Which version of Macbeth do you prefer?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

CAYLIN

Shakespeare’s play Macbeth is an interesting tale of greed, ambition and malice. An evil man does many horrible and evil things just to become king. All his peers believe he is a good man and have much respect for him. They don’t think he could be capable of such horrific actions. Everyone is blinded by what they believe is his courage and loyalty and don’t see that Macbeth had always harboured ambitions that could not be satisfied by legitimate means. Macbeth does great evil and his actions cause him great suffering, but this does not make him a good man. Knowing what the personal, emotional and moral consequences of his actions were, he should have stopped himself. Instead, Macbeth continued down the path of evil on his way to “greatness” and by doing so deserved all the suffering he finally endured. Macbeth was an evil man who well understood the evil nature of his actions.

Macbeth was never a “good” man. At the beginning of the play many people heaped accolades on him, calling him “valiant cousin” or “worthy gentleman” but he was never these things. Macbeth was always an evil man. He managed to camouflage his evil from everyone else, displaying what many people thought of as courage, nobility and loyalty. The truth is Macbeth always harboured evil. These good impressions people had of him were just masks he’d created to hide the truly hideous thoughts that were really going through his mind. You see Macbeth’s evil when he had his first encounter with the witches. The witches give him three predictions. He would be “Thane of Glamis”, “Thane of Cawdor”, “and then King hereafter”. Instead of being surprised by this he was pleased and less than surprised. He appeared to have wanted such honours for some time. Macbeth’s response to these predictions proves how evil he was. The witches told him great things were waiting for him. However, the witches never told him he’d have to use evil to get them. If these glories were truly meant for him, nature would have found a way to make sure he came by them “without his stir”. Instead Macbeth immediately decided to kill the King. This murder was not an action he had to undertake. He was not destined to become murderer of the King. It was his choice to take the “fastest way”. Choosing this action, he had to accept everything that came with it. He gained the superficial things like titles and power but he knew the real legacy of his actions was the guilt, pain and the loss of his peace of mind. He knew he would lose his “eternal jewel”. A greedy and impatient man, Macbeth chose this future and his punishment.

Macbeth, as evil a man as he is, does suffer greatly. He does appear to feel guilty about the murders but this is not proof that he is a good man. If he truly felt that much guilt after one murder he wouldn’t have kept killing. Macbeth was not so naïve as to think he wouldn’t feel these horrible reminders of his guilt after each murder. Like a serial murderer, who has no conscience about the lives he ends, right to the end he kept killing.

Macbeth lost a lot of things once he became a murderer. He lost his wife, his most important supporter. She truly felt remorseful about the killings, so much so that she couldn’t live with the memory of her evil actions any longer. After the initial murder of King Duncan, the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth was shattered. They barely spoke to each other. They did not confide in each other as they had once done. At the start she was his soulmate. In the end he no longer shared his plans with her to protect her from the ill thoughts. Macbeth drove Lady Macbeth to insanity. Macbeth himself was affected by those ill thoughts. He had a lot of trouble sleeping as a result of his guilt. After he murdered King Duncan, Macbeth knew he had lost sleep for eternity.

A lot of Macbeth’s suffering though was due to his fear of getting caught. He became so fearful of everyone around him. No-one was safe anymore. If Macbeth thought someone suspected him or doubted him for a second, he killed them. If he couldn’t kill the one he feared, as was the case with Macduff, he killed their families, servants, anyone they cared about. Macbeth did suffer greatly with the loss of his wife and the loss of their very close and intimate relationship, with the fear and paranoia he felt, and with the loss of people’s respect. He lost much and suffered much but he deserved the suffering he endured.

Macbeth does do many evil things and he does suffer greatly as a result. He chooses the path of evil every time he is faced with a choice. He could have chosen between listening to the witches or walking away and ignoring them. He chose to listen to them and to give himself over to the temptation of their evil. He was given the choice between killing King Duncan or waiting and letting time bring him the rewards he earned. Instead, he chose to kill Duncan. He was then presented with the option to keep killing innocent people, people like Banquo, the guards, Macduff’s family, and many more, or to stop once he had discovered how horrible and immoral an act it was to kill innocents. Despite this he chose to keep killing. He chose to lose everything that had once mattered to him. He chose to continue killing people. He chose his path to ruin. His was not the suffering of a good man; it was the suffering of an evil man that was trying hard not to get caught.

There is no question that Macbeth suffered. Did he suffer though because he was a good man, who was trying to come to terms with a few wrong choices? Did he suffer because he was an evil man and he couldn’t stop his hunger for power? Many times he proves he is not a good man. A good man would not continue doing what he knows is wrong. Anyone can understand the difference between right and wrong but that understanding is not a sign of goodness. A good man may turn to wrong once but always comes back to what is right. An evil man ignores what is right and chooses wrong every time. Macbeth was not a good man. He was evil from the start, and his suffering was deserved. He killed kinsmen and the King himself. He killed innocent and guilty with impunity. He was a man drenched in blood and who knew nothing of love, but everything of greed. Macbeth knew the difference between right and wrong, and still did great wrong. He is, by the end of the play, not so much a man as a “butcher”.

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