The play open with thunder and lightening, cloaked in darkness, this sets the scene of the morbid play and automatically introduces us to the feeling that the supernatural is at work. Our first impression of Macbeth is a heroic one. He has just defeated the rebellion saving his king, Duncan. He seems to be very brave and bold but at the same time brutal and violent. He walks proudly and seems to deserve the title ‘brave Macbeth Thane of Cawdor’.
When he arrives from defeating the rebellion, he says “so foul and fair a day I have not seen”; this immediately links him with the witches and the supernatural that is to follow him throughout the play. By this he means the day was bad because he witnessed a lot of violence and committed many acts of murder but conversely it was a good day because of the end result and that after all their hard work the rebellion had been squashed. The only way in which Macbeth can sum up the day is by saying that nothing is as it seems.
He realizes that the battle was gruesome, violent and brutal. However, he also realizes that he was victorious so the battle was “fair”. The link with the witches is dramatic as he hasn’t even met them yet nor has he spoken to him although they’re having a profuse effect on him now as his words echo those of the witches. This link is not psychological now but will become psychological soon. At the very start of the play the witches come together and say “.. Foul is fair and fair is foul”. These words alone help us understand a lot about the witches.
The words mean for them that evil is good and good is evil, in other words their views on good and bad have been turned upside down, inverted. These words also mean that there is a gap between reality, truth and trust. These words set the tone for the play, giving us the inclination that what is to follow will be dark, sinister and brimming like a cauldron with evil. In Act one scene three when Macbeth and Banquo enter the witches greet Macbeth by saying, “All hail Macbeth, hale to thee Thane of Glamis. ” This is already his title but then the second witch greets him with the title “All hail Macbeth, hail to thee Thane of Cawdor.
The only reason the witches say this is to make themselves appear powerful and to make Macbeth believe that they can see into the future. They have already heard he is to become Thane of Cawdor. They play a trick on Macbeth by telling him this, knowing full well that he has not been told anything previously. Then the third witch says, “All hail Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter. ” He is curious and this can be seen from the speech and expression he uses, his expression is described as ‘rapt’ and his curiosity in the witches is revealed in the following way he addresses them:
Macbeth: “stay you imperfect speakers, tell me more. By Sinel’s death I know 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, No more than to be Cawdor. Say you from whence You owe this strange intelligence, or why Upon this blasted hearth you stop our way With such prophetic greeting? Speak I charge you. ” By this speech Macbeths curiosity can be seen clearly. He tries to weigh up the possibilities of what they have said to him. He thinks firstly that this is a preposterous idea that he will become king and is impossible.
He uses a powerful metaphor by saying “The Thane of Cawdor lives. Why do you dress me in borrowed robes? ” . By this Macbeth means that the witches are saying he is something which he thinks he’s not. It is also powerful because throughout the play the robes seem ‘borrowed’ they never really belong to Macbeth, he shouldn’t be wearing them. However, after thinking for a few seconds he begins to wonder and thinks that it could be possible but he wants to hear more from the witches. Banquo however, doesn’t seem to be fooled by the witches and sees them as evil.
After receiving the title ‘Thane of Cawdor’ there is a battle going on inside Macbeths head and his views on good and evil seems to be clouded. In the soliloquy in act one Macbeth wrestles with his conscience and thinks “This supernatural soliciting cannot be ill, cannot be good”. It would seem that Banquo was able to resist the temptations but Macbeth couldn’t or wouldn’t. If Macbeth trusts the witches he will become king but he feels he will destroy himself in the process he is very fearful and unsure of what to do or what to believe.
His heart is beating hard with fear, “my seated heart knock at my ribs”, this does not stop him imagining killing the king over and over again. He’s scared, confused and afraid all at once, he can’t deal with the problems of the domestic world and sees violence as the only possible solution to his dilemma of whether to seize the kingship. The witches have all met together in the storm that symbolizes their evil and Macbeth suspects this. However, what Macbeth appears to be unaware of is that the witches embrace chaos and love to create it, so they meet in chaotic weather.
They want to disrupt order, really they’re doing the devil’s bidding. Midway through act one scene four Macbeth finds out the Malcolm has been appointed heir. Macbeth sees this as strong opposition to him even gaining the throne. He is strongly opposed to this and feels that Malcolm is perhaps someone who will either stop him in his tracks, “that is a step on which I must fall down”, or as an obstacle to get over “or else o’erleap”. His next thought is of the darkness that must come down if he is to even contemplate his actions i. e. to kill not only Duncan but Malcolm too, which illustrates his leaning towards evil.
