The play ‘Macbeth’ was written by Shakespeare for King James 1. This was because the Tudors and the Stuarts were always paranoid about treason. James 1 was especially concerned about people committing treason on a king. He was afraid it would devastate the country and cause a civil war. The murder of the king in ‘Macbeth’ was a terrible crime, just like it would have been at the time Shakespeare was alive. It was an offence against the crown, state and nature. It was also an act against God. The king’s power involved God, as the king was the lord’s anointed, appointed by God.
The king ruled by divine right. It was blasphemous and unnatural to attack the king. It was sacrilege. Macduff uses this word in the play, straight after King Duncan’s murder. Act 2 Scene 3 Line 60. In this essay I’m going to talk about who was the most responsible for the killing of the king. At the beginning of the play the three witches are discussing where they should meet again. They decide on the heath, to meet Macbeth. They are supernatural and can see into the future. They seem to know when and where they should encounter Macbeth.
When they meet Macbeth the first thing they say to him is, All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Glamis, All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor, All hail Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter. ‘ This gets Macbeth thinking, as he is already Thane of Glamis but not Cawdor and how could he become king when he is not a direct descendant of the throne. Before vanishing the witches also prophesy that Banquo’s descendants will be kings, but he himself will not. Then Ross and Angus enter with the delightful news that Macbeth is to become Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth is astonished at this news.
The witches had told the truth and had seen into the future. Realising this Macbeth thinks, ‘How can I become king? ‘ he has been easily persuaded and has automatically thought of murder. ‘My thought, whose murder yet is’. Not long after this event Macbeth witnesses Duncan claim Malcolm his heir. Macbeth thinks back to the witches and sees that Malcolm is in this way to becoming king. Already the witches have played a massive role in the responsibility of Duncan’s murder. They have darkened Macbeth’s mind with evil thoughts and plans, which turn into nastier things as the play goes on.
Macbeth writes a letter to Lady Macbeth explaining the witches prophecy of kingship. As she reads the letter she becomes concerned that Macbeth is too kind-hearted to conduct such a crime that he suggests. She is interrupted by the attendant to the news that ‘the king comes here tonight’. She starts to think that maybe she could do the dead but then realizes that she is feminine and maybe wouldn’t be able to do the deed because she is a lady. She calls on unnatural, evil spirits to help her be able to do the deed. ‘Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here’.
She wants the spirits to remove the kindness in her. To turn her evil, make her more like a man to do the deed. It is almost like she is conducting a spell, like the witches would, to help her in the crime to come. Macbeth enters this scene and Lady Macbeth explains her plans. She asks Macbeth to hide his deadly intentions behind kind, innocent but welcoming looks. Macbeth starts a sentence, ‘we will speak further’, but he doesn’t finish it. I think this is where he should have told Lady Macbeth that he won’t do it and doesn’t want anything to do with it.
Lady Macbeth maybe is right about how he is too kind-hearted to do such a crime but I think he is also nervous of Lady Macbeth because he should have told her but he didn’t. Before the end of this scene Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth not to worry, she will take full control of the deed and plan in her hands. ‘Leave all the rest to me’. Here Lady Macbeth is taking on the responsibility of the king’s murder. She has already decided that Macbeth is too kind to conducted such a deed and therefore will do it herself. The beginning of Act1 Scene 7 sees Macbeth thinking that he shouldn’t do the deed.
He knows exactly what will happen. He even lists why he shouldn’t do it. Duncan is a guest in the Macbeth’s household and it’s their responsibility to protect him, not kill him. As his host, who should against his murderer shut the door’. Macbeth sees that Duncan has been a good, loyal king, not a tyrant. ‘Besides, this Duncan hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been so clear in his great office, that his virtues will plead like angels’.
From this we can tell that Macbeth knows how awful the deed is. He even admits that the only thing that would make him do it is his ambition, nothing else. To prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself’. Lady Macbeth then comes into the scene. Macbeth tells her that he doesn’t want to do the deed. ‘We will proceed no further in this business’. Lady Macbeth then accuses Macbeth of cowardice and having a lack of manliness. ‘And live a coward in thine own esteem’. She says that she would kill her own child rather then break such a promise. She tries to persuade Macbeth to do it by making him feel bad, she thinks he might do it if she calls him a coward etc to stand up to her and show her that she is wrong.
Lady Macbeth then goes on to talk about the rest of the plan. She plans to make the bodyguards drunk and blame the murder on them. Macbeth applauds Lady Macbeth at this plan, he says that they should cover and hide their evil plans with kind looks. ‘False face must hide what the false heart doth know. ‘ Lady Macbeth has pushed Macbeth back onto the track she wants him on. She has taken the whole crime from planning it too going to do it, into her own hands. So far Lady Macbeth has had the most responsibility for the crime.
