Macbeth Essay

In the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare, the two major characters, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth undergo dramatic changes in both their state of mind and values. The play demonstrates many human weaknesses and how one decision affects everything.

One of the main themes of Macbeth is ambition. It is also ambition, which causes the main changes in Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Macbeth is originally seen as an honest, respectable, and brave nobleman. However, his ambition causes him disgrace and eventually his life. It is obvious how Macbeth changes throughout the play as he manages to become more and more detached from his emotions.

Before Macbeth murders King Duncan, he weighs up all the consequences, saying, "But in these cases, We still have judgement here - that we but teach bloody instructions, which, being taught, return to plague the inventor" (I, vii, 8) He also realises what he is doing is wrong saying, "Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been so clear in his great office that his virtues will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued against the deep damnation of his taking off" (I, vii, 18). Even after the murder it is obvious the Macbeth regrets what he has done. He has trouble sleeping and worries about whether he will be going to heaven or hell.

Macbeth's reign is one of fear. Fear that he will be found as a murderer, fear that he is really a tyrant, not a king, and fear that he will be rejected. This fear starts a string of murders, including his best friend and thane of Lochabar, Banquo, and eventually MacDuff's wife and children.

Before Macbeth's murder of Banquo, he again weighs up the consequences, saying "To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus - our fears in Banquo stick deep, and in his royalty of nature reigns that which would be feared.My genius is rebuked as, it is said, Mark Antony's was by Caesar" (III, I, 45-50). It is obvious here that Macbeth is more worried about himself and his heirs rather then whether it is right or wrong, as he was with Duncan. It show's how he has become more removed from his original self. Before Macbeth murdered Duncan, he mentioned whether the murder would send him to heaven or hell, yet before he murders Banquo, he does not even contemplate the thought of going to hell.

Before Macbeth kills Macduff and his family he doesn't even weigh up the consequences. He has become so detached from his emotions he no longer cares that innocent women and children would be murdered. While issuing the order to murder Macduff and his family he say's to himself, "The castle of Macduff I will surprise, Seize upon Fife, give to the edge o'the sword, his wife, his babes and all unfortunate souls that trace him in his line. No boasting like a fool; this deed I'll do, before this purpose cool" (IV, I,145-150). This speech show's his lack of sorrow at the brutal murder of innocent people. He no longer even weighs up the consequences, simply issuing the order, so he can remain king. It is his desire to remain king, and have his children king, that causes him to do this.

In Act V, shortly before Lady Macbeth kills herself, Macbeth says to his servant, "I have lived long enough, my way of life is Fallen into the sere, the yellow leaf; and that which should accompany old age, as honour, love, obedience, troops of friends, I must not look to have, but, in their stead, curses, not loud, but deep, mouth honour." This quote reveals how he no longer enjoys life and realises that what he originally thought important - power, superiority, control - are nothing compared to what he already had, nobility, friendship and peace.

As things fall apart for Macbeth at the end of the play, he almost seems relieved. With the English army at his gates, he can finally return to life as a warrior, and he displays a reckless courage as his enemies surround him and drag him down. In part, this stems from his fatal confidence in the witches prophecies, but it also seems to originate from the fact that he has returned to the battlefield where he has been most successful and where his personal losses need not affect him

It is obvious how Macbeth has changed from his original, honest, noble character to one of fear, deceit and evil. It is only towards the end of the play, after his wife's suicide, that he realises that he has been consumed by darkness and is really a tyrant, not a king. It is then, that he returns to his original courageous self.

Unlike many of Shakespeare's other tragic heroes, Macbeth never seems to contemplate suicide: "Why should I play the Roman fool," he asks, "and die on mine own sword?" (V.ix.1-2). Instead, he goes down fighting, bringing the play to an end: it begins with Macbeth winning on the battlefield and ends with him dying in combat.

Lady Macbeth is a good wife who loves her husband. She is also ambitious but lacks the morals of her Macbeth. To achieve her ambition, she rids of herself of any kindness that might stand in the way. However, she runs out of energy to suppress her conscience and eventually kills herself.

When the audience first sees Lady Macbeth in Act 1, scene V, she is already calling on the powers of evil, to take away her feminism, and make her more masculine and strong. It is obvious that she is not a weak or shy character in the beginning of the play. In one scene of the play, Lady Macbeth talks to the gods and asks, "Come you spirits, that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, and fill me, from the crown to the top, top-full of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood; stop up the access and passage to remorse." (I, v, 38). This comment show's how she is confident, assertive and bold. She has no worries or anxiety at the thought of murdering King Duncan, and she is the one who manipulates Macbeth to kill Duncan in his sleep.

After Duncan has been murdered, she show's no remorse, telling, " 'Tis the eye of a childhood that fears a painted devil. If he do bleed, I'll gild the faces of the grooms withal, For it must seem their guilt." (II, ii, 55) This show's how she has no qualms in blaming somebody else for their actions. Shortly after the murder of Duncan, Lady Macbeth also states, "A little water clears us of this deed." (II, ii, 65). This show's how she believes that by simply washing away the evidence, it will be as if nothing happened and nothing will affect them.

Macbeth does not immediately tell his wife that he has given the order for Banquo and Fleance to be slain. When Lady Macbeth is contemplating the idea of murdering Banquo and his son, it is obvious that she has changed since the murder of Duncan. When Macbeth hints to her that he may have hired someone already to do the deed, she says, "You must leave this" (III, ii, 35), showing how she feels that he must stop thinking like a murderer and act like a king, not a tyrant.

The next time you see Lady Macbeth in the play is in Act V. By the close of the play, she has been reduced to sleepwalking through the castle, desperately trying to wash away an invisible bloodstain. Show now feels that she is the cause of her husband's string of murders and she becomes unable to cope. Significantly, she kills herself, signalling her total inability to deal with the legacy of their crimes.

Lady Macbeth probably underwent the most drastic changes throughout the play. She went from her strong, ambitious, masculine character to an obviously disturbed, weak, vulnerable individual.