Macbeth's Killing of King Duncan in William Shakespeare's Macbeth
The play of Macbeth was technically set in the 11th century (despite
showing little indication of the period). The Scottish play was
written by William Shakespeare in 1606 and is one of his tragedies, in
that the main characters struggle with circumstances and meet death
It was allegedly written for King James 1st by Shakespeare to act as a
propaganda tool to basically scare people against trying to kill the
King, as Guy Fawkes had attempted to do. It is noted that King James
was fascinated by witchcraft and at the time when it was written there
was a strong cultural belief in supernatural objects such as the Devil
There are many factors that we must consider when deciding who
persuaded Macbeth to kill Duncan. Despite the question being a
relatively easy one we must look at a number of key issues in greater
Macbeth is a hero at the start of the play but he becomes an evil man
as we approach the end. Is he a victim of either his wife or the
witches or did he have a choice and chose evil over good?
Let us firstly consider whether or not the witches were influential in
persuading Macbeth to kill Duncan. They hail Macbeth as "Thane of
Glamis!" "Thane of Cawdor!" and prophesised "that shalt be king
The first time Macbeth is hailed as "Thane of Glamis" confirms that
the witches know who he is. The second time they hail him as "Thane of
Cawdor` he seems to ponder upon this, and as soon as the witches
disappear two of Duncan`s other loyal thanes appear and announce
Macbeth Thane of Cawdor. He now starts to accept the witches
prophecies as a fact rather than just plain speculation.
It is Macbeth who connects the idea of Kingship and murder whereas the
witches say nothing of this which is why he demands them to "Stay, you
imperfect speakers, tell me more". Therefore it seems that the witches
can not be accused of persuading Macbeth to kill Duncan it is Macbeth
in this case persuading himself. Macbeth hears only what he wants to
hear from the prediction of witches. Their words are eerie and provide
the play with dramatic impact especially since they speak in rhyme and
repeat certain phrases such as "munched, and munched, and munched".
Now let us consider the role of lady Macbeth in the demise of Duncan.
Lady Macbeth is delighted when she receives a letter from her husband
telling her of the witch's predictions. She uses the fact that Macbeth
regards her very highly "dearest partner of greatness" to get her own
way. These words also allude to royalty and sovereignty - promises of
what is to come.
Lady Macbeth realises, however that her husband lacks ruthless
ambition "Yet do I fear thy nature: it is too full of the milk of
human kindness". Macbeth...