Macbeth’s Descent into Evil
In the tragedy of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the main character, Macbeth, starts out as an honorable nobleman and a heroic swordsman who descends into pure evil because of his lust for power. We see this lust for power and control becomes stronger and stronger even as he is King. He makes three fatal mistakes throughout the play: he allows himself to succumb to the witches’ temptations, he allows himself to be manipulated by Lady Macbeth, his wife, and he also ignores his conscience. If it were not for these critical errors, Macbeth would not have become the tyrant he did.
The initial mistake of Macbeth is adhering to the witches and what they prophesied. The temptation and desire of becoming King forces the unfortunate nobleman to commit the sinful act of regicide. Macbeth originally does not think much of what the witches had foretold, but when the first prophecy comes true, and he does become Thane of Cowdor. Macbeth and his friend Banquo question whether all prophecies are true. Banquo even asks can these unholy and malevolent beings speak the truth, because it is unlikely for witches to be doing good rather than evil.
Later on Banquo even give Macbeth a warning, he says: oftentimes, to win us to our harm, The instruments of darkness tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s In deepest consequence. ” indicating that frequently agents of evil tell us something that is true; first to gain our trust and then mislead us in matters of most importance. At this time Macbeth has not completely trust himself within the prophecies of the witches. However, he is already thinking of how he could attain the crown even so he is still loyal and honorable so this “horrid image” that he is having, of killing King Duncan and usurping the crown, petrifies him.
As the play unfolds Macbeth turns nearly pure evil, he seeks out the witches again, for he is in need of their aid. Once again, they warn him of something that is to be, that Macduff is a threat, regaining his faith in them Macbeth is quick to trust them again, and repeats his initial mistake. The witches apparition tell him that his castle is safe until Birnam wood comes to Dunsinane, but it is a physical impossibility for a forest to move, and that “none of woman born shall harm Macbeth”. implying that he is virtually invincible since all men are born of women.
The witches have succeeded in giving Macbeth a false sense of security leaving him vulnerable. The witches have in fact duped him because the forest itself did not move, it was Malcolm’s men in camouflage right before they attacked Dunsinane. Also the man who slew Macbeth was Macduff, for as he says prior to delivering a deadly blow: “Macduff was from his mothers womb Untimely ripp’d” And since he was not of woman born he could defeat Macbeth, just as the witches had foretold. This all leads back to the warnings of Banquo: beware the agents of evil.
The witches plant the seed in Macbeths mind of becoming King, but it is Lady Macbeth who follows through and makes it grow, by making his own ambitions clear. The second critical error made by Macbeth is allowing Lady Macbeth to manipulate him, and making herself Queen. Earlier on Macbeth was not one who wants murder on his hands, that is until his wife sees an opportunity to get rid of King Duncan, when he arrive.
In Lady Macbeths soliloquy, ” unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe top full Of direst cruelty! ke thick my blood; Stop up the access and passage to remorse,” she invokes the dark powers of the devil; she asks to be immune to feeling and to be filled with spitefulness in order to see to the deed at hand. Using these dark powers he distorts Macbeth’s morals such as honor and loyalty, allowing him to murder of Duncan. When Lady Macbeth empowers herself with evil, she becomes like the witches, for they are too, evil. Therefore she is not to be trusted since agents of evil, like her, are often deceptive.
Near the end of the play Macbeth’s wife become remorseful of what she’s done, it might almost be considered a punishment for her actions. Lady Macbeth persuades her husband to kill the King for her benefit along with his, but she never would have thought what kind of a man it would turn Macbeth into. The third and final mistake of Macbeth was the suppression of his conscience leading to: the vicious murder of Banquo, The slaughter of Macduff’s family, and the whole country despising him. This furthermore results in Macbeth bringing down his country and himself into a state of destitution.
When Macbeth was about to kill Duncan, he was afraid, because it is a sin to commit murder. However when he was hiring murderers to slay Banquo and his son Fleance, there was no sign of hesitation. When the murder was about to take place a third murderer appeared but this may have been Macbeth himself for at the time he did not trust anyone. If it really was him, it is one of the first signs that Macbeth is enjoying inflicting pain upon others. After he sought out the witches for the second time, his doubts of Macduff are confirmed.
In his aside he says: “give to the edge of the sword His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls”, what is meant by this is that since Macduff has fled, leaving behind his family and servants, Macbeth is going to slaughter them like pigs. At least there was a motive for killing Banquo, butchering woman and children whose only crime is to have a blood relation to Macduff, does not. It is almost as if it is for enjoyment. Starting out Macbeth has honor, and he was a hero for saving the day; by executing the traitor, Thane of Cawdor.
As a reward King Duncan presents Macbeth with the title. Ironically Macbeth himself becomes a traitor when he kills King Duncan, Macbeth becomes King but things do not go well for him. One killing after another leads to everyone hating Macbeth and deserting him in battle. At the end only one man stud by him, ironically his name is Seyton. The English had an advantage not only in numbers but also in loyalty to the rightful king, making the defeat of Macbeth inevitable. Even so Macbeth is still the tragic hero.