Macbeth from Macbeth
In William Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth we find a guilt and fear-ridden usurper of the throne of Scotland. Let us study this character in this essay.
A.C. Bradley in Shakespearean Tragedy paints a portrait of Macbeth:
Macbeth, the cousin of a King mild, just, and beloved, but now too old to lead his army, is introduced to us as a general of extraordinary prowess, who has covered himself with glory in putting down a rebellion and repelling the invasion of a foreign army. In these conflicts he showed great personal courage, a quality which he continues to display throughout the drama in regard to all plain dangers. It is difficult to be sure of his customary demeanour, for in the play we see him either in what appears to be an exceptional relation to his wife, or else in the throes of remorse and desperation; but from his behaviour during his journey home after the war, from his later conversations with Lady Macbeth, and from his language to the murderers of Banquo and to others, we imagine him as a great warrior, somewhat masterful, rough and abrupt, a man to inspire some fear and much admiration. (322)
In his book, On the Design of Shakespearean Tragedy, H. S. Wilson tells how the audience is inclined to identify with such a rogue as Macbeth:
That such a man should sacrifice all the wealth of his human spirit - his kindness, his love, his very soul - to become a victim to continual fears, a tyrant ruthlessly murdering in the vain attempt to feel safe, finally to be killed like a foul beast of prey - this is terrible, and pitiful, too. Shakespeare has here achieved for us most poignantly the ambivalence of the tragic effect Aristotle described. We see the necessity of Macbeth's destruction; we acquiesce in his punishment unreservedly; and yet we would find whatever excuses for him we can, because we admire the Promethean quality of his courage, because we recognize his conscience as like our own, and because we share his guilt. (78)
The Tragedy of Macbeth opens in a desert place with three witches who all say together the mysterious and contradictory "Fair is foul, and foul is fair." Macbeth is greeted by the witches with "hail to thee, thane of Glamis," "thane of Cawdor," and "thou shalt be king hereafter!" When Ross and Angus arrive with news of Duncan's reward ("He bade me, from him, call thee thane of Cawdor"), it is logical for Macbeth to assume that all of the weird sisters' prophecies will come true. Macbeth is "rapt" on the "suggestion" and concludes that "chance may crown me."
After the king's announcement that "We will establish our estate upon / Our eldest, Malcolm," Macbeth says, "The Prince of Cumberland! that is a step / On which I must fall down, or else o'erleap," for his scheming is seriously underway. Duncan's visit to Inverness, a one-night celebration of the victory, occasions quick plotting. Macbeth recognizes that King Duncan's...