“Evil… is by definition a monster. It has a strange coercive force: a temptation, a mystery, a horrible charm” (Morrow 49). These words, written by Lance Morrow in a 1991 essay, could have been written about Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Evil is a conscious rejection of morals that causes pain to others. Evil is the force that causes Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to plot murder; that drives Lady Macbeth to her death; that persuades Macbeth to commit further atrocities. Madness is an obsession with an idea or event, and related, abnormal, behavior. Madness evolves from evil, and evil is all pervading.
The evil in Macbeth initially stems from the three weird sisters and their message: “‘All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis!’ / ‘All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!’ / ‘All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter’” (I. iii. 48-50)! The sisters serve Hecate, the goddess of dark magic. There is no obvious motive, just the pernicious act. Their message is initially rebuffed by Macbeth, but he is tempted with the idea of power and after he is declared thane of Cawdor, he becomes susceptible to their insidious ideas. “Why do I yield to that suggestion / whose horrid image doth unfix my hair / …against the use of nature” (I. iii. 48-50)? Macbeth writes to his wife and when she receives the letter, she initiates the plot for the death of the King of Scotland, Duncan. “Come, you spirits… / unsex me here… / and fill me… / of direst cruelty” (I. v. 135-137)! Lady Macbeth becomes obsessed with the plot and begins the fall into madness as she meditates murder. When she informs Macbeth of her decision, his loyalty to Duncan will not allow him to act upon Lady Macbeth’s wishes, but her madness tempts him and charms him, and persuades him to reject his morals and kill Duncan.
To Macbeth, this violent act seems at first unreasonable, but the weird sisters prediction that he would one day be king tempts him. He has already been named thane of Cawdor, and if he will one day be king, is there any difference in gaining the throne sooner rather than later? Macbeth’s foray into the world of evil begins his descent into madness, charmed by the allure of power, he agrees to murder Duncan and abandon his sworn allegiance to his king. The message from the sisters gives him reason to believe that his decision will do no damage, but rather simply enact the will of fate. “…if [leaders] act effectively their contact with evil will be temporary” (Ledeen 98).
Macbeth murders Duncan in the dead of night. His decent into evil is temporary as predicted, and he soon begins to show remorse over his committal of regicide. Lady Macbeth chastises his weakness and compounds the mystery. She plants evidence, the daggers, directing the suspicion of the murder on two of the servants. Macbeth, in a fit of rage, kills the servants and the horror of this act he has committed, this second action of evil, has driven him further into madness. At this...