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In the play by William Shakespeare ''Macbeth'' is it Macbeth who is to blame for King Duncan's Death?

Autor /Adalbert Dodano /11.11.2011

At the heart of William Shakespeare's ''Macbeth'' is an examination of the nature of evil and it's many faces and facets. The principal evil characters in the play, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, are both evil, but its manifestation is different in each.

Macbeth's evil is a dynamic character trait. He begins the play as a celebrated hero and courageous soldier, loyal to his friends and dedicated to his king, but is corrupted from the witches' prophecies. The veiled intimation of power given by the three witches ignites a secret ambition within Macbeth. Evil dawns within him, but at this early stage of his transformation Macbeth is ashamed of his evil urges. He says, "Stars, hide your fires;/ Let not light see my black and deep desires;/ The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be, / Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see." (I, IV, 50) Soon, however, Macbeth is overcome by his ambition and his fall begins.

He says, "I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only/ Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself/ and falls on the other." (I, vii, 25) As soon as the decision to murder Duncan is made, and until his death, Macbeth is a vessel relentlessly filling with evil. Lady Macbeth stokes the fire, but the blame for Duncan's murder rests partially on the shoulders of Macbeth. Macbeth may not have held the knives that killed Banquo or Macduff's family, but the aggression is his. This is because of the weakness of Macbeth's character and the strong power of Lady Macbeth and how she is easily able to influence him. Her strength motivates him at the start but after he realises what he has done it is himself that continues in his murderous, bloody path.

However Macbeth does appear to be bothered by guilty conscience because he is very hesitant at first about killing the King but his weak nature overcomes him. He has remorse throughout the entire play as he has hallucinations of the dagger and the ghost of Banquo. His vivid imagination and his constant worry also provoke him. This is also evident in his terrible dreams, which give the solid theme that he has indeed "murdered sleep".

Throughout the play we see the character of Macbeth changes not from just the way he thinks, but from the actions he takes in the play. The killing of Banquo, then Lady Macduff and her children, shows the insecurity that was present in Macbeth. After the murder of Duncan Macbeth becomes paranoid and his first step of killing the guards is one of many that Macbeth takes to secure himself. Macbeth is also very superstitious and this is shown when he believes the prophecy of the witches who also tell him that Banquo's offspring would become Kings.

Towards the end of the play when Macbeth's wife dies and the battle is drawing closer Macbeth shows some good. He wishes for a normal life for which he would have lived to a honourable age but he recognises that he has denied himself of this. Even when Macbeth hears that the prophecy has become true, of Birnam Wood coming to Dunsinane, he rejects this idea and fights on until he realises that Macduff wasn't born in a natural birth but instead was "Untimely ripped" from his mother's womb. When Macbeth hears of this he realises how he has been tricked by the witches, but he fights on only to be slain.

On the contrary Lady Macbeth seems to be almost opposite compared to that of Macbeth in physical and mental power.

Lady Macbeth does not descend into evil. She wallows in it. From the first moment the audience meets her, she has committed herself to evil. She longs to be even more evil, and tries to commune with unseen spirits to help her. She says, "Come, you spirits/ That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here./ And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full/ Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood;/ Stop up the access and passage to remorse, That no compunctious visitings of nature/ Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between/ The effect and it! come to my woman's breasts,/ And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,/ Whatever in your sightless substances/ You wait on nature's mischief! Come think night,/ And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,/ That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,/ Nor Heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,/ To cry 'Hold, hold!'" (I, v, 36) For all the sound and fury, Lady Macbeth's evil signifies nothing. She has no goal, which requires this sinisterness. When she learns of the witches' promise, Duncan is nothing to her but a suitable victim. She, just as her husband is to blame for the King's death, although lady Macbeth's true goal is not to gain the throne, as Macbeth.

Her motive is only to increase her personal perception of her power. It is interesting to note the importance of gender in the personifications of evil in Macbeth. Lady Macbeth is as obsessed with her gender as her evil. When she implores evil to "unsex" her, to take her "woman's breasts for gall" she reveals the sense of powerlessness and weakness she feels. Being a woman makes her dependant on her husband for her social standing.

She feels that her femaleness is the cause of the sympathy, compassion, and remorse that stand in the way of free action. She feels that her gender makes her physically weak. It is idle posturing when she assures Macbeth, "I have given suck, and know/ How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me;/ I would, while it was smiling in my face,/ have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums,/ And dashed the brains out" (I, vii, 54). This comment is purely a rejection of her womanly self, in favour of physical power. She is trying to convince herself, to believe that she can overcome her natural emotions. She urges Macbeth to kill Duncan for the same reason: to prove to herself that she possesses the cruelty to do it. However, it remains a struggle for her, as she admits after seeing murdered Duncan. She says, "Had he not resembled/ My father as he slept, I had done't." (II, ii, 13) In addition, the murder does not relieve her of her self-doubt and insecurity. The evil deed has not imparted the feelings of power she had expected.

This is what she means when she says, "Naught's had, all's spent,/ Where our desire is got without content." (III, ii, 4) Lady Macbeth does not seem to realize that her greatest advantage in evil is her womanly intelligence. She makes the plans and handles the emotional and mental consequences of the deed, where Macbeth is overcome. She goes to the extent of planning the murder of Duncan and assumes full responsibility of this. She exerts a lot of power over Macbeth in this part of the play and even calls him a "coward", which show just how determined she is and how much ambition she has for her husband. It is this confidence in herself and the persuasiveness on her words that make Macbeth act on her words almost without hesitation.

Over the course of the play Macbeth and Lady Macbeth greatly change with respect to their characters and their personalities. Although Macbeth is weak at first and it is the strong Lady Macbeth who helps him through the first murder. However in sacrifice to control Macbeth and his conscience she loses control of hers and in consequence turns insane and kills herself.

Who is to blame for King Duncan's death? I think, that Lady Macbeth is more to blame for his death, because if it was not for her, maybe preliminarily good and honest soldier Macbeth would never have courage to go on with the plan. She made the plans and handled the emotional and mental consequences of the deed, where Macbeth was overcome. Macbeth's evil is physical. Where Lady Macbeth schemes and waits, Macbeth rushes to violence. His evil is brutal and impatient. His weakness is his inability to control his mind, which ruins him and most of the characters in the play.

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