Hey guys. Could you help me mark this Macbeth essay?Watch
Shakespeare employs Macbeth as a construct to exemplify the attributes of a dedicated Scottish soldier, as the reader is told that he “unseamed” Macdonald “from the nave to the chaps”. Shakespeare’s use of violent imagery highlights that Macbeth already possessed an inherent capacity for violence from the very onset of the play, although at this point Shakespeare presents it as a positive trait which Macbeth uses as a tool to overcome the traitorous Macdonald and invading Norwegian army in order to defend his nation (Scotland). In addition, Shakespeare’s use of the metaphor “smok(ing) with bloody execution” to describe Macbeth’s sword presents him as heroic, as it exemplifies that Macbeth demonstrated ruthlessness to anyone who dared challenge King Duncan’s power. The verb “smoked” alludes to the notion that Macbeth’s sword had been used as a tool to chop off so many heads in quick succession that it began to emit smoke as a consequence of the frictional force produced by it and the heads. Moreover, upon murdering Macdonald, Shakespeare articulates that Macbeth “fixed his head upon battlements”. The “head” becomes a motif for Macbeth’s gradual moral decline as the play progresses. Whilst at the beginning of the play Macbeth is shown to have to be at his moral peak when he defends his King (in addition to his country and God), putting his own safety at risk in order to execute a traitor; by the end, however, he has become the “usurper's cursed head”. This also forms as part of a structural feature to provide the play with a circular narrative - symbolising how even the most loyal of men could become victims of their hamartia; in Macbeth's case his ambition. The Christian allusion to “Golgotha” implies that at the beginning of the play, both Macbeth and his accomplice Banquo are murdering in a supposed Christian manner against barbaric enemies, although Shakespeare further juxtaposes this using dark humour in the phrase “nor bade farewell to him”. This reinforces Macbeth’s bloodlust at the exposition and ultimately serves to foreshadow the consequences to come.
In addition, Shakespeare presents Macbeth's violence to have stemmed from spiritual malpractice. The captain praises Macbeth by telling Duncan how “all’s too weak for brave Macbeth”. Shakespeare’s juxtaposition between the adjectives “weak” and “brave” foreshadows later descent into the witches' blasphemous regime and character change. It seemingly praises Macbeth, as it articulates him to be brave, but the syntax of “weak” just before it almost predicts Macbeth’s disastrous future. This links to later in Act 1 where the witches use equivocation as a tool to confuse and moreover disorientate Macbeth and Banquos moral compass. They articulate that Banquo shall be “greater and lesser” than Macbeth. Perhaps Shakespeare is suggesting that Macbeth’s violent nature is a result of the witches - as they are the pivotal force that encourage Macbeth to murder throughout the play. This would invoke rage in a Jacobean audience, as they would be led to have the perception that the Witches power used their power to fulfill their own immoral desires. It is certainly conceivable that Shakespeare presented the Witches as being the catalysts for Macbeth’s moral decline in order to please King James, as the book “Daemonologie” expressed James' deep-found hatred for Witchcraft. Hence, Shakespeare may have allowed the Witches to be the driving force behind Macbeth’s violence, in order to reaffirm King James' notion of the Witches being sources of inherent evils.
Alternatively, we are also presented with the perception that Macbeth is a calm and loving person. For instance, in Act 1 he writes to his wife (Lady Macbeth) regarding his encounter with the ‘three cursed sisters’ - addressing her as his “dearest partner in greatness”. This connotes his feministic views and furthermore how he shares the belief that he and his wife are equal irrespective of gender. This is moreover emphasized by Shakespeare through the use of the superlative “dearest”, as this depicts a sense of endearment and compassion - illustrating that Macbeth was capable of love, and in actual fact not always overcome with a burning desire to commit violent acts. Also, when Macbeth learns about the death of his wife, he begins his soliloquy - “Tomorrow and Tomorrow… Creeps in this petty pace from day to day”. It is plausible that Macbeth’s nonchalant tone was used as a tool by Shakespeare to convey his nihilistic nature - perhaps Macbeth remained calm because he simply did not care about the passing of Lady Macbeth. Alternatively, Shakespeare’s repetition of the adverb “tomorrow” expresses how futile, repetitive and hopeless Macbeth’s existence had become without Lady Macbeth. This signifies that her death had seemingly led to Macbeth being overcome by an apparent numbness; perhaps depression. To a contemporary Jacobean audience, Macbeth’s miserable state of being would have been satisfying and rather pleasing to witness, as they would have seen the passing of Lady Macbeth as revenge for Macbeth’s long list of heinous murders - most notably the regicide of King Duncan.
Shakespeare presents Macbeth’s violent nature to be the cause of his tyranny. For example, in Act 3 Scene 4 Macbeth seems to become resigned to the notion that he will have to continue governing through fear and murders - as is exemplified by the metaphor “blood will have blood”. Whilst the repetition of “blood” could indicate that Macbeth was wary of a potential revenge plot against him, it is far more likely that Shakespeare was attempting to connote that Macbeth felt as a result of his decision to commit regicide, he would now have to murder a many other people in order to cement his power as King. This is reflected via the metaphor “I am in blood stepped in so far that I shall wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’ er”. This denotes the extent of violent crimes which Macbeth has committed, and that at this late stage in the play it would be just as difficult to continue to stop the violence as it would be to continue it. Shakespeare's use of the adjective “tedious” is of particular pertinence, as it suggests the constant exposure to violence has left Macbeth feeling cold and detached to the extent of which he now sees his crown as futile and his existence meaningless. Shakespeare explores the numbing effects of violence in more detail in Act 5, when Macbeth reflects how he has “supp’d full with horrors; direness, familiar to my slaughterous thought cannot once start me”. This indicates that Macbeth has become fearless and reckless as a consequence of his ultra-violent nature, which has seemingly stripped him of any semblance of humanity to the extent that Macbeth seems to be longing for death to bring him peace from his “slaughterous thoughts”. Shakespeare message about Macbeth’s inescapable circle of violence is clear and unequivocal - It will be the cause of his death. This would likely invoke sentiments of ecstasy within contemporary members of the audience, as Macbeth deceasement would be seen as justice for his bloody rule over Scotland.
In conclusion, William Shakepseare uses the character of Macbeth to demonstrate how the possession of an abundantly violent nature led towards moral failure. Indeed, whilst in small quantities it aided Macbeth’s case as a “brave” warrior; in large quantities Macbeth’s capacity for violence led him to fulfill the Witches prohecies and “murder sleep” - in turn committing the unforgivable sin of regicide.