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“THIS DEAD BUTCHER AND HIS FIEND LIKE
are Malcoms final words, a true
picture of Macbeth and his wife.
Looking through the scenes of the play and finding the differences in
characters I will map the changes of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
In the second scene of the play, Macbeth is praised for being loyal,
brave and savage in battle by the sergeant and Ross. Here Macbeth’s
violence and killings are praised because they have preserved the
rightful king. Duncan is grateful to Macbeth and says when the
treacherous Thane of Cawdor is captured he will be executed so awards
Macbeth the title ‘Thane of Cawdor’. The irony here is that Macbeth, the
new Thane will be even more treacherous.
In the next scene, act 1 scene 3, after Macbeth meets the witches, he
tells us his thoughts in his first soliloquy. He is already thinking of
murder by himself, without the witches giving him this idea. But for the
moment he views a murder as only ‘fantastical’, meaning it only exists
in his imagination. He asks himself, if the witches predictions were
evil, why have two good things they foresaw been true, and if the
predictions were good, why is he reacting so violently to himself.
In act 1 scene 4 Duncan says that his eldest son Malcom will succeed him
as king. This is unconventional as the Thanes normally elect the king
and Macbeth sees this as provocative. To him Malcom is just another
obstacle between himself and the throne. Macbeth gives another soliloquy
revealing his ‘black and deep desires’, although he calls upon the stars
to ‘let not see’ them. Macbeth’s mask of loyalty and honour hides these
feelings from Duncan.
By this stage we know that Macbeth’s character is changing, and his
inner greed to have more power and be king is overcoming his loyal and
brave personality. To show his gratitude to Macbeth, Duncan says he will
visit him at his castle. Doing this he gives Macbeth the perfect
opportunity to for-fill his ambition.
In act 1 scene 5, when Lady Macbeth finds out from her husbands letter
that the king is coming, she sees the opportunity to kill Duncan and
make Macbeth king. She knows Macbeth’s ambitions, but says he lacks the
ruthlessness, and although Macbeth will take an opportunity, he wants to
earn his honours honestly. When Macbeth arrives she tells him he must
deceive Duncan and hide his real thoughts, saying people can read his
thoughts through his face. She tells him to ‘Look like the innocent
flower but be like the serpent under it’.
In act 1 scene 7 Macbeth cannot decide whether to kill Duncan or not. He
says that if the murder could be done quickly and without consequence,
he must do it quickly. He knows Duncan is his ‘kinsman’ and that Macbeth
is his host and subject, and should therefore protect him. He also knows
the murder would be wrong and he would end up paying for it. This is a
moral problem for Macbeth, who is a decisive man and it makes him
hesitate. Macbeth’s conscience persuades him not to kill Duncan because
of Duncans kindness and goodness, and Macbeth would be condemned to
‘deep damnation if he kills the king. Macbeth admits that it is only his
selfish ambition driving him and worries, as Lady Macbeth did, if his
ability to achieve it is as great as it needs to be. When she comes in
he tells her he will not murder Duncan. He does not tell her the reasons
for not murdering Duncan he admitted earlier, but saying that Duncan had
given him ‘new honours’ and he wants to enjoy the ‘golden’ opinion of
everyone. He does this because he does not want to admit to Lady Macbeth
that he has a conscience and is unhappy about doing wrong or evil, and
does not want to be seen as weak. Lady Macbeth gives a strong and
powerful speech to him accusing him of being a coward and bringing into
question his manhood. She tells him that before she went back on her
word, as he did, she would throw her own baby sucking milk at her nipple
and “dash’d the brains out”.
Her forceful use of language conjures up images of horror, and it shows
how far she would go to get her own way. Macbeth again changes his mind
about the murder because of his wife’s attack, but is still worried what
would happen to them if they failed. She says that if he keeps his nerve
they would not fail.
At the start of act 2 scene 1 Macbeth talks with Banquo about the
witches predictions. Banquo admits he has had disturbed sleep caused by
‘cursed thoughts’ and has been troubled as the witches have made a
lasting impression on his mind. Macbeth puts on the ‘mask’ as his wife
had told him earlier and pretends not to have thought about the witches
predictions. After he leaves Banquo and Fleance Macbeth sees a vision of
a dagger floating infront of him, covered in blood and is pointing
towards him. He thinks the dagger is ‘inviting’ him to do the murder. A
once fearless soldier is now tormented by visions of blood and fear of
the unknown. He fears he is going insane. The bell rings and he goes to
commit the murder, the evil deep in him and his great ambitions driving
him to do it.
In the next scene Macbeth comes in and says to Lady Macbeth that he
killed Duncan as he slept. He feels terrified and knows that he will
never be forgiven for this crime. She tells him to wash his hands to get
rid of the blood on them but he says he has so much blood on his hands,
rather than clean the blood off, he would turn the water red. He starts
to feel that death is unimportant and he is no longer blessed.
When Duncan is found dead and the guards are found drunk and with bloody
knives Lennox says it appears to be the guards that killed the king.
Macbeth says that he was so angry when he saw the dead Duncan, he killed
the guards. This was not part of Macbeth’s and Lady Macbeth’s plan and
shows that Macbeth is starting to go his own way. Malcom and Donalbain
flee the country afraid that they may also be suspected of Duncans
Macbeth now proclaims himself king, fore-filling his ambitions.
Time passes and Macbeth is an established king but still feels insecure.
