Throughout the play, many opinions are expressed about Macbeth. At the start Shakespeare engages the audience’s sympathy for him by revealing the positive way in which Macbeth the character is perceived by others. Macbeth is deeply lauded and very highly thought of by King Duncan but the way in which we see Macbeth start to change when Duncan is murdered. Malcolm calls Macbeth a butcher; someone who kills without a conscience and without a reason. He also describes Lady Macbeth as a “fiend like queen” which means one with only evil in her character.
Neither Macbeth nor Lady Macbeth fit these descriptions. These descriptions are too simplistic but both characters are more complex. At the beginning of the play Macbeth was not regarded as a butcher. He killed many enemies in the war but not one in cold blood and was a highly regarded kinsman and Thane. “For brave Macbeth, well he deserves that name,” showing us just what a good man Macbeth was. In the war against Norway, Macbeth presented himself as “noble Macbeth”, “brave Macbeth” and “valiant cousin” to King Duncan. Clearly at this point, Macbeth was not a butcher.
After the murder of Duncan some of the audience at this point would agree and regard Macbeth as a butcher but Macbeth had a reason for this murders. He did not kill without any reason like a butcher would. Macbeth also suffered from his conscience and persuaded himself not to kill Duncan, but his wife (Lady Macbeth) and his ambition over drove this. However, Macbeth still suffered from his conscience as he said, “Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle towards my hand? ” Would a butcher have such doubt? After Duncan was dead, Macbeth felt remorse. Wake Duncan with thy knocking, I would thou couldst. ” Obviously Macbeth had regrets about what he had done. Would a butcher have regrets? He was clearly doing something that was alien to his nature. Evidence suggests that Macbeth was written by command as one of the plays to be given before King James I and the King of Denmark during the latter’s notable visit to England in the summer of 1606 at Hampton Court. Shakespeare’s company were the King’s Players, and it would be natural for them to be commanded to produce a story of Scottish history touching on the ancestry of their patron.
It was a very suitable play to perform before James 1 as before becoming king of England in 1603 in succession to Elizabeth 1, James had ruled in Scotland as James v1 – he would, therefore, have enjoyed watching a play with a Scottish theme. Like James 1, members of the first audiences who watched ‘Macbeth’ in performance either at Hampton Court or at the Globe playhouse, would have found the play fascinating. The discovery of the Gunpowder plot in November 1605 created an atmosphere of terror which lasted for several months and raised concern about the safety of the king.
Regicide is a central theme of ‘Macbeth’; a good king is murdered, an action which would have been seen by contemporary audiences who believed in the Divine Right of kings as an act of sacrilegious violation. 17th century audiences also believed in the evil power of witches and would have found Lady Macbeth’s invocation to the ‘powers of darkness’ utterly revolting. At the beginning of the play Shakespeare introduces us to the war that has broke out between the Scottish and the Norwegians. Macbeth and Banquo are leading the Scottish army out on the front line fighting for king and country.
At a camp near Forres, Duncan, King of Scotland, greets his sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, along with Lennox, a Scottish thane, or lord. The three men bring in a bleeding captain who has news of the war with Norway. The captain tells the king that Macbeth was fighting honorably against the Norwegian invaders last he saw. They also tell the king that the Thane of Cawdor turned traitor and sided with Norway during the battle. When Duncan hears that his army has defeated the Norwegians he praises “noble” Macbeth. Macbeth is seen as a strong soldier who is loyal and courageous, a truly heroic figure.
To Duncan he was the “worthiest cousin” to the wounded sergeant “Valour’s minion” to Banquo, “My noble partner”. King Duncan cannot reward him enough for all he has done. “More is thy due than more than all can pay. ” We also see how brave Macbeth is as it has said that, “Till he cut him from the nave to the chaps,” showing us just how brave he is. It is also butcher like but as now in a good way. This scene is very important as we get to see opinions of Macbeth from the other characters, and all the high praise leave a deep impression of respect and admiration on the audience.
Macbeth and Banquo, on their way to the king’s court at Forres, come upon the witches and shrink in horror at the sight of the old women who don’t seem to be “inhabitants o’ th’ earth. ” Banquo wonders whether they are really women, since they seem to have beards like men. The witches hail Macbeth as thane of Glamis (his original title) and as thane of Cawdor. Macbeth is baffled by this second title, as he has not yet heard of King Duncan’s decision. The witches also declare that Macbeth will be king one day.
