Macbeth - His Importance in Drawing the Reader's Attention in the Play.

Essay by richterjordanHigh School, 11th grade February 2006

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In the play 'Macbeth' by William Shakespeare, a character that is important in drawing the readers interest, is the protagonist character Macbeth. Macbeth is a complex and interesting character because of his actions, the way he is contrasted with other characters and because of the vivid imagery in his dialogue. The way that Shakespeare portrays Macbeth, makes him an interesting person for the readers to imagine.

The first of Macbeth's actions that we see in the play is in Act 1 Scene 2, when a bloody Sergent comes to report to the king of Scotland, King Duncan after a great battle and gives praise of Macbeth, saying "Brave Macbeth - well he deserves that name". King Duncan then replies by saying "Noble Macbeth" "O valiant cousin! Worthy gentleman!". Although we have not seen or heard from Macbeth, the readers can create their first image of Macbeth through the conversation of the king and the sergent.

The next of Macbeth's actions is when he and his friend Banquo goes and visits the three witches in Act 1 Scene 3. The three witches give Macbeth two new prophecies, 1st that he will be "Thane of Cawdor" when he is already Thane of Glamis and the 2nd prophecy was that he will be "king hereafter". This stirs up Macbeth and now he is consumed by ambition to be king. The witches also give Banquo a prophecy that "Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none" meaning that he will not be king but his children will be.

Macbeth is then manipulated by Lady Macbeth in Act 1 Scene 5. She tells Macbeth to "Look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under't". This motivates Macbeth even more to be king, and is now even thinking of killing King Duncan.

In Act 2 Scene 2 King Duncan sleeps over the night at Macbeth's castle and in his sleep Macbeth kills him. Macbeth instantly regrets what he has done "Ill go no more. I am afraid to think what I have done". Macbeth also kills King Duncan's two attendants so they cannot testify that they didn't kill the king. Latter on Macbeth is crowned king just like the prophecies said, because both of King Duncan's two sons flee to England and Ireland to prevent being killed. Macbeth then plans to kill Banquo because of the prophecies he was told by the witches, that his children will be kings. From here Macbeth goes into a downward spiral, by killing everyone that he thinks is a threat to him. He kills Macduff's family for fleeing the country. But in the meantime Macduff and 10,000 of the English army come to Scotland to fight Macbeth and to kill him. In the end, life has no meaning to Macbeth; he is a shell of a man. By destroying others he has destroyed himself. "I have lived long enough"; "At least we'll die with harness on out back".

Macduff finally kills Macbeth. Although Macbeth deserves to die, the audience has some sympathy for him. We can admire his better qualities and identify with the way ambition and circumstances have pushed him into becoming evil.

Shakespeare often uses the device of contrast to bring out the distinctive features of a character. In this case the contrast is between good characters Banquo and Macduff; and an evil character Macbeth.

Macbeth unlike Banquo reveals his ambitions and evil intentions in his reaction to the witches' prophecies. He appears much more eager to believe the witches than Banquo does, Banquo -"What? Can the devil speak true?" Macbeth Deliberately plans to murder King Duncan to bring about the third prophecy because he is easily persuaded and is hungry for power. Banquo on the other hand also has some ambition concerning the throne. They were both strong leaders and victorious generals working for a weak king. Banquo's ambition didn't have the immediate urgency of Macbeth's because he wasn't so ready to believe the witches; he challenged their reality, he warned Macbeth that the powers of evil sometimes tell truth in small things "to betray in deepest consequences".

The contrast between Macduff's behaviour to Lady Macbeth and Macbeth's Behaviour towards Lady Macduff, reveals stark contrast of character. Macduff reveals a courtliness and chivalry of manner in the scene following the discovery of Duncan's murder. He tries to spare the harshness of his discovery: "O gentle lady 'tis not for you to hear what I can speak the repetition, in a woman's ear, would murder as it fell.". Latter, when Lady Macbeth faints, it is Macduff in all excitement who says "look to the lady".

In contrast, Macbeth's treatment of Lady Macduff reveals depths of degradation to which his character has descended. "To make assurance double sure" in the murder of Macduff, he determines to vent his spleen on the innocent and defenceless wife and children of the absent Macduff: "give to the edge o' the sword his wife, babes, and all the unfortunate souls that trace him in his line".

Throughout the entire play Macbeth use three main images in his dialogue; Clothing, Blood and Dark and Light (Good and evil).

The imagery of clothing appears frequently in the play to suggest that outward appearances are often deceptive. If you wear someone else's clothes they may feel uncomfortable and get in your way. The robes of kingship do not fit Macbeth. He is not worthy of them because he has taken the rightful kings throne; Macbeth - "why do you dress me in borrowed robes". In the end, life has no meaning to Macbeth; he is a shell of a man. He is not afraid of dieing, he is just proud to be wearing his war armour on. "At least we'll die with harness on out back".

Blood is everywhere in 'Macbeth', beginning with the opening battle between the Scots and the Norwegian invaders. To the murderous journey both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth embark upon, where blood comes to symbolise their guilt that hounds them to their grave: "Will all great Neptune's oceans wash this blood clean from my hands?" - After the murder of Duncan Macbeth fell guilty for killing his king. "I am blood stepped in so far, that, should I wade no more, returning were tedious as go o'er" - After the banquet Macbeth is explaining to Lady Macbeth that he is too far to go back to before the murders to be safe, but in front of him the only way to be safe is to kill more people. "My Soul is too much charged with blood of thine already" - Macbeth has the opportunity to kill Macduff with a sword at his throat but he feels he has killed too many people that he doesn't want to kill any more.

With the third image - Dark and Light (Good and Evil) it is sometimes difficult to say whether characters are good or evil. At times it seems obvious that Macbeth and his wife are evil. "Stars hide your fires let not light see my black desires."- this quote shows that Macbeth is rotten inside. However if there were nothing good about them, we would find nothing to admire in them and would therefore not be moved by their downfall. Macduff too, appears to be a wholly admirable and good man; "look to the lady"; but can we really approve of the way he abandons his family and leaves them defenceless when he flees to England?

In conclusion, whether it be Macbeth's evil actions originally planted by the witches that lead him to his grave; or the contrast between good and evil between him and his friend Banquo whom he had murdered, or the fellow thane Macduff. Or even the Imagery through clothing, blood or dark and light! Macbeth is a very important character in the play that enthrals the reader to read more, and captures the readers mind into this Shakespearian story; that they will remember for life.