He remembers the witches predicting Banquos sons being kings and also
fears that Banquo knows too much about the meeting with the witches and
is becoming suspicious. He also tells us he fears Banquo as he is brave,
clever and wise and is the only man he fears. He is so insecure Macbeth
arranges for Banquo and his son Fleance to be killed. By making others
commit the murders Macbeth does not feel guilty for the deaths of Banquo
and Fleance. Until now Macbeth has counted on the witches predictions
being true, but now wants to prevent predictions that Banquos children
will become kings. He has again not told Lady Macbeth about his further
plans of murder. He does not need to rely on her any more and does not
tell her what is going on. Macbeths final words in this scene tell us he
has committed himself to the path of evil.
At Macbeths banquet the murderers arrive and tell Macbeth that Banquo
was killed but Fleance escaped. He thinks he sees Banquos ghost and his
reaction throws the banquet into turmoil. Lady Macbeth makes excuses for
his strange behaviour saying he just needs sleep. The ghost he sees is a
vision of his inner guilt and evil, like the vision of the dagger
earlier in the play. The ghost and the guests have left and Macbeth
tells us that he feels he is wading in blood and that his course has
left him so deep he may as well carry on:
“ I am in blood Stepped in so far, that, should I wade no more
Returning were as tedious as go o’er”.
At he beginning of scene four Macbeth goes to see the witches for more
predictions and is shown three apparitions and a vision of the future.
He is still relying on the witches for information and is ready to
believe any predictions they have.
Macbeth is told of Macduff leaving Scotland and being a man of action he
orders all at Macduffs castle to be murdered, including his wife and
children. Macbeth is become ruthless and kill at will without feeling
guilt. He is now a tyrant, ruling with fear.
Macbeths enemies have gathered and are approaching his castle ready to
attack him. Macbeth tries to reassure himself that every thing will turn
out all right, but he really knows that, that is a false hope. He admits
that because of his actions he does not have most of the things which
come with old age, friends, love and honour and regrets this. Inspite of
all the dreadful things Macbeth has done we are made to feel slightly
sympathetic towards him. He does not give up though. He orders for his
armour to be brought to him and he will fight until the bitter end. This
is the brave soldier we saw at the beginning emerging again. Macbeth
says that once he would have been frightened by a shriek at night, but
now he has seen so many horrors he is no longer frightened. He is then
startled by a cry. Lady Macbeth has died, and this makes Macbeth feel
numb. He talks about how life is pointless ending in only ‘dusty death’.
Macbeth sees Birnam Wood coming to Dunsinane Hill in a way he had not
expected, and with that he goes out to battle.
Macbeth confronts his enemies still feeling relatively safe knowing that
the witches prediction that Macbeth can not be killed by ‘a man not born
of woman’. After killing young Siward the castle is captured and Macbeth
meets Macduff. Macbeth now learns that ‘Macduff was from his mother’s
womb untimely ripped’. Macbeth thinks the witches have tricked him and
he refuses to fight. In that case says Macduff, he will be put on
display like a rare monster. These words are too much for Macbeth and he
hurls himself at Macduff. Macbeth is killed and his head severed and put
on display for all to see.
By the end of the lay Macbeth had become a butcher, killing at will, to
suit himself, with no feeling and little compassion for others. From a
loyal and brave soldier, he became too suspicious of people and too
trustworthy of the witches, he changed to a violent and obsessed man
with to great ambitions for his own good.
We first see lady Macbeth is act 1 scene 5 as she reads her husbands
letter. In this Macbeth explains the situation and what has happened
with the witches. At this point their relationship is very close,
sharing much with each other. After reading the letter she says that he
is "Too full o' the milk of human kindness" to be able to carry out the
deed of a murder, so it is she that must persuade him and use "the
valour of my tongue" to do so. She is confident of herself and that she
can even control Macbeth to do what she wants. When she hears that the
king comes to their castle that night she sees that opportunity for
completing Macbeths ambition and making him king. She starts to make
plans of what she will do, and asks the spirits to 'unsex her' and
'"fill me from crown to toe top-full of direst cruelty" so she can
evilly plot and help murder Duncan.
We can see her very dark side here, her almost violent way of talking
and plotting, she really is the fiend we will be told about. When
Macbeth comes she praises and congratulates him for his new title and
says he is still worthy of more - to be king. She tells him to welcome
Duncan into their castle, but to ‘Look like the innocent flower
but be like the serpent under it’.
Later, in scene 7 Macbeth changes his mind about the killing of Duncan,
and she breaks into a rage, she insults him, calls him a coward, brings
into question his manhood. She says that she would have murder a child
feeding at her breast rather than breaking a promise as Macbeth has
done. Again she shows her cruelty with use of such evil and horrific
language. With this Macbeth agrees to murder the king.
After the murder they are both very tense and Lady Macbeth relies on
drink to calm herself. She takes charge of the situation and also says
that she would have killed Duncan herself is he had not resembled her
sleeping father. This shows that maybe she is not as cruel and unfeeling
as she wants to makes out or she has weakness to do with images of other
At the sight of the dead body of Duncan she pretends to faint, showing
she can act and put on a different 'face' in front of others.
We do not see her for a while, and when we do, she is having disturbed
dreams and cannot sleep. Her relationship with Macbeth is becoming worse
as he does not tell her his plans to murder Banquo.
When Macbeth sees Banquos ghost she tries to reassure guests and make
excuses for him, again showing her talents at acting and hiding things.
Macbeth does also not tell his wife about the murder of Macduff family
and their relationship is breaking rapidly.
By act five Lady Macbeth is walking in her sleep, and constantly
re-lives the night of the murder. the doctor says he cannot cure her. By
this stage her character has changed from being a ruthless, cruel and
evil person to being slightly 'innocent' losing through her madness the
evil in her. She soon kills herself "by self and violent hands". This
makes us slightly sympathetic with her, as we were with Macbeth.
Macbeth does end up a butcher, but Lady Macbeth seems to change from a
fiend to a mad and quite innocent woman.
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