Stunned and intrigued, Macbeth presses the witches for more information, but they have turned their attention to Banquo, speaking in yet more riddles. They call Banquo “lesser than Macbeth, and greater,” and “not so happy, yet much happier”; then they tell him that he will never be king but that his children will sit upon the throne. Macbeth implores the witches to explain what they meant by calling him thane of Cawdor, but they vanish into thin air. Macbeth is bewildered and wants to find out more, “Stay you imperfect speakers, tell me more. “Speak, I charge you. ” Macbeth is very eager to learn more and is intrigued by what the witches have told him. “Your children shall be kings,” he says to Banquo and Banquo replies “You shall be king”. Ross and Angus arrives to tell Macbeth that the king has made him thane of Cawdor as the former thane is to be executed for treason. Macbeth is amazed that some of the witches’ prophecy has come true and asks Banquo does he hope his sons will be kings but Banquo says that devils often tell half-truths in order to “win us to our harm”.
Macbeth ignores this comment and speaks to himself, ruminating upon the possibility that he might one day be king. At this stage he has no intensions of killing Duncan, “If chance will have we king then chance will crown me without my stir. ” Meaning that if it is meant to be it will be without any effort from him, so Macbeth would definitely not have been thought of as a Butcher at this point in the play. The moment Lady Macbeth receives the letter from her husband, she begins plotting the death of the current king, Duncan.
This then leads to Lady Macbeth provoking Macbeth to gain the power, influence and status of king and queen. Lady Macbeth believes that Macbeth is too soft, which can be seen by the use of the metaphor, “too full of the milk of human kindness”. Also she says that what thou art promis’d, yet do I fear thy nature which shows us that she thinks that murder is not in his nature and because of his softness, she finds that she has to provoke him into agreeing on the murder of Duncan through manipulation. She does this by cajoling, by scorning him and by looking down upon his manhood.
However, in a way, this is not that difficult a task since Macbeth himself wants the position of king deep down inside. His ambition can be seen in the use of the aside when Duncan names Malcolm Prince of Cumberland. This shows his determination and the audience can see that Lady Macbeth has somewhat underestimated her husband. Duncan then comes to stay for a weekend at Macbeth’s castle, to celebrate him becoming Thane of Cawdor. A messenger enters and informs Lady Macbeth that the king rides toward the castle, and that Macbeth is on his way as well.
As she awaits her husband’s arrival, she delivers a famous speech in which she begs, “You spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty. She resolves to put her natural femininity aside so that she can do the bloody deeds necessary to seize the crown. Macbeth enters, and he and his wife discuss the king’s forthcoming visit. Macbeth tells his wife that Duncan plans to depart the next day, but Lady Macbeth declares that the king will never see tomorrow. She tells Macbeth to have patience and to leave the plan to her.
This shows the strong Character of Lady Macbeth and how she takes charge in the murder of Duncan. Lady Macbeth seems to be used to taking charge of her husband and is used to getting her own way. Duncan arrives outside Macbeth’s castle and the castle’s pleasant environment. Inside the castle, as the evening feast is being prepared, Macbeth ponders over the idea of assassinating Duncan but know that bloody actions “return, to plague th’inventor”. Macbeth at this point is very weary of the idea of killing Duncan and deep down he does not want to do it.
This shows us that Macbeth is not a Butcher at this stage as he has decided by himself that he does not want to murder Duncan. He then tells Lady Macbeth that he is calling the plan off. Lady Macbeth does not take kindly to the suggestion and starts to call him a coward and questions his manhood which no man likes: “When you durst do it,” she says, “then you were a man. ” Macbeth still has doubts and asks her what will happen if they fail; she promises that as long as they are bold, they will be successful. Then she tells him her plan: while Duncan sleeps, she will give his hamberlains wine to make them drunk, and then she and Macbeth can slip in and murder Duncan. They will smear the blood of Duncan on the sleeping chamberlains to cast the guilt upon them. He then agrees to proceed with the murder but he knows what he is going to do is wrong and he recognizes that there will surely be consequences. As we have seen, his soliloquy reveals his awareness that he may be initiating a cycle of violence that will eventually destroy him. Macbeth is not a good man at this point in the play, but he is not yet an evil one—he is tempted, and he tries to resist temptation.
Macbeth’s resistance, however, is not vigorous enough to stand up to his wife’s ability to manipulate him. At this point in the play we as the audience feel sorry for Macbeth as he does not want to kill Duncan but is being bullied into it by his wife. Night falls and Duncan has turned himself in for the night. In the darkened hall, Macbeth has a vision of a dagger floating in the air before him, its handle pointing toward his hand and its tip aiming him toward Duncan “Is this a dagger I see before me? ”. Macbeth tries to grasp the weapon and fails.
