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Macbeth – Evil Tyrant or Man of Conscience? Essay

In my opinion, Macbeth is presented as an evil tyrant in the Freeston version. We can see this through both his appearance – dark clothes, scruffy hair and focused eyes – and his expression – how he appears wracked by conscience as he kills Duncan and looks confused and worried after it.

The scene that makes me think of Macbeth as totally evil most is at the dinner table when everyone is there, including Duncan himself, and Macbeth studies him hard, as Duncan laughs with warmth, and speaks in his mind about what he will do to this kind and loving man:

“I have no spur to prick the sides of my intents, but only vaulting ambition”. Freeston purposely makes Macbeth think about his mind at the table, where Duncan and Lady Macbeth are, to gain our contempt for him and to show the audience how ruthless he can be!

However, although he seems evil at certain points in this version, Freeston does add scenes in to make us feel pity for Macbeth too, for example, before Macbeth kills Duncan, Freeston inserted a scene where he goes into a Church, which is lit dimly with few candles, and he starts walking towards a cross. But the dagger appears and Macbeth, once again, speaks his thoughts in his mind. However, this time, we feel sorry for Macbeth as he trembles slowly and whispers, as if he’s scared, what he’s thinking, but in his head. Macbeth looks worried and confused here and we can see the fear his is feeling. Another effect Freeston has added is thunder in the background as Macbeth talks. This gained my pity as it symbolises his madness and gave me a sense of foreboding.

The end of the video appealed to me very much as Freeston added in Lady Macbeth’s voice saying “High thee hither” as Macbeth died. This could symbolise that the blame is hers and none of this would have happened without her.

In conclusion, I feel that Macbeth is portrayed largely an evil man in the Freeston version. Jason Connery, who played Macbeth, acts as a cold and calculating character who is obsessed with murder and shows little guilt.

Section one

Many people think that it’s all Macbeth’s fault that Duncan was killed. After all, he did commit the deed and he was the one who had the murderous thoughts in his head in the first place.

But we have to think about it and realise that there are other factors too – it wasn’t just Macbeth’s fault. Its not just simply a matter of him deciding to kill Duncan on his own.

It was Macbeth’s ambition to become king and he’s worked hard to get where he was at the start of the play. We know he feels bad for having these thoughts in his head, “…shall blow the horrid dead in every eye…” He knows that if you feed poison to someone, eventually it will come back to you.

But, if it hadn’t have been for the witches’ prophecies in the first place, would Macbeth still have ended up in this mess?? If it hadn’t have been for Lady Macbeth’s influence on telling Macbeth to get on with it, calling him a ‘coward’ if he didn’t, would Macbeth still have been so cold and evil??

Lady Macbeth plays a very big part in the influence of killing Duncan. Macbeth only had thoughts in his head about it – he wasn’t actually planning on doing anything about them! Which is where Lady Macbeth came into it. She forced and pushed Macbeth to act upon these murderous thoughts, by torturing and blackmailing him into it: “Wouldst thou have that which thou esteem’st the ornament of life, and live a coward in thine own esteem?” (Act 2 Scene 7). She wouldn’t take no for an answer and made Macbeth feel guilty when he had second thoughts about it, i.e. when Macbeth says “he hath honoured me of late, and I have brought golden opinions from all sorts of people…” meaning he has given a lot to Macbeth and he wont kill such a nice, innocent man, with which Lady Macbeth replies, “Was the hope drunk wherein you dressed yourself?” (In other words, ‘where’s your sense of ambition??’)

And, later, we can see that Lady Macbeth’s words and blackmails work because, for the first time, (In Act 2 Scene 2), Macbeth stops pondering and takes action!

I think that most people would blame this on Lady Macbeth because we know, from Macbeth’s several soliloquies, that he never planned on doing any of this and he thinks it’s wrong. However, he doesn’t want to let Lady Macbeth down and the audience feels that he’s scared of telling her how he really feels and that he doesn’t want to kill Duncan because he’d feel stupid because she’s determined he’ll become king. But if he had of been brave enough, he should have stood up for himself!

“Hie thee hither, that I may pour my spirits in thine ear, and chastise with the valour of my tongue all that impedes thee from the golden round which fate and metaphysical aid doth have thee drowned”. Shakespeare makes this speech a very evil and strong one as she is telling Macbeth that she will stop anyone or anything that comes in the way of him achieving this ambition to become king.

However, it wasn’t just Lady Macbeth who influenced Macbeth into murdering Duncan. The witches also played a big part in it. In fact, they were the ones who started it all in the first place by telling Macbeth, “All hail Macbeth, that shall be king hereafter.” This is the one thing that caused Macbeth to have murderous thoughts, and eventually lead to the deaths of many innocent characters including Duncan, Banquo and Lady Macbeth.

