The Villainous Macbeth Honors English Essay

1471 words - 6 pages

To use the word villainous as a descriptor is to charge someone of “a deed without a name” (IV.i.XLIX). Deeds that are so horrendous speaking of them could “add the death of you” (IV.iii.CCVII). Villains are ever present, whether in fiction or reality, they exist. In the context of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Macbeth can only be seen as a “hero” in the shakespearean sense of being a main character. Macbeth is not a man who can be passed of as a Tragic Hero, his constancy as a villain, culpability for his actions, remorselessness, and the fact Macduff is the true Tragic Hero, show how Macbeth is truly a villain.
Macbeth was a villain throughout the whole play; it simply became more noticeable when he committed traitorous acts against the people he once served. Macbeth starts the play an honorable soldier, risking his life for his nation. Killing the insurrectionist Macdonwald for King Duncan seems a deed anything but nameless, fighting “till he unseamed him from the nave to th’ chops, and fix'd his head upon [their] battlements” (I.ii.XXII). People use war as justification for barbarous acts, but people forget justification is vastly different from being morally right. To mutilate another warrior in such a way shows his pre-existing capacity for evil before technically committing a crime. However, it is only not a crime because he won; Macbeth is only a hero to King Duncan, but to his opposition, he is a cruel villain. The paradoxical nature of Macbeth’s progression through this piece promotes the idea of him being a villain. Throughout the play, paradoxes were a common motif. The witches open the play and chant “fair is foul, and foul is fair,”  a statement that parallels Macbeth throughout the play (I.i.X); The first phrase “fair is foul” is the first impression the reader gets of Macbeth-- the soldier who was noble, but committed a brutal act of war -- and the second, “foul is fair,” depicts his shift to a more widely recognized villain  who was “fair” only to himself (I.i.X). The ever present “foul” aspect of Macbeth’s nature allows his characterization as a villain (I.i.X). Even the first lines Macbeth speaks echo this idea when he says “So foul and fair a day I have not seen” (I.iii.XXXIX). These utterances seem innocent for he is only  talking in regards to the juxtaposition between the victorious battle and the gloomy day. Yet shakespeare has now linked Macbeth to the paradoxical motif in this work, furthering the ubiquitous foulness within Macbeth. If one were to look at the phrasing they may say “fair” is also omnipresent in this piece, but in the end Macbeth’s fairness is only in relation to himself. He would rather “let the frame of things disjoint” than suffer “in the affliction of these terrible dreams” (III.ii.XVI). Macbeth once hid his villainy behind “honor”, but it was laid bare once the facade fell.
A Villain must take blame for his actions, and Shakespeare “does not allow Macbeth any moral excuses” (Foster, 2). The two most...

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