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MacBeth - Disastrous Attributes


Character or fate. Which of these two forces (external or internal)
led to the downward fall of a great military hero and worthy Thane,
Macbeth, turned evil and murderous when led astray by the prophecies of
three old witches. Some people argue that Macbeth is the victim of
fate, while others argue that his character decides his downfall. The
argument for fate is strongly led by the actions of others, with Lady
Macbeth being the prime influence on Macbeth. While the opposition is
led by Macbeth^s troubled conscience, his own internal conflict and his
hamartia. It is clearly visible that Macbeth^s own character is at
fault for his tragic downfall. It is the opinion of many, that Macbeth
is a victim of fate. These critics state that Macbeth is heavily
influenced by his overpowering wife, Lady Macbeth. Macbeth decides that
he cannot kill Duncan as he is his "kinsman, and his subject"(Act
1,Scene 7: 13) yet Lady Macbeth taunts him saying:
 "I have given suck, and know
 How tender ^Ñtis to love the babe that milks me :
 I would, while it was smiling in my face
 Have pluck^Òd my nipple from his bone less gums,
 And dash^Òd the brains out, had I so sworn
 As you have done to this" (Act 1, Scene 7: 54-59)

This graphic view of the extent to which Lady Macbeth would go to keep
a promise would have been more accepted in our society than in that of
Shakespeare. In the days of Shakespeare, women had no business
arguing with their husbands and even less often was their argument or
threat taken into consideration. Men were the "be-all" and "end-all"
and this speech made by Lady Macbeth would have been of little
persuasion. The Macbeth of Shakespeare was a military man, strong in
his views and opinions and was definitely a victim of his own
character. Conversely, Macbeth was warned of his assuming downfall by
his weary conscience. On three occasions his conscience wearied him.
Firstly, with the vision of the dagger before the murder of King
Duncan. Macbeth is horrified and says:
 "Is this a dagger, which I see before me,
 The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch
 thee. I have thee not, and yet I see thee still." (Act
 2, Scene 1: 33-35)

This clearly shows the way in which, subconsciously, Macbeth knows his
future actions are wrong and not acting on the warning signs of his
conscience in this chilling scene he is haunted twice more by the wrath
of his conscience. In the next scene, after the vicious murder of
Duncan, sounds are heard by both Macbeth and his wife that are purely
of their guilty conscience. Finally, in the scene following Banquo^s
brutal murder Macbeth is haunted by a bloody ghost. This bloody ghost
of Banquo rises out of Macbeth^s conscience to avenge its death and
leave Macbeth uneasy. This is viewed by the outbursts of Macbeth at
his feast shouting at the ghost to "never shake thy gory locks" at
him. All three views of Macbeth^s guilty conscience show that indeed
his downfall was his the fault of no one but himself, as he did not
heed the advice of his conscience early in the play, and consequently
his guilty conscience avenges him throughout the following scenes.

Secondly, Macbeth^s internal struggle is lost and he spiraled
downward to his eventual death. Throughout the opening of the
play Macbeth is plagued with an internal struggle of whether
or not to kill the King. The internal battle changes sides
many times before he eventually lets his ambition rule. In
this passage Macbeth is arguing with himself as to why he
shouldn^t kill Duncan:
"This even-handed justice
 Commends the ingredience of our poison^Òd chalice
 To our own lips. He^Òs here in double trust;
 First, as I am his kinsman, and his subject,
 Strong both against the deed." (Act 1, Scene 7: 10-14)

He battles here between right and wrong, the long time inner struggle
won by his selfish ambition which is blossoming within himself at this
point. He knows very well that what he is about to do is wrong and
that it could destroy him, his doubts of the success of the murder
prove his knowledge of the consequences. Therefore, Macbeth has
accepted the mission and his downward spiral from thereafter is the
fault of no one but himself. Ultimately at fault for his final choice
in his internal struggle is Macbeth^s overwhelming ambition. This
ambition is described as Macbeth^s hamartia, and rightfully so as it
claims the lives of many on his escapade to the crown. Macbeth
blatantly blames his ambition as being the motive for Duncan (and the
following) murders in this passage:
 "I have no spur
 To prick the sides of my intent, but only
 Vaulting ambition, which o^Òerleaps itself,,
 And falls on the other." (Act 1, Scene 7: 25-29)

Describing his ambition as the only thing the murder clings to, points
us to the fact that no one else was pushing Macbeth along to go through
with this murder. Macbeth also realizes in this passage that his
"vaulting ambition" could cause him to destroy himself as he
"o^erleaps" himself. This ambition is at no one else^s fault, but that
of Macbeth. In Conclusion, the argument that Macbeth is a victim of
fate is obviously false as his wife has no control over her husband.
Macbeth is controlled by himself, accepting no warning signs of
disaster from his conscience, letting his ambition rule his internal
struggle and finally letting his ambition rule himself. Macbeth is the
victim of nothing other than his own character.


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