At first, he didn’t know what to think of the witches prophecy but when he was made ‘Thane of Cawdor’, Macbeth started to believe it and by the end of the play, he completely trusted their prophecies.

It could also be because of the witches that Macbeth saw supernatural images, at ironic times, of a dagger when he was about to kill Duncan; and of a ghost of Banquo just after he’d murdered him. Macbeth may have taken these as a sign to keep on going which is how, we believe, he turned from a brave hero to the cold, ruthless character he is now. The alternative is that these images are a product of Macbeth’s over-active mind.

Section two

Before the murder, Macbeth struggled with the decision of whether or not to commit the deed. Shakespeare uses soliloquies in the play to give the audience a true vibe on what Macbeth is really feeling, and from these we can tell that he wasn’t sure about killing Duncan.

“But in these cases, we will have judgement here, that we but teach bloody instructions, which being taught to plague th’inventor.” Here, Macbeth is saying that he doesn’t want to set a bad example to those ho want to become kings in the far future – in other words, he’s afraid that someone might do this to him, when, or if, he does become king. This makes the audience think of him as cold and selfish.

In the first soliloquy, before the murder, Macbeth sees an image of a dagger; “Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand? Come let me clutch thee.” Macbeth takes the dagger, and the fact that it was pointing towards Duncan’s bedroom, as a sign that he should kill him.

Macbeth’s state of mind at this point in the play is tired and therefore causing these hallucinations and bad dreams. “The curtained sleep; witchcraft celebrates Pale Hecate’s offerings; and withered murder,” indicates this in Act 2 Scene 2. Macbeth goes on to say that the natural world has been turned upside down and there is no peace or order anymore. This speech evokes the audience’s pity because his mind is playing havoc with him – he’s being troubled by the nature of conscience but it also makes us realise what an unnatural evil deed Macbeth has done in killing the king. This robs us of our pity for him!

However, as soon as Duncan has been killed, Macbeth experiences a huge downfall in his life and he has o keep killing to stay in his position.

“Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash away this blood clean from my hand?” – Here, Macbeth says that he knows not even the ocean’s water can clear the guilt off his bloody hands. Macbeth is fearful and regretful, and because of this, he has hallucinations of seeing Banquo covered in blood at the dinner table and of sleeping no more, as in Act 2 Scene 2 where he says, “Me thought I heard a voice cry ‘sleep no more!’ Macbeth does murder sleep, the innocent sleep…” In the play, Shakespeare uses sleep as a necessary healer, which is not allowed to those with a guilty conscience – Macbeth knows that he will never be able to rest in peace again as he has sinned. The imagery of sleep symbolises Macbeth’s peace of mind.

Macbeth also has obsessions with his own death and his citizens think of Scotland as ‘diseased’ ever since Macbeth has ruled. In Act 5 Scene 2, Caithness says, “He cannot buckle his dis-tempered cause within the belt of rule”. He means here that Scotland is diseased because of Macbeth and in order to cure it, they need to win this battle!

SECTION three

Macbeth feels huge guilt after killing Duncan, but if he’s so regretful, then why does he continue to kill?

After Duncan’s murder, Macbeth realises that he cannot stop now – he’s done this to achieve his ambition and if that means killing more innocent people, the so be it! After all, he’s only doing it to become king, and he wont let anything stand in the way of his kingship, for in Act 3 he says, “By the worst means, the worst, for mine own good, all causes shall give way.” He will destroy all obstacles in the way!

He also says, “I am in blood stepped so far, that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er.” In this speech, Macbeth states that he’s in a sea of blood, and now that he’s got so far, its stupid to stop – because he will soon get caught, and he knows that even if he does stop, God will never forgive him for what he has done – so he’s going to keep on committing murder. This makes the audience think that he’s cold and calculating – he could easily give up now and confess – but he’s committing himself to evil instead.

However, it’s not all Macbeth’s fault that he’s turned from brave warrior to evil tyrant, or is it? Many people would blame the witches for casting a spell upon him, which they knew, would destroy him. They wanted to manipulate Macbeth because of his over-confidence, so maybe it wasn’t his entire fault.

But, because of this, Macbeth has lost his own self-respect and dignity and now has nothing to look forward to in life. Basically, he’s become committed to evil for no reason, as we know he’s not happy just being king – “To be thus is nothing, but to be safety thus”, which means that being king is not enough for him – he wants to feel safe and secure too!

Macbeth is perceived, as well as a man of conscience, a ‘ruthless and calculating’ character in the audience’s point of view. He says in Act 4 Scene 1, “And even now, to drown my thoughts with acts, be it thought and done”, meaning as soon as he thinks something from now on, he will act it out – he wont wait. The audience’s response to this is unsympathetic and we see Macbeth as cowardly and selfish at this point.