He wonders whether what he sees is real or a “dagger of the mind, a false creation, Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain”. Continuing to gaze upon the dagger, he thinks he sees blood on the blade, then abruptly decides that the vision is just a manifestation of his unease over killing Duncan. The night around him seems thick with horror and witchcraft, but Macbeth stiffens and resolves to do his bloody work. A bell tolls, Lady Macbeth’s signal that the chamberlains are asleep, and Macbeth strides toward Duncan’s chamber.
Once Macbeth has murdered Duncan he thinks that someone has heard him commit the crime, “I have done the deed, didst thou not hear a noise? ” Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth she heard nothing, she is comforting him by reassuring him that no one heard a thing, ” I heard the owl scream and the crickets cry. Did not you speak? ” He adds that as he killed the king, he thought he heard a voice cry out: “Sleep no more, / Macbeth does murder sleep” Macbeth feels guilty for what he has done to Duncan, he looks down on himself, looking at his hands “This is a sorry sight. ” which shows us that he regrets what he has done.
The enormity of Macbeth’s crime has awakened in him a powerful sense of guilt that will hound him throughout the play. Blood, specifically Duncan’s blood, serves as the symbol of that guilt, and Macbeth’s sense that “all great Neptune’s ocean” cannot cleanse him—that there is enough blood on his hands to turn the entire sea red—will stay with him until his death. Lady Macbeth’s response to this speech will be her prosaic remark, “A little water clears us of this deed”. By the end of the play, however, she will share Macbeth’s sense that Duncan’s murder has irreparably stained them with blood.
Lady Macbeth at first tries to steady her husband, but she becomes angry when she notices that he has forgotten to leave the daggers with the sleeping chamberlains so as to frame them for Duncan’s murder. He refuses to go back into the room, so she takes the daggers into the room herself, Calling him cowardly saying, “My hands are of your colour, but I shame to wear a heart so white,” meaning that she has committed the same crime but would be ashamed to be as weak as him. Now we have a lot of mixed reviews about whether Macbeth is a butcher or not.
In my opinion I do not believe Macbeth is a butcher as he was bullied in to killing Duncan and it wasn’t what he wanted. Macduff and lennox come to see the king and so Macbeth says that Duncan is still asleep. He offers to take Macduff to the king. With a cry of “O horror, horror, horror! ” Macduff comes running from the room, shouting that the king has been murdered. Macbeth and Lennox rush in to look, while Lady Macbeth appears and expresses her horror that such a deed could be done under her roof. As Macbeth and Lennox emerge from the bedroom, Malcolm and Donalbain arrive on the scene.
They are told that their father has been killed, most likely by his chamberlains, who were found with bloody daggers. Macbeth declares that in his rage he kills the chamberlains. Macbeth kills the chamberlains to cover his tracks and even though Lady Macbeth drugged them so that they wouldn’t remember anything Macbeth doesn’t want to take any risks as there is a lot at stake. To justify what he has done, Macbeth delivers a speech to everybody on how he did it because of his passionate love for Duncan, and he didn’t stop to think.
Macbeth’s speech sounded too well prepared, doesn’t sound convincing, too well thought out and controlled for someone who has suffered shock. Also for the first time in the play we see a weakness from Lady Macbeth as she faints. Duncan’s sons resolve to flee the court as they thought that now they were not safe. Malcolm declares that he will go south to England, and Donalbain will hasten to Ireland. Most of the audience at this point would say that Macbeth is definitely a Butcher but I still don’t think that he deserves the title “Butcher” as he had a reason for killing the chamberlains as he panicked and ould not take any risks of being caught. Macbeth has called upon two murderes to see him and as they are being fetched Macbeth begins a soliloquy. He muses on the subject of Banquo, reflecting that his old friend is the only man in Scotland whom he fears. He notes that if the witches’ prophecy is true, his will be a “fruitless crown,” by which he means that he will not have an heir. Macbeth wants to murder Banquo and is organising it by himself which is a turning point in the play as Macbeth can now organise and preserver with a murder without Lady Macbeth having to talk him into it.
Macbeth manipulates the two murderers into killing Banquo, so the tables have turned as before it was Lady Macbeth bullying Macbeth into murdering and now it’s the other way round. He asks them to kill Banquo and Fleance. Macbeth then tells his wife that he has planned “a deed of dreadful note” for Banquo and Fleance and urges her to be jovial and kind to Banquo during the evening’s feast, in order to lure their next victim into a false sense of security. At this stage we can see that the tables have turned. Macbeth is now organising the murder where as earlier Lady Macbeth was the one who had planned it.
