GCSE AQA English Literature MacbethWatch
Starting with this speech (Captain's speech), explore how far Shakespeare presents Macbeth as a violent character.
Macbeth is presented as a character that starts as someone who is first praised for his deeds before becoming feared by most because of his needless amounts of violence and even as a King he doesn't have any respect.
Macbeth is shown to be both violent and merciless very early on in the play during the Captain’s speech, although this violence is portrayed in a highly positive way. The brutal violence that Macbeth uses is accepted and seen as honorable because he is a soldier who is fighting for his king and country and this is shown by when the Captain calls Macbeth “brave”, although this violence sets the tone for the rest of the play. He is expressed as a “valiant” war hero by both King Duncan and the Captain for fighting against the rebel Macdonwald. This event foreshadows Macbeth's fate, as he ironically also becomes a traitor to Scotland and is cut down by Macduff. The foreshadowing of Macbeth’s death goes even further as when Macbeth “Till he unseamed him from the nave to th' chaps”, it is eerily similar to how Macbeth meets his demise, having his own head chopped off at the end of the play. This phrase also demonstrates his strength and skill, and the verb “unseamed” shows the violent nature of Macbeth. Shakespeare first presents Macbeth this way as a means to shock the Jacobean audience, as although he was violent, his loyalty to the king is without question and they wouldn’t expect the dark, twisted path that Macbeth would go through.
When Macbeth and Banquo meet the witches, the Jacobean audience would first feel as though something malicious was going to happen, as they were incredibly superstitious. The witches say that Macbeth will become King, but they don’t explicitly say that this will be attained through violence. It’s only when Lady Macbeth hears about the witches' prophecies that makes Macbeth starts treading down a sinister path that eventually destroys him. Macbeth allows himself to be manipulated by both the witches' words and Lady Macbeth to commit regicide.
Macbeth’s conscience is put into question as Lady Macbeth convinces him to murder King Duncan. The act of killing Duncan weighs heavily on his mind throughout the rest of the play as he has disrupted what was thought of as the chain of being in Elizabethan times. The way that Macbeth kills Duncan is seen as pathetic, as he kills him in his sleep. Macbeth even states that he knows the cowardly act that he’s done, calling his hands a “sorry sight”. Although Macbeth has become King, he lost part of his humanity in killing Duncan as he killed a close friend in pursuit of power.
It is at this point in the play that violence leads to more violence. Macbeth is scarred from the blood of Duncan that stained his hands, and so he resorts to sending murderers to commit heinous acts for him. Macbeth’s mind has begun to go mad, and he sends murderers to kill Banquo (his best friend) and his son because of the fear that he and his children will usurp him as King. Macbeth states "It will have blood they say: blood will have blood" after seeing Banquo’s ghost, suggesting that Macbeth knows that the violence that he commits will only lead to him committing more sinful acts. It could be said that Banquo's ghost is Macbeth's conscious attempting to rebel against him, to try and convince Macbeth to stop needlessly killing for his own selfish benefit and end this cycle of violence. However, it has the opposite effect, driving Macbeth even madder and causing Macbeth to eliminate any threat to the throne, whether they be men, women, or children, illustrating his barbaric nature to the jacobean audience. This is further shown by when Macbeth sends murderers to kill Macduff’s family because of the witches’ prophecy to “beware Macduff”. He uses hellish tactics to attempt to make Macduff yield out of grief.
Despite it being Lady Macbeth who first put Macbeth down this path, her guilt is too much to bear, causing her to take her own life. Macbeth dies at the hands of Macduff at the end of the play and this shows what Shakespeare wanted to teach his audience; that violence only leads to more violence and is the root of all evil, only resulting in the eventual self-destruction of someone.
I'm currently working at a 4 so any criticism will be greatly appreciated.