Macbeth: Macbeth and Gruesome Tragedy Macbeth Essay examples

Submitted By sabrinadavis
Words: 1680
Pages: 7

November 1, 2010
Macbeth the Great

As William Shakespeare’s gruesome tragedy Macbeth begins, we are introduced to a gallant war hero who has just saved Scotland from traitors, by honorably serving his King on the battle field. Macbeth is described as “brave”, “valiant” and “heroic” and is admired by everyone. But once Macbeth crosses paths with the Three Witches, the seed of ambition that was already planted in his mind begins to blossom, transforming him from a brave warrior into a tyrannical murderer. This heroic and ambitious man murders his way to the top of the Scottish throne, which he then holds with a reign of terror. Throughout this transformation we begin to see that the character of Macbeth is one of powerful contradictions. He is a man who for the sake of his ambition is willing to murder his King. While at the same time, he has a conscience that is so strong that just the thought of his crimes torments him. Even before he has committed his crimes the mere intention of him carrying them out makes him miserable. So how can we consider a man who has engaged in such horrific acts, a “great” man or a “hero”? Is Macbeth a horrible monster or is he a sensitive man-who fell victim to the witches and his own ambition? Or is he both? If he is both, how can the two sides of his nature coexist? The play records Macbeth’s decline into evil, displaying both changes and consistencies in his character; so to answer these questions we must trace Macbeth’s actions and reactions to the events that unfold throughout the play, as he is reduced from the initial valorous nobleman to a manic tyrant. Throughout the play we don’t actually get to witness Macbeth display many acts of goodness, but in the early scenes we hear a great deal about his greatness from others. As Macbeth’s character begins to develop, we are introduced to the man that has been named a hero. The play opens with, Macbeth as a loyal Thane of Glamis who has just proved his courage by leading Scottish troops to defeat the enemy, Norway who joined forces with the traitor, the Thane of Cawdor. A wounded captain returning from the battlefield reports to the king on the military deeds of the valiant Macbeth and his comrade Banquo, who have fought “as sparrows eagles, or the hare the lion” (I.ii.35). King Duncan decides to execute “the most disloyal traitor” the current Thane of Cawdor for his treachery, and to transfer his title and land to the new battle hero, “noble Macbeth” (I.ii.54 & 70). The King himself generously praises Macbeth, naming him a “noble” man, enhancing Macbeth’s image as a war hero by this claim coming from King Duncan, a figure of power. These descriptions of Macbeth emphasize the heroic or even epic quality in him, exhibiting that everyone including the King held a high opinion of him. The plays opening scene of thunder, lighting and the three witches speaking in riddling rhyme, establishes an agonizing sense of doom and depicts a world apart from the human world. It is not clear if these ambiguous creatures (the witches) are human or not. According to Janette Dillon, author of The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare’s Tragedies, “the first thing we see is the witches, which gives them a kind of prior reality. An audience is not in a position to doubt the external reality of figures who appear first in the play, before any character from whose mind they might otherwise have sprung is presented” (115). Although Shakespeare leaves their status unresolved, Banquo’s puzzlement upon his first encounter with the witches brings to attention their uncertain status:
What are these,
So wither’d and so wild in their attire,
That look not like th’ inhabitants o’ th’ earth
And yet are on’t? Live you? or are you aught
That man may question? (I.iii.39-43)
He questions what these creatures are and what planet they come from, judging them based on their withered and crazy attire. These three witches are also called the “weird sisters”, which in Old