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Devin Dustman


March 15th 2016

Macbeth Essay

In most plays the protagonist has some flaw, often-times a flaw that need to be overcome so

that character can succeed in the plot, and oftentimes they do. Yet in other plays this destroys the main

character and leads to the victory of the antagonist. This is used by the author to express some deeper

meaning, to expose how these flaws can ruin people. In the play Macbeth the main character, Macbeth,

of course has a great deal of flaws, and these flaws are what eventually lead him to murder and

eventually lead to his own death. And the chief amongst these flaws that ruin him, is his ambition, but

despite this it is also clear that ambition alone could not have led to his bloody and gruesome fall from

grace, therefore there are other flaws in both his character, and factors in the setting around him that led

him to his first bloody action that set him on his path of destruction. One example of these external

factors, comes from the witches, who are what initially set the spark in his mind, that led him to kill the

king. But some argue that one of these single external factors, such as the earlier stated witches , were

entirely to blame for his downfall, this to me is preposterous, as Shakespeare makes it clear that if in a

single one of these factors existed in a vacuum, none of the later major events would have occurred.

And others still argue that the Macbeth’s eventual moral degradation and death were all caused by fate,

which is a constant presence in the book, though this too is not consistent with the book, as fate is

represented as something malleable, not something simply set in stone.

Any reader of Macbeth, would quickly notice two major attributes of Macbeth, impatience and

ambition, and the latter, in combination with impatience, was certainly what set him on his descent to

destruction, but it was not his ambition alone that led to this, it was working in tandem with the neutral

if not malevolent forces surrounding him. This is shown time and time again, throughout the book, but it
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was stated most clearly by Macbeth himself , as he discusses the idea of murdering the king, when he

states “Upon the sightless couriers of the air, / Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye, / That tears shall

drown the wind. I have no spur / to prick the sides of my intent, but only / vaulting ambition, which

o’erleaps itself / and falls on th’ other”(1.7.23-25). This statement, quite directly, is telling the reader

that he needs a spur to make it to the point of murder, a spur that without, he would be trapped in

inaction. And a spur that manifests itself as many things, including both his wife, and his very own

aptitude towards impatience, but more importantly he brings up his ambition, which seems to be the

very base of his desire to murder and gain more power, money, and notoriety. Another important insight

into Macbeth’s influences comes from a letter from Macbeth, directed to his loving wife, where he

discusses the great glory that will soon befall him: “’Hail, king that shalt be!’ This have I thought good to

deliver thee, my dearest partner of greatness, that thou might’st not lose the dues of rejoicing, by being

ignorant of what greatness is promised thee. Lay it to thy heart, and farewell’” (1.5.9-14). This snippet

has this immensely powerful air of gloating around it, a gloating that could only come from this

newfound ambition towards becoming king. And this is made clear simply by the language of this quote,

‘dearest partner of greatness’, is just reveling in the position he may soon occupy, and this reveling is

what later turns both Macbeth and his wife towards the murder. But this also shows the importance of

the witches, and the extreme influence that they had over him, and it shows the need for the witches in

this book, as without them it is unlikely they would have ever been able to so inspire his ambition.

But despite this, some people still think that the causes of Macbeth’s fate lie elsewhere, and

most often the place they point to is these earlier stated external factors, who they often times lay the

entirety of the blame on, though this of course is not the most logical line of thinking, as any of these

things alone could not push an honorable man, as Macbeth once was, to the point of murder. A

wonderful ruse for Macbeth throughout some of the early chapters of the book is Banquo, a man, who

of course continues to live a life that is not burdened of the heavy guilt of murder, and one of the

strongest arguments against this idea of one of the external factors, the witch, comes from this fact, that
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Banquo received similar prophesies but did not act: “ You greet with present grace and great prediction /

Of noble having and of royal hope, / That he seems rapt withal. To me you speak not. / If you can look

into the seeds of time / And say which grain will grow and which will not, / Speak, then, to me, who

neither beg nor fear / Your favors nor your hate”(1.3.56-62). This statement right here comes from a

