Macbeth- Morality and Justice

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 11th grade February 2008

download word file, 5 pages 0.0

Downloaded 6751 times

William Shakespeare?s Macbeth is the last of four tragedies that were made into plays. The other?s being Hamlet, King Lear and Othello. Compared to the others, Macbeth is a short play and is considered to be his darkest work. The play includes murder, evil inclination, betrayal, deceit, treachery and possibly the most influential feature, greed. The play is not only extremely immoral, but it?s portrays almost every evil quality that human beings can bear. Morality is defined as the conformity to established sanctioned codes or accepted notions of right and wrong. Even though society has changed dramatically between the year this play was written and contemporary culture, the themes in this play, such as murder and deceit have never been accepted as noble notions. Nonetheless, the question of whether justice is served can only be answered by which point of view one takes. Assuming Shakespeare wanted his audience to focus on Macbeth, the main character, one can honestly say that justice was indeed served.

Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth, who persuaded him to kill in order to obtain the title of King of Scotland, both become delusional and Macbeth, with plenty of suffering along the way, eventually dies. And as we know, death is the ultimate punishment for the ultimate sin, killing.

As the Irish attempt to invade Scotland, Macbeth kills the Irish leader, Macdonald. For this, the current king Duncan names Macbeth the thane of Cawdor. At this point, Shakespeare implies Macbeth?s allegiance to his king and to his country. On the battlefield, the witches prophesize that Macbeth will become King. Obviously, Macbeth is intrigued by this and wonders why they said that. Once Lady Macbeth hears the prophecy, she propels Macbeth to take action and kill Duncan in order to speed up the process. At first, Macbeth is hesitant to kill the current king, but Lady Macbeth persuades him by revealing that he has ?th? milk of human kindness.? Macbeth caves in and agrees, but changes his mind once again after the king has dined. Lady Macbeth then proceeds to question his manhood by telling him ?when you durst do it, then you were a man.? Here, we see the first instance of immorality by Lady Macbeth and the second instance shortly follows as Macbeth takes her advice and kills the king. As dreadful as murder is, they should have the boldness to take the blame upon themselves. Instead they choose to smear Duncan?s blood on the chambermaids while they are asleep, putting the blame on them. Within the same sinful act, they have demoralized themselves twice. Some admiration may be given to an ambitious person, even if he has killed, but not when the act is committed in a cowardly fashion.

At this current stage in the play, Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are at fault, but one may ask who deserves the greater punishment. Applying modern-day law, Lady Macbeth would actually be more at fault than Macbeth because Lady Macbeth understood from the beginning what actions were about to take place; unlike Macbeth who, as it was, acted on impulse. A pondered, premeditated crime is often punished worse than one of someone who was persuaded at the time.

Once Macbeth is king of Scotland, he begins to wonder about his friend Banquo. Becoming paranoid that the witch?s prophecy, thus far proven true, will once again carry out to give Banquo?s sons the crown. Often noted, one bad deed consistently leads to another. Macbeth now commits another morally terrible act by sending his men to kill Banquo and his sons.

The final example of immorality comes in the early part of act four, when Macbeth learns from Lennox that Macduff has fled to England. He immediately sends his men to capture Macduff?s castle and kill his wife and children. This scene shows the audience how caught up Macbeth is in this tangled web of killing, greed and violence. He was not in any immediate danger when he sent the men to kill Macduff; he merely acted on the word of the witches and of a paranoid vision that he encountered.

As for the justice aspect of the play, we notice an occurrence of this before the actual murder of king Duncan is committed. Macbeth hallucinates and sees a ?floating dagger? in front of him. The dagger is the covered with blood and this makes Macbeth uneasy about the crime he is about to commit. Perhaps Shakespeare?s reason for putting this in his play was to relay the message that simply thinking about a sin has its consequences. And obviously, hallucinations of any type are not pleasant, and would be considered a form or retribution.

In act three, Macbeth has been suffering with horrible thought and guilt ever since the assassination of Duncan. He reveals to his wife that his mind is ?full of scorpions.? He fears other threats now that he is king and he fears that he will have to succumb to further killing. By the end of act three, the feast that he and Lady Macbeth have planned turns sour when Macbeth ?sees? Banquo?s ghost at the table and proceeds to talk to him. He also foreshadows his own destiny by muttering, ?blood will have blood.? This means that since he?s killed in the past, he will either do more killing in the future, or even be killed himself.

Lady Macbeth suffers her own type of justice when she begins to despair in act three and later in act four, imagines a drop of blood on her hand that she is unable to wash off. In act five, she begin is unable to get rest because of her conscience. This drives her crazy and forces her to become insane and delusional. Her fate also seems foreshadowed because she ironically mentions to Macbeth, early in the play that ?a little water washes us of this deed.? She refers to ?this deed? as the killing of Duncan, and since the water specifically cannot wash off the blood, that line is meaningful to the fate of Lady Macbeth.

Lastly, Macbeth?s ultimate justice is served to him at the end of the play when Macduff learns that he has killed his wife and children. He comes back from England only to start a war with Macbeth. They fight arduously on the battlefield and Macduff finally kills Macbeth by cutting off his head and showing it to all of his followers.

To conclude, this play has shown how fate and destiny can have quite harmful effects if people become too ambitious to the point of being greedy. The main characters in this play acted immorally by killing, lying, betraying their king and finally deceiving their entire country. For that, justice was rightfully served to them and it should be a lesson learned by Shakespeare?s entire audience. Shakespeare took us step by step at how all the immoral acts in this play were paid for at the end by the people who committed those sins.