Macbeth himself, is one of the reasons for the tragic events that occurs throughout Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth.
Macbeth is known to be a dreadful hero with a troublesome flaw; his flaw, which is ambition, affects him to eventually make poor decisions guided by Lady Macbeth and the witches, and, he is manipulated to secrete his conscience which ultimately leads hims to a path of destruction and to his own death. For instance, when the witches come to tell him his three prophecies, he is Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor and will be the king hereafter, his ambition leads him to think that to be king, he must murder Duncan. He says, “My thoughts, whose murder yet is but fantastical, shakes so my single state of man that function is smothered in surmise and nothing is, but what is not” (1.3.
151-154). Here Macbeth realises that what the witches have told him are still a fantasy, yet he starts to think about murdering the king to become king himself. Macbeth even admits that his actions are restrained by his thoughts and speculations; that the only things that matter to him are things that do not really exist. Being king is what matters to him the most at the moment, but it is yet to be a reality as he thinks he must kill the king for him to claim his crown. At this point, Macbeth has a selfish aspiration and he starts to show his corrupted nature. The witches never mention murder, yet Macbeth jumps to that conclusion. This is a perfect example of Macbeth’s ‘vaulting ambition’ and it will lead to his eventual destruction. In addition, Macbeth discovers that Malcolm, King Duncan’s eldest son, is next in line to be king, therefore he considers getting rid of him as well when Macbeth states aside, “The prince of Cumberland! That is a step on which I must fall down, or else overleap, for in my way it lies.
Stars, hide your fires! Let not light see my black and deep desires. The eye wink at the hand, yet let that be which the eye fears, when it is done, to see” (1.4.57-61).
Macbeth’s tragic flaw of ambition leads to a hamartia that foreshadows him leading to a downfall later in the play. To be king himself, Macbeth thinks he must step above Malcolm or give up his desires to rule as king, because Malcolm is another barrier he must go through to accomplish his goal. He also states that the stars should ‘hide your fires; let not light see my black and deep desires;’ this indicates that Macbeth is aware of his wrong doings and has control over his self-conscience to prevent creating more problems, yet he chooses to let his ambition fuel his mind to think that this is the right thing to do in order to be a prosperous and powerful king. Essentially, once Macbeth claims his throne, he will have authority to control other people in the play, such as his murderers that he hires to help him execute other characters that may be obstructing his dominance.
Fortunately, Malcolm and his brother, Donalbain, flee from Scotland as they were suspicious and under a constant threat that they too were going to get murdered just like their father. Furthermore, during Macbeth’s soliloquy, he mentions what is motivating him to move forward towards killing Duncan. He invites him to his castle as he seconds guesses himself to not partake in the murder when he exclaims, “I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which overleaps itself and falls on the other” (1.7.25-28).
Macbeth understands that ambition makes people rush ahead of themselves towards disaster, so he tries to reconsider his objective. Though, when Lady Macbeth comes in after Macbeth finishes his little speech, she plays with Macbeth’s mind by making him think that he is not a man and that he is a coward when she firmly questions him about his masculinity. Macbeth is on the verge between listening to his wife, or giving up on the whole idea of murder.
Incidentally, because Macbeth also sends a letter to Lady Macbeth beforehand, he indisputably gives power to the palms of his wife with regards to the prophecies that they blindly believe. Therefore, Lady Macbeth influences Macbeth and makes him feel bad for not doing what he wants to accomplish. She manipulates him to think that he is not a worthy partner if he will not do what he says. In this soliloquy, Macbeth does talk about the reasons as to why he should not kill the royal king, meaning, he did have time to think through the consequences in the future after doing the deed. Eventually, Macbeth makes up his mind, on his own, as his evil thoughts overpower his superego, to finally persecute the king. All he has to do is cover up his fake, friendly smile; even though he knows he has a deceitful and sinful heart.
It was all up to Macbeth to execute the king and he has the power in him to stop it, but unfortunately, his lover, the witches, and most importantly, his ambition, twists his mindset into thinking violence and murder is the only way to be king, rather than waiting for his prophecies to unravel and lead him into the castle like a wholesome and innocent hero. As a result, his intuition, behaviour and decision making lead to Macbeth expressing his guilt and covering it up by killing other people that got in his way. For instance, Macbeth murders Banquo because he believes that he is a threat that might inform everyone that Macbeth is a suspect of the regicide. Ultimately, Macbeth has free will and could have stopped the tragic events at any time, or not start with planning to kill King Duncan at all; which was the leading cause to the other catastrophic events.
If Macbeth did not kill the king, then Banquo, Lady Macbeth and MacDuff’s family would also be alive because Macbeth would not have been influenced to get rid of more people that he thought would destroy his plans of reigning over Scotland. Not to mention, the play is named Macbeth, which signifies that since his name is on the cover page, he must be vital towards the events that have occured in the play. Shakespeare had purposely named the story Macbeth, probably because Macbeth is the main focus in the play that corrupts Scotland and creates a plot of blood, evil, moral corruption, power struggle and violence that shows the ambition that Macbeth has. Eventually, it leads him to a state of guilt and liability of the awful crimes he commits. On the contrary, Lady Macbeth also has accountability for the tragic events that have occurred in Shakespeare’s play due to her own deep and dark desires to be queen and gain some power of her own.