Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Macbeth, one of William Shakespeare’s famous tragedies, is set in Scotland. Returning from battle with his companion Banquo, the nobleman, Macbeth meets with three witches. They predict that Macbeth will initially become the Thane of Cawdor and then king of Scotland. Macbeth privately has ambitions of being king and enjoys the ideas of becoming the head of the country. After the first part of the witches' prophecy comes true, early in the play, he begins to think the subsequent part may also come true. Encouraged after continuous unrest from his wife, Lady Macbeth, Macbeth murders King Duncan, while he is a guest in his castle. Macbeth then seizes the throne of Scotland.
But Macbeth has no peace. Duncan's sons, Malcom and Donalbain, have escaped to England, where they seek support against Macbeth. In addition, the witches had also prophesized that Banquo's progeny would be kings of Scotland. Macbeth consequently instructs the murder of Banquo and his son, Fleance. Macbeth's men kill Banquo, but Fleance escapes under his father’s cry,
O treachery! Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly!
Thou mayst revenge. O slave!
Act 3. Scene 3. 17-18
Macbeth is now hardened to killing. He orders the murder of the wife and children of his enemy Macduff, who had fled to England after Duncan's murder (Act 2. Scene 1). Macduff then gathers an army to overthrow Macbeth. By this time, Lady Macbeth, burdened with guilt over the murders, has become a sleepwalker. She finally dies a few scenes before the play concludes. In the end, Macduff kills Macbeth in battle. Duncan's son Malcolm is then proclaimed king of Scotland.
During this period of time, the characters, as well as the country of Scotland, are affected by a tragic plague of murder and guilt which runs throughout the play.
In Macbeth, Shakespeare wrote a tragedy of the decline of a man's conscience. During the course of the play, Macbeth changes from a person of strong but imperfect moral sense to a man who will stop at nothing to get and keep what he wants. By the play's end, Macbeth has lost all emotion and becomes a power-hungry mad man. The conflict of good and evil in Macbeth’s mind speaks about every kind of temptation within, and draws out sympathy through excessive ambition which allows him to fall out on to treachery and crime. Here Macbeth is portrayed by Macduff and Malcolm as;
Not in the legions
Of horrid hell can come a devil more damn’d
In evils to top Macbeth.
Luxurious, avaricious, false, deceitful,
Sudden, malicious, smacking of every sin.
Act 4. Scene 3. 55-59
He cannot even react to his wife's death, except to conclude that life is only “a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury / Signifying nothing.”
She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in the petty pace from day to day,