Banquo, who sees the ambition in his partners eyes, and decides that he also desires prophesies, and

when he receives said prophesies he continues in his travels, and continues to respect Macbeth as a

leader and as a fellow commander. And this lack of action shows the fact that the witches did not alone

cause this, as if they did, Banquo along with everyone else who heard this murderous prophesy would

follow suit, which of course Banquo did not. Another external factor that is oft sighted alone is

Macbeth’s wife, who encourages him to murder to take his place on the throne, but this too has many

flaws, because if Lady Macbeth alone had the power to cause Macbeth to murder, then why did she get

left out, later in the book when Macbeth started killing on his own? This eventual independence on the

part of Macbeth is developed very nicely late In the book, when the Macbeth tells lady Macbeth to give

Banquo special treatment at the dinner table, when he of course had just planned out the murder of his

“beloved” guest :” Apply to Banquo; present him eminence, / Both with eye and tongue : unsafe the

while that we / Must lave our honors in these flattering streams, / And make our faces vizards to our

hearts, / Disguising what they are”(3.2.33-36). And of course, if Macbeth could plan a murder on his

own, even going so far as to lie to her, directly trying to manipulate her, shows the fact that Lady

Macbeth does not command nearly enough control over Macbeth, to lead to his downfall and eventual

murders totally on her own.

And others still claim that the powerful force of fate, which acts as a subject in many parts of the

book, is what led to the downfall of Macbeth, though this as well is very flawed, because fate is shown in

this book to be alterable, if it even exists at all. This point is shown very well by a statement made by the

Captain early in the book when he described fortune as “on his damned quarrel smiling, / Showed like a

rebel’s whor. But all’s too weak / For brave Macbeth – well he deserves that name -/ Disdaining fortune,
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with his brandished steel, / Which smoked with bloody execution, / Like valor’s minion carved out his

path” (1.2.15-20). The captain, is quite clearly stating that Macbeth was really and truly, defeating

fortune, beating it to the point of submission, and even though it was turned against him, he still won

the battle on sheer force of will, nothing less. And this fact, that Macbeth could beat something as

powerful and transient as fortune, shows that it is malleable, and this means that it can by no means be

at fault for his position, and that means the fault must therefore fall on others. Another example of

fortunes lack of power over Macbeth, comes from Hecate and the witches meeting on the gates of hell,

here they decide on how they will alter his future ,”Tither he / Will come to know his destiny./ Your

vessels and your spells provide, / Your charms and everything beside. / I am for the air. This night I’ll

spend / Unto a dismal and a fatal end”(3.5.16-21). This once again shows entity’s altering fate, an

alteration that clearly takes the power out of fates hands, as it seems their magic has the ability to

overcome this great earthy power. And, of couse if anyone in the play can alter fate, for or against

Macbeth, the fault of his destruction lies more in their hands, then the hands of fate or fortune.

The play Macbeth by William Shakespeare, provides many great examples of fatal flaws yet, the

largest fatal flaw of the protagonist, Macbeth, is much disputed, but it is clear, that the main things that

led to his downfall come in as both Macbeth’s extreme ambition, and the many factors that helped his

ambition manifest itself in the murder of the good King Duncan and Banquo. This is shown by the many

statements about how Macbeth requires a spur of some kind to follow through with these evil deeds.

Though, many people do say that his downfall was caused only by one of these external factors, i.e. the

witches or Lady Macbeth, yet this is supported by so little, as they alone do not have the sway over

Macbeth to lead him to do something so contrary to his nature. This was shown mostly by Macbeth,

who when given many of the same opportunities as Macbeth, did not act in such a despicable way. And

others still make the argument that fate alone was responsible for Macbeth’s eventual destruction,

though this is also not fully supported by the evidence in the book, as fate was shown time and time

again to be a malleable resource, not an un-editable force. This was shown by the way that fate was
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displayed both at the start of the book, as Macbeth won a battle against fate, and the way that the

witches and Hecate showed their ability to control this ethereal force

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