He is however, aware of his own shortcomings when he says, “let that be/Which the eye fears, when it is done to see. ” This seems strange. It’s as if he wants the crown but does not want to get his hands bloody i. e. to have his cake and eat it. In act one scene five a great closeness is shown between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth because of the fact that she’s reading her husbands letter at the beginning of the scene. She’s very much his “partner in greatness”. These words suggest that they’re expecting greatness. However, she knows her husband’s character and his limitations.
She also knows of her own character and exactly what she is capable of. When Lady Macbeth learns that Duncan is on his way to stay at the castle she is shocked and a little taken back, again evil and the supernatural come in to play once more when she asks to be made more ruthless and more evil, “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 th’acess and passage to remorse”, She seems to have great strength and determination where she invokes the spirits to come to ‘unsex’ her.
It is like she is making a pact with the devil. She seems confident and is sure of her capability to make things happen. She is also aware of the evil that is necessary to commit this most appalling deed, the murder of the king, and she is prepared to do it, as Lady Macbeth is an opportunist. She shows this and further strengths to Macbeth when she says “Leave all the rest to me”. Macbeth on the other hand seems undecided and while he’s fearing that she only wants him so she can become queen, she is hoping that the witches will help her become evil.
Macbeth conversely would seem to want to remain as good as possible, which is the exact opposite of what Lady Macbeth wishes. She wants to rid herself of goodness and replace it with evil. However, she does not appear to want God to see the crime and therefore contemplates doing the deed in the dark. This is again another example of the dark imagery associated with evil. In embracing evil she has turned her back on God and made a pact with the Devil. Lady Macbeth in a way, is a re-enactment of Eve in the Garden of Eden, she wants the forbidden fruit and the only way she can get it is along the path of evil.
In this scene we hear Lady Macbeth telling her husband that he must “look like the innocent flower. But be the serpent underneath”, We see her telling him this just before the King and Banquo approach. We see Macbeth the soldier versus Macbeth the husband. We can see that Macbeth still isn’t wholly satisfied with the idea and his mind must be in turmoil, to lessen his burden he takes on a child-like role, he is the leader of an army and he is taking orders from a woman, he must be doing this to try and justify what he is about to do, in a sense he cannot bear all the blame and guilt.
When their guest’s approach Lady Macbeth takes on the role of the caring hostess, she is very clever, extremely manipulative and devious. She knows exactly what to say to put the guests at ease. The king and Banquo enter the castle oblivious to the evil plan the Macbeth’s have hatched. Macbeth feels he must prove himself to Lady Macbeth and this is one his main motivations throughout the play. It is interesting to contrast Lady Macbeths cool, calm manipulative skill to Macbeths later in the play when the murder of Duncan is discovered, and the clever way in which she faints in order to divert the attention from her husband.
But the fact still stands that if the deed is carried out it will bring hatred on Macbeth and terrible guilt, so intense he cannot rest, he will be damned for all eternity. Being in this weak position prevents him from being completely honest with his wife; she has taken up the dominant forceful role in the relationship. In his view the wife should stand by her husband, traditionally her should be brave and protective, and for a woman to accuse her husband of cowardice is humiliating. He wants to be thought of as mighty but Lady Macbeth makes her husband work for her praise.
She wants him to get the murder over with as quick as possible, she says she would rather kill her own baby than go back on her word and turn her back on Macbeth as she thinks he has turned his back on her, Lady 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, had I so sworn as you have done to this. ” These lines refer to the closest bond between mother and child and she says that she would kill her child while it was sucking at her breast rather than break her word to her husband.
This is supposed to be the closest bond two people could have and to destroy this is unimaginable. She then asks why Macbeth can’t do the same. This is again questioning his devotion to her and putting him under tremendous strain and pressure. Macbeth has been worn down, she has manipulated and corrupted this image to suit her evil ways. Macbeth however, doesn’t use the most potent weapon of defense in the argument, which would be the moral side. He never once says that it is just morally wrong and they shouldn’t do it.
He never once raises this element and this plagues him in the future, their views on being a man are completely different. This is another reason why Macbeth cannot tell his wife about his feelings for Duncan and this also adds to the moral element. Lady Macbeth is the planner, the constructor of the sinister plan, she is truly a demon. She plans to get the guards drunk, then kill the king and then blame it on the guards, she also want to smear blood on the guards clothes to make sure that everyone will believe it was they who killed Duncan.