At dinner, Macbeth proposes a toast to Banquo, our friend, who has probably just got held up but knows that by this stage Macbeth is probably dead. This shows us how cruel Macbeth has become and power has gone to his head. It is dusk, and the two murderers, now joined by a third, linger in a wooded park outside the palace. Banquo and Fleance approach on their horses and dismount. They light a torch, and the murderers set upon them. The murderers kill Banquo, who dies urging his son to flee and to avenge his death. One of the murderers extinguishes the torch, and in the darkness Fleance escapes.
The murderers leave with Banquo’s body to find Macbeth and tell him what has happened. “There the grown serpent lies; the worm that’s fled Hath nature that in time will venom breed, No teeth for th’present”. Macbeth tries not to let the news of Fleance escaping get to him. As Macbeth enters to sit down at dinner, he sees Banquo in his place. It is obviously a ghost as he is dead but Macbeth can not see this. “Thou canst not say I did it; never shake thy glory locks at me”. This shows us what his guilt has driven him to.
Lady Macbeth tries to bring him to his senses, “This is the very painting of your fear,” but does not succeed. Then Macbeth tries to kill the ghost but can’t. “Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves shall never tremble. Lady Macbeth tells everybody to leave before he implicates himself any further. From this act we can see Macbeth’s weakness and his guilt get the better of him. From this act we can also see some regret of the first killing as he says, “Whom we to gain our peace, have sent to peace, than of the torture of the mind to lie in restless ecstasy.
Duncan’s in his grave after life’s fitful fever, he sleeps well”. Shows us that he envies peace where he once envied his crown. Yet still at this point I don’t believe that Macbeth is a dead Butcher for Banquo, he only killed him out of the fear he had. “Our fears in Banquo stick deep. ” The ghost of Banquo has also shown that Macbeth had a conscience. Would a butcher have a conscience? Macbeth returns to the witches to ask them to reveal the truth of their prophecies to him. To answer his questions, they summon horrible apparitions, each of which offers a prediction to allay Macbeth’s fears.
Lennox enters and tells Macbeth that Macduff has fled to England. Macbeth resolves to send murderers to capture Macduff’s castle and to kill Macduff’s wife and children. This is ironic as at the start Macbeth came across the witches without wanting to and he has gone to them on his own free will. At this point in the play Macbeth becomes ruthless and demands Macduff’s family to be killed. Now I believe that Macbeth is indeed a Dead Butcher as not only is he killing Macduff’s family for no logical reason but has gone back to the witches who have caused nothing but trouble on his own will.
Ross comes over from Scotland to tell Macduff that Macbeth has murdered his wife and children. Macduff is crushed with grief and Malcolm urges him to turn his grief to anger. Macduff assures him that he will inflict revenge upon Macbeth. This is the point where I now believe that Macbeth is a dead Butcher as there was no logical reason for killing them, he just did it out of spite and cruelty like a butcher would. Scotland is also falling apart as they do not want to be lead by Macbeth.
Macbeth strides into the hall of Dunsinane with the doctor and his attendants, boasting proudly that he has nothing to fear from the English army or from Malcolm, since “none of woman born” can harm him and since he will rule securely “till Birnam Wood remove to Dunsinane”. He calls his servant Seyton, who confirms that an army of ten thousand Englishmen approaches the castle. Macbeth insists upon wearing his armor, though the battle is still some time off. This shows us Macbeth’s arrogant belief in his invincibility. Macbeth at last encounters Macduff.
They fight, and when Macbeth insists that he is invincible because of the witches’ prophecy, Macduff tells Macbeth that he was not of woman born, but rather “from his mother’s womb / Untimely ripped”. Macbeth suddenly fears for his life, but he declares that he will not surrender “to kiss the ground before young Malcolm’s feet, And to be baited with the rabble’s curse”. Macbeth realises that he has been tricked by the witches and despite knowing that he’s most likely going to die he shows us his courage by fighting on. Macduff finally kills Macbeth by cutting off his head.
In conclusion I believe that the quote from Malcolm, “A dead butcher and his fiend-like queen”, is not an entirely accurate representation of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, contrary to my initial thoughts. This remark may have some truth to it, as Macbeth did kill Macduff’s family brutally, and Lady Macbeth did manipulate Macbeth into doing the things he did, but they both realised what they had done, and what they had done was bad. They regretted their actions and I don’t think that regret is something that a “butcher” and a “fiend” would feel.
The “butcher” and “fiend” side of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth showed up only in certain places, suggesting that these sides are some kind of alter-ego they both have, maybe even a mental problem, but they both were normal noble people before it all started. The witches can be seen as more responsible for Macbeth’s actions as they gave him the thought of regicide, but it was Lady Macbeth that spurred him on to put that thought in to action, which later got out of control under the influence of their own ambitions.