Shakespeare – Who killed Duncan
Macbeth is now Thane of Glamis has he emerges from a bloody battle as a brave and fearless warrior. He is admired by many people as a great man. However, this proves not to be the case. Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedies. This play is a about control, aspiration, greed and eventually murder. These been the traits of Macbeth himself who ultimately wore the blood of king Duncan on his hands that fateful night, however there were many contributory factors that was to influence his final decision.
The play Macbeth is set in damp and dreary Scotland, where King Duncan is the ultimate ruler. At the start of the play the Celts are in battle with the Norwegians. We are first introduced to Macbeth as a military hero at his highest peak as he along with Banquo is riding across the weather torn heath.
Stumbling upon three witches Macbeth is told a prophecy in which he will eventually become Thane of Cawdor, and King of Scotland. Macbeth welcomes the idea of greatness and it is this which triggers the spiral of events in the story. However, the witches are simply responsible for the mere introduction of these ideas, merely, subconsciously implanting the thought that Macbeth maybe able to control his own destiny by saying “All hail Macbeth, hail to thee Thane of Cawdor” and “All hail Macbeth that shalt be king there after” as a worship to Macbeth the witches plant a seed which continues to grow, eventually Causing Duncan’s death and eventually Macbeth’s own destruction.
In the Elizabethan era witches were generally accepted as real. This period was very superstitious, fearing the power of witches the most. This stemmed from the supposed “satanic beliefs of witches and their partnership with the Devil”. Believing in the power of the super natural and religion, an Elizabethan audience would have believed the witches’ prophecies were going to become reality. This would in turn make them follow the gripping plot for the overall outcome of the play.
We are then introduced to the character of Lady Macbeth in act one scene five. When she is reading a letter from Macbeth, Lady Macbeth’s instant response to this, is the thought of killing King Duncan. “Hie thee hither, that I may pour my spirits into thine ear” this shows she is anxious for Macbeth to return so she can talk to him about the murder. However, she is worried that Macbeth’s heart “is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness”. She is aware that her spouse is “not without ambition, but without the illness should attend it”. At this instant lady Macbeth is relishing the thought of eventually becoming Queen, with the prowess and greatness that this would bring. Though, she is clearly concerned that the nature of Macbeth is too kind. Nevertheless with her awareness of this weakness with the addition of her powers of persuasion, her wavered confidence in Macbeth is soon reinstated. She knows that her manipulation will soon bring success. Lady Macbeth’s determination to be queen is quite evident as makes reference to “the raven” who “himself is hoarse” and “croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan”. It is here that the audience would realise she is planning murder King Duncan, she calls upon evil spirits to “unsex me here” abandoning all of her femininity, her “direst cruelty” is obvious when opposing her nature asking for it to “take my milk for gall.”
Lady Macbeth appears to be brutal and vicious and thinks nothing of killing King Duncan, having no sense of what is right and wrong. Lady Macbeth believes that it is entirely moral to commit the act of murder, stating “Wouldst thou have that which thou esteem’st the ornament of life, and live a coward in thine own esteem”, she impresses upon Macbeth that to not go through with the deed would be horrible to himself, and that he would be a coward in is own eyes. Here we see her manipulative techniques, by making Macbeth look weak, by questioning his manhood she hopes that Macbeth will respond by doing the opposite in order to maintain his strength in her eyes, and psychologically, in his own. In doing this her success is prevalent as Macbeth carries out her ruthless plan, regardless of his own conscience.
After the murderous event, she, unlike Macbeth, is very calm and unmoved she asked Macbeth to return to the murder scene. However, his response “ill go no more” caused her to act alone. Lady Macbeth takes everything in her stride, raising well above any fear or doubt, and coldly states ” give me the daggers: the sleeping and the dead are but as pictures: ‘tis the eye of childhood that fears a painted devil” she then visits the murder scene returning the dagger to the King’s room and cleverly smears the grooms with blood of Duncan. This shows her strength and composure with no element of weakness.
On Lady Macbeths return from the murder scene Macbeth is anxious and edgy. This is shown by Macbeth’s reaction to the knocking “Whence is that knocking. How isn’t with me, when every noise appals me?” On reflection of the killing of King Duncan Macbeth hallucinates and goes temporarily insane “Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep”, the innocent sleep, sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care, the death of each days life, sore labours bath balm of hurt minds, great Natures second course, chief nourisher in life feast”. This shows the importance of sleep, and Macbeth’s extreme lack of it leading up too and subsequent to the murder of King Duncan. Unlike Macbeth, Lady Macbeth maintains her composure the day after the murder. However she is concerned that Macbeth’s weakness will soon prevail. We witness her anxiety when she urges her husband to be light hearted and merry.
Lady Macbeth’s direct thoughts may make her appear utterly cold and ruthless, but is this really so? Lady Macbeth clearly takes steps in order to clear her conscience of the evil spirits to “stop up th’ access and passage to remorse” in order to be relentless. I believe this was in order for her conscience to allow her to act in such an unremorseful way.
The phenomenal strength of Lady Macbeth is invigorated for the occasion and her heartless abilities are proved through her particular attention to detail regarding the murder. But still, her moral conscience triumphed as lady Macbeth eventually revealed this when she comments “Had he not resembled my father as he slept, I had done’t”
In conclusion after carefully considering the mitigating factors leading up to the tragic event Lady Macbeth played a large part in the precipitated murder of King Duncan. However, Ultimately It was Macbeth who was responsible for his death after sercoming to her manipulation by committing the eventual act. Unfortunately Macbeth’s downfall was caused by his greed after allowing his ambition to control his destiny.
I strongly believe the witches can not be blamed for Macbeth’s murderous behaviour themselves. The witches simply anticipated rather than initiated Macbeth’s actions. I am of the belief that with the influence of lady Macbeth in addition to his clear personal ambition Macbeth would have, in time, still murdered King Duncan. Macbeth was himself a callus individual who wouldn’t let anyone or anything stand his way. It is in the end, each individual’s decision to fall for the temptation, or to be strong enough to resist their captivation.