An Analysis of the Tragic Downfall of Macbeth in Macbeth, a Play by William Shakespeare
In William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the main character, Macbeth, is a brave and loyal subject to the King of Scotland, but as the play progresses, his character begins to change drastically. Evil and unnatural powers, as well as his own desire to become king, take over his better half and eventually lead to his downfall. Three main factors that intertwine with one another that contribute to Macbeth’s tragic end are the prophecies told by the three witches, Lady Macbeth’s influence, and finally, Macbeth’s excessive ambition which drove his desire to become king.
The prophecy told by the three witches was what triggers the other factors that contribute to Macbeth’s downfall. In the first act, Macbeth is told by the witches that he is to become the Thane of Cawdor and soon after, king. This prophecy arouses Macbeth’s curiosity of how he can become the King of Scotland.
“Stay, you imperfect speakers. Tell me more. By
Sinel’s death I kno I am Thane of Glamis. But how
of Cawdor? The Thane of Cawdor lives a prosperous
gentleman, and to be king stands not within the prospect
of belief.” (Act 1. sc.3)
This quote shows how the witches’ prophecy attracts Macbeth. It demonstrated how Macbeth thirsts for an answer from the witches of how is he to become the Thane of Cawdor and king. As the play continues, Macbeth slowly relies on the witches’ prophecies. It becomes a remedy for Macbeth’s curiosity which corrupts his character.
One of the witches’ prophecies becomes true when Macbeth is named the Thane of Cawdor by King Duncan. At this point, Macbeth seeks advice from his wife, Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth provides a scheme for Macbeth to assassinate the King. She is manipulative and persuasive in corrupting Macbeth’s judgement.
“What beast was’t then, that you break this enterprise
to me? When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And to be more than what you are, you would be so
much more the man¡K¡Khad I sworn as you have done
this.” (Act 1. Sc.7)
In this quote, Lady Macbeth is agitating Macbeth by saying he is not a man if he does not do what he says he is going to do, which is to murder the king. This angers Macbeth and enables him to follow Lady Macbeth’s scheme to kill the king and continue killing. Macbeth’s first murder is a trying experience for him. However, as the play progresses, killing seems to be the only solution to maintain his reign of the people of Scotland.
Macbeth becomes increasingly ambitious as the play goes on. The witches’ prophecies and Lady Macbeth’s influence intensifies his ambition and drives Macbeth to obtain and maintain his title of Scotland by whatever means, even murdering his best friend, Banquo.
“Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown…No
Son of mine succeeding… If ¡¥t be so, for Banquo’s
Issue have I filed my mind; For them the gracious
Duncan I have murdered…. to make them kings, the
Seeds of Banquo kings” (Act 3. sc.1)
At this point Macbeth’s becomes more and more extreme to the point where no one stands in his way. His greed, violence, and hunger for power declines his character.
The witches’ prophecy, Lady Macbeth’s influence, and Macbeth’s own ambition all contribute greatly to his deterioration of character which results in his downfall, which was death. All the causes link to one another. If it wasn’t for witches’ prophecies, Macbeth would still be his ordinary self. Because of these prophecies, Macbeth’s curiosity of possibly becoming king was brought out which led Lady Macbeth’s controlling influence.
Macbeth’s ambition then builds and causes him to commit a series of murders, one of which, include his own best friend. If one of these factors were missing, Macbeth would not have been strong enough to carry the motive to kill King Duncan, which ultimately leads to his destruction.