Act 2 scene 1 line 33, Macbeth is left alone after trying to persuade Banquo to be on his side, Macbeth starts to hallucinate, his mind is disturbed with thoughts of having the king murdered. Macbeth sees a dagger infront of him. It is supernatural, not really there. It’s like the witches have put the dagger there, ad they are supernatural like the dagger. ‘Is this a dagger I see before me, the handle toward my hand? ‘ Macbeth even realizes that it is a figment of hit imagination. He says, ‘A dagger of my mind, a false creation’. This proves that Macbeth is fighting with his conscience.
The dagger leading him to the king, but his mind and thoughts are filled with evil images. At the end of this scene a bell is heard by Macbeth, he says that it is like a funeral bell for Duncan. The bell invites me. Hear it not, Duncan, for it is a knell. ‘ Shakespeare uses the word knell, which is a funeral bell. The next scene begins with Lady Macbeth, she has been drinking for courage, an owl shrieks, Lady Macbeth calls for peace. This shows us that she is nervous and jumpy. She tells us that she has drugged the guards to make them sleep. ‘I have drugged their possets, that death and nature do contend about them, whether they live or die’.
Lady Macbeth is still concerned about the fact that Macbeth won’t do the deed because he is too kind-hearted. Macbeth enters holding two bloody daggers, Lady Macbeth tells him about how she would have done the deed, if Duncan had not looked like her father while sleeping. ‘Had he not resembled my father as he slept, I had done’t’. This is the first time in the whole play that Lady Macbeth has shown any kind of humanity. Macbeth can’t name the deed, he goes on to talk about the noise he heard. Lady Macbeth reassures him it was only the noise on an owl. They carry on the conversation, but in short phrases, ‘When?
Now, As I descended? Ay’ This is good evidence that both of them are very jumpy and nervous. Macbeth feels regret, but Lady Macbeth tells him its foolish to have regret. ‘This is a sorry sight A foolish thought, to say a sorry sight’ Macbeth also goes on to describe how ‘one cried ‘Murder! ‘ ‘, and how they said their prayers. Macbeth is obsessed by his inability to say ‘Amen’ at the end of the prayers. ‘I could not say ‘Amen’ ‘. He feels he has been separated from God because of the deed. He feels God can’t forgive him because it is such a terrible crime and that he will have eternal damnation.
He says he heard a voice cry, ‘Sleep no more; Macbeth does murder sleep’. This troubles him. He thinks that maybe he has been cursed, but you only feel cursed when you are guilty. This shows Macbeth has a definite guilt inside of him about the crime he has committed. Lady Macbeth orders Macbeth to return the daggers to Duncan’s room. ‘They must lie there, go carry them and smear the sleepy grooms with blood. ‘ Macbeth replies to this, ‘I’ll go no more, I am afraid to think what I have done’. Macbeth refuses to return the daggers because he feels extremely guilty.
While Lady Macbeth is returning the daggers to Duncan’s room, Macbeth questions himself. He wants to know what could wash the stain and sin away from his hands. ‘Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hands? No;’ He feels something as big as the oceans couldn’t remove the stain (sin), instead the stain would turn the oceans red. Neptune is the God of the sea. Macbeth wants to know that now he has been separated from God, could another God wash his sins away without leaving a mark somewhere else. Lady Macbeth returns with her hands the same colour as Macbeth’s. She says that ‘A little water clears us of these deeds.
This is ironic to Macbeth because he knows nothing can clear him of his deed, let alone a little water. In the last part of the scene there has been a recurring knocking. On the last knock at the end of his scene Macbeth says, ‘Wake Duncan with thy knocking; I would thou couldst’. Here Macbeth is saying that he wished he could wake Duncan up. He wishes he hadn’t done the deed and really regrets doing it. Duncan also plays a great role in this own murder. He never questions anything that the people around him do. He goes with the flow and is never suspicious of anyone. He was too trustworthy. Banquo also is involved in Duncan’s murder.
He was present when Macbeth received the prophecies from the witches and must have been aware of Macbeth’s sudden rise in power and authority. He never once tells anyone about the prophecies but keeps them to himself. From everything I have covered in Macbeth I would say that Lady Macbeth has the most responsibility for Duncan’s murder. She has always wanted to kill Duncan from as soon as she received the letter explaining of the witches’ prophecies. There are several places in the play where Macbeth refuses to take part in the crime or have anything to do with it, but Lady Macbeth always pressurises him to do it.
Although Macbeth was the first person to think of king’s murder and he actually did the crime and smaller characters had some part in it, I would still say that Lady Macbeth was the most responsible. She had an evil and sick mind, unlike Macbeth who knew exactly what the consequences would be and was troubled by the whole idea and reality that a great king was murdered. The death of Duncan to the audience at the time this play was first written was dramatic because it should them exactly what might happen if someone actually tried to conduct such a crime on a king. It also should them what would happen to the person who conducted the crime.