By the time Lady Macbeth finds him he has talked himself out of killing the king. Lady Macbeth is furious. She is a lady of her word and has no time for cowardice he is scared of failure and losing his soul, “If we should fail? ” The nerves are setting in but Lady Macbeth assures him they will not fail, there will be no margin for error and it really makes an impact, this is her emotionally blackmailing her husband. Macbeth is swayed by the plan which is just more evidence of how manipulative she is.
In act 2 we see Macbeth talking to Banquo just before he commits the act of murder, he is quick to lie telling Banquo he hasn’t been thinking of the witches, he is nonchalant in front of Banquo, then Macbeth is alone. Outside the banqueting hall in his soliloquy Macbeth ponders on his decision to kill Duncan, these are his last few moments before he kills, his mind is in turmoil as he talks about myths and legends that have happened throughout history under the cover of darkness. He personifies the stones beneath his feet, calling upon them and nature to hide his tracks.
This is the last time we see a sane Macbeth, a man with morals and a conscience. He waits for the four bells that signify he should go and kill the king. He shows his last minute anguish in his soliloquy he hallucinates and sees a blood covered dagger, it is only an illusion but it reminds him of what he is about to do, he still has major doubts but tells himself to snap out of it , to forget the guilt and proceed with the task at hand. He speaks in the past tense as though he has already committed the deed, or maybe because he’s talking in past tense because he used to have a soul.
As the soliloquy continues he pushes his doubts to the back of his mind and decides he will kill Duncan, if he talks or thinks of murder anymore he will be nervous and may not even commit the deed, Lady Macbeth rings the bell, “I go, and it is done. The bell invites me. ” In act two scene two we start to notice the changes between Macbeth and his wife, she has had a drink, maybe its Dutch courage or maybe she’s trying to forget what she’s been involved in, she’s nervous as she awaits her husbands return.
When Macbeth finally returns he is extremely paranoid, he thinks people have heard him killing, he is obsessed with thoughts of damnation and looks at his blood-covered hands. He is almost mono-syllabic when he returns, using short sharp phrases, he’s distracted and cant focus on talking to her, his mind drifts In and out of hell as her speaks in powerful metaphors his words echo those of the witches. Lady Macbeth, as ever, has to be strong and keep them both on task, there’s a difference now. Macbeths biggest fear is that he has lost his soul, lost his nature, that he will never more be able to pray or say amen.
Once more Lady Macbeth attacks his manhood when he refuses to put the dagger in the hands of the guards, she goes and does it herself. She seems to have no conscience and tells her distraught husband, “A little water clears of this deed”, this meaning as soon as they get rid of their bloodstained hands and their outer appearance is normal once again the same will happen on their inside. Cleansing their hands will cleanse their souls of guilt. This is very dramatic irony as later in the play Lady Macbeth becomes obsessed with cleaning her hands as she turns mad she believes she still has blood stained hands.
Macbeth looks at his hand through the eyes of a man with a guilty conscience and wonders will he ever be rid of all the blood. When he is told of the murder by Macduff he struggles to remain composed and confused his past and present tense when referring to the king because he’s so nervous. He now despises himself and is disgusted with what he has jus done, he is filled with remorse and regret and wishes he could turn back the clock, he can never be happy again, “had I died an hour before this chance, I had lived a blessed time; for from this instant, There’s nothing serious in mortality;
All is but toys. Renown and grace is dead,” Macbeth appears grief stricken and wishes he wasn’t alive, he has just killed the main person in his life, he uses yet another metaphor by saying the best wine is gone and all that’s left is rubbish, by the wine he means his beloved king. He comments that “all is but toys”, there was no need to kill the king he was a good man. The night’s stormy weather reflects the night’s atrocities. From the tragic story of Macbeth many conclusions can be drawn.. Having gained the crown Macbeth never enjoys any happiness or contentment.
He suspects Banquo of knowing the truth and resents the witches’ prophecy that Banquo’s offspring will become heirs. He ends up murdering his good friend Banquo due to his delusions and becomes isolated from his wife, after being blinded by ambition and the witches, he descends into obsession, greed and madness. This makes him more reliant on the truth of the witches’ predictions, and then he murders Macduffs wife and children for no real reason. In the end he welcomes death as a release especially after he realizes that the witches have tricked him into a false sense of security.
In the end he is referred to as “the dead butcher” and the play has traced his decline from normal warrior to monstrous tyrant. His tragedy is that he knew before he killed Duncan that there was no glory in this enterprise and that it would only end in his own damnation. The reason he killed Duncan was to satisfy his wife and to prove his heroic nature, but ironically his actions only resulted in her own descent in to madness and eventually her own tragic death. He was damned by his cowardice and reluctance to stick up to her, her actions damned them both.