but also by the motives behind these deeds. A ‘good’ deed can be performed, but it is only truly good if the intentions are well-meaning. Humanism is an example of these deeds for which the intentions are vital for the effects of such actions. In Macbeth, humanism is a clear theme that Shakespeare uses through his characters. He provides many examples of humanism and its effects to clearly illustrate his purpose towards humanism in writing the play. Shakespeare emphasizes the importance of good intentions in humanism by portraying the effects of immoral use through Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, the regrets made by Macbeth after such immoral use, and the results of benevolent use through Macduff and Malcolm.
Shakespeare shows the hurtful effects of malevolent humanistic intentions through Macbeth and his wife’s many attempts to actively change fate and create opportunities for themselves, rather than merely waiting for their destiny to happen in its own time. Shakespeare shows Macbeth’s obsession with changing his fate when Macbeth says to himself that “[his] thought…shakes so [his] single state of man that function is smothered in surmise, and nothing is but what is not” (Shakespeare I, iii 152-155). Macbeth is clearly deep in thought about the potential results of changing his fate, though the acts of humanism in mind are sinful in every way. Shakespeare writes this quote so that it can be inferred that nothing good can come from immorally altering one’s fate. Later in Act 1, Lady Macbeth clearly praises corrupt humanism when she says about Macbeth, “Thou wouldst be great, art not without ambition, but without the illness should attend it” (Shakespeare I, v 18-20). By illness, the wicked Lady Macbeth means a certain ruthlessness that she believes Macbeth needs to fully change his destiny for the better. Through this belief, Shakespeare is showing that such active humanism, especially when it is so sinfully intended, is not beneficial. Shakespeare also shows how Macbeth is so intertwined with unethical acts of humanism through Macbeth’s progressively more brutal and heartless murders of Duncan, Banquo, and Macduff’s family. Macbeth is unable to stop changing his destiny, and will keep on committing these evil humanistic acts until he, quite literally, is able to act no more.
While Shakespeare uses Macbeth to show the error of bad intentions in humanism, he also uses this main character to show how vital good intentions are by having Macbeth truly regret every humanistic step he has taken. Directly before he goes to murder King Duncan in cold blood, Macbeth reflects upon the drastic humanistic step he is taking and realizes that he has “no spur to prick the sides of [his] intent, but only vaulting ambition” (Shakespeare I, vii 25-27). Macbeth is clearly reconsidering his motives, and recognizes that allowing fate to take its course may be the best course of action...

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