Macbeth appears to be a ruthless tyrant by the audience at times, but sometimes our response is more complex. We condemn him for what he has done to so many innocent people but yet we still feel sorry for him – as ever since Duncan’s death, he has fallen to pieces.

Section four

The events of the play make Macbeth think that there is no beauty or dignity in life anymore. He has caused so much trouble by murdering many innocent people for nothing but his own security. He thought that being king would provide him with the life that he’s always dreamt of-it would make him happy. But how wrong he was….

Macbeth experiences a mixture of feelings throughout the whole play including ambition, violence, guilt, repression, insanity and despair of others. However, his mind is in such a mental state at the end of the play that he can no longer think right and his people are turning against him. All he’s concerned about is winning this battle but even then his people still would not like him.

But despite all this, he still gains the audience’s sympathy at the end…..but why? In Act 5 Scene 5, Macbeth says “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time:..life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player…..” Here, Macbeth says that life is like an actor in a play – it’s the same routine every day and, for Macbeth, that routine consists of murder, horror and hatred from the people and his soldiers. This speech increases the audience’s pity because we can tell that Macbeth knows his life is pathetic and he feels guilt for everything. We can see that, even though he’s warrior on the outside, he’s still a broken man.

Macbeth says that violence no longer disturbs him because he’s experienced so much of it in Act 5 Scene 5. he is afraid of nothing anymore – “I have supped full horrors; direness, familiar to my slaughterous thoughts cannot once start me.” He says that if he was still the same person as he used to be at the start of the play, he would have been so scared that’s every hair on his body would stick up, but now, he’s fearless of everything and anything – he’s even forgotten what it feels like to be scared.

Macbeth knows that the only thing for him to do now is fight no matter what. He needs to win this battle in order to become anything. He doesn’t care if his people hate him or if he’s diseasing Scotland – he’s determined to win! If he loses, that’s it. He will have lost that was ever worth living for – “Blow mind, come wrack, at least we’ll die with harness on our back” – this is a big challenge for Macbeth. And, from the audience’s point of view, think that many of us would have liked Macbeth to win because he’s gone through so much and he used to be such a good person that maybe if he did win, he’s go back to being that same person he was at the start of the play?

The prophecies are the only thing that keeps Macbeth going, but in Act 5 Scene 6, he begins to realise that the prophecies are a deception and he can no longer hold onto them.

Macbeth compares himself to a bear tied and trapped in a cage when he says in Act 5 Scene 7, “I cannot fly, but bear-like I must fight the course…such a one am I to fear, or none.” The audience’s pity increases here as we feel sorry for him and the play builds up to a climax.

In the end, Macduff beats the prophecy as he fights Macbeth. The witches (described as ‘juggling friends’ in Macbeth’s eyes towards the end) have dominated Macbeth’s true manhood and he knows that he’s changed a lot in character but he still fights to the end even though he feels defeated…

Conclusion

Macbeth is no straightforward character in the play. He’s a complex character who is very difficult to define as the audience’s pity increases and decreases at so many points throughout the play. This is because some of us may believe that Macbeth’s fatal flaw was his superstition or his desire to be king and that’s what made him turn from brave warrior to evil tyrant in such a short period of time. However, we wonder how such an ambition can cause him to do so much harm!

Shakespeare makes Macbeth a complicated character on purpose – he wants to see the audience’s reaction to him.

We condemn Macbeth for what he did to so many innocent people throughout the play, but yet we sill feel sympathy for him because he used to be such a good man. And in my opinion, he still is – he died a brave warrior in my eyes.

I feel sorry for Macbeth, like most of the audience would – I don’t blame him really for any of this. He’s a good man deep down inside of him: “If thy speech be sooth, I care not if thou dost for me as much.” This quotation, from Act shows us how he cannot be bothered – he doesn’t care if he dies. And, as he loses confidence in himself, the speech intensifies our sympathy for him.

Most people would agree with me when I say that the persuasion of Lady Macbeth and the witches’ prophecies led Macbeth to actually commit the murder. Without the witches, Macbeth wouldn’t have had any of these murderous thoughts in his head in the first place and if it hadn’t been for Lady Macbeth’s evil blackmail – “..have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums and dashed out the brains, had a so sworn as you have done to this..” – Macbeth wouldn’t have killed Duncan.

If Macbeth had been brave enough, he would have spoken up about how he felt to Lady Macbeth, which is why I think that it had more to do with her than the witches.

However, throughout the play, Macbeth went through a numerous amount of feelings which sometimes made us hate him, because of the way he made it clear that he was innocent and anyone who thought otherwise, was wrong, when we, the audience, knew that it was him all along and that he was evil – “Thou canst not say I did it: never shake thy gory looks at me” – but at other times, we felt deep pity for him – “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player.”

In my final opinion, I don’t think anyone has a straightforward view on Macbeth because he’s such an impossible character to understand.

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