The study of the theme of evil in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”
“Macbeth” Macbeth, although largely responsible, was not totally responsible for the torrent of evil which was unleashed in Scotland after after Duncan’s death. Both Lady Macbeth and the supernatural powers must accept at last some of the responsibility for the evil deeds unleashed during Macbeth reign. They both forced Macbeth to be proactive in chasing the crown at a time when he was of the opinion that ” If chance may have me king why chance may crown me.”
The play began with the forces of evil stirring Macbeths ambitions nature by declaring that he ” shall b king thereafter.” They then said of thou be none.” Banquo noted how Macbeth looked fearful and he must have realised the witches put into words what Macbeth had been thinking. The supernatural forces not only got Macbeth thinking about how he could become king but also laid the foundations for his feelings of insecurity that would lead to his subsequent murder of Banquo. The major external influence pushing Macbeth to kill Duncan was Lady Macbeth.
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She knew her husband was ” too full o’ the milk of human kindness” to take the initiative and she resolved to push him into murdering Duncan Macbeth was so upset after killing Duncan he stated ” I’ll go no more, I am afraid to think what I have done”. Lady Macbeth then accepted the responsibility of taking the daggers and smearing the grooms with blood. She had goaded Macbeth into killing Duncan and she stopped him from falling apart with remorse after having done the deed. Macbeths reign as king was one of fear and insecurity that others would take the crown from him. Of Banquo he said ” their is none but he whose being I do fear”.
Macbeth was obviously thinking back to the prophesies of the witches and he resolved to kill Banquo. After killing Banquo, Macbeth stated” I am in blood stepped in so that, should I invade no more returning were tedious as go o’er”. Macbeth has reached the stage that he feels he has done so many evil deeds that he must keep going. Macbeth begins to become unstable after killing Banquo and he keeps seeing Banquo’s ghost appear before him at the banquet
In Macbeth, Shakespeare presents us with a powerful vision of evil. From the very opening scene of the play, the power of evil is displayed with supernatural activities. The theme of evil and it’s consequences are clearly seen throughout the play as it changes the characters in the play and brings nothing but destruction. The fight between good and evil is depicted in the moral choices each character makes in the play. Evil is portrayed to be powerful as it is always seen to turn the hearts of the characters to seek for their own selfish desires.
The play opens with the supernatural forces in action. The witches meet in the heath in the mist of thunder and lightening. These very first images that are flashed into the reader’s mind pictures the powers of evil in action behind the scenes. The reader is captured by the sense of mystery as the witches speak in riddles. In the time period when Shakespeare wrote this play, the witches were believed to exist and were feared upon by the people to posses evil spirits who bring destruction. The first scene of the play sets the foundation for the play and shows the reader a glimpse of the evil power that will come into play.
The witches can be seen as the most evil characters throughout the play who bring ruin in other’s lives for their own benefit. In scene 3 of act 1, we can see their true evil character. The first witch describes how she has planned to bring a sailor’s family to ruin by tossing the sailor’s ship around the sea just because his wife had denied the witch some chestnuts.
The reader learns the physical appearance of the witches when Macbeth and Banquo encounter the witches. The witches “look not like the inhabitance o’ th’ earth” – this statement by Banquo paints the appearance of the witches in the reader’s mind. Ignoring the questions and remarks the witches were receiving, they speak what the had come for. “All hail Macbeth, hail to thee Thane of Galamis!” “All hail Macbeth, hail to thee Thane of Cawdor!” “All hail Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!” These prophetic words has successfully raised Macbeth’s deep desire to be the king of Scotland. His desire which is now watered by the witches to grow finally drives Macbeth to many murders and brings destruction on himself.
When we first hear of Macbeth from the captain reporting to king Duncan, we see a brave and loyal solider who has fearlessly defeated Scotland’s enemies. As the play progresses along with Macbeth’s evil desire for power, we see this once noble man of Scotland bringing himself to ruin by his own sinful actions. Macbeth’s evil actions does not go unnoticed as the nature bears witness to everything. The natural moral order has been changed. “Fair is foul, and foul is fair: hover through the fog and filthy air.” An owl which is a prey to falcon has killed the falcon. Duncan’s horses have gone wild in nature, broke their stalls and ate each other.
Macbeth’s evil actions has not only destroyed him but has also brought chaos for Scotland and for the natural world. This main theme of ‘evil’ in Shakespeare’s play teaches us the powerful deceitfulness of sin and evil desires.