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In Shakespeares Play Macbeth Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 1149 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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In Shakespeares play, Macbeth, the three witches prophecies manipulate the outcome of the characters lives. Throughout the play, the witches influence the characters’ conduct. Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are overcome with their goal to advance their station in life. This causes them to do unthinkable deeds. Macbeth’s character seems morally acceptable at the beginning of the play, but eventually turns corrupt. Lady Macbeth causes some of his corruption. Banquo does not let his prophecy influence his decisions in life. He remains a constantly first-rate character. In Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth’s flaws and ambitions affect their behavior throughout the play, eventually leading to their downfall, while Banquo remains unaffected by his aspirations.

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The three witches’ prophecies have an effect on the main characters; Lady Macbeth, Macbeth, and Banquo. “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis! All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor! All hail Macbeth, that shalt be King hereafter!” (Applebee 333). The prediction that Macbeth will one day be king sets in motion a killing spree that can’t be stopped. Macbeth struggles ethically with this prediction. He discusses his forecast, given to him by the witches, with Lady Macbeth and they are overcome with an insatiable greed, which seems to be the intent of the witches’ prophecy. The three witches foretold of Banquo’s sons being kings even though he will never be king himself. “Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none” (334). The witches’ statement tries to trap Banquo on a path of destruction. His character, too ethical to be dishonest and deceitful, would not be led astray. Even though Lady Macbeth did not attend the actual prophecies, her character still allowed the predictions of the three witches to affect her.

After Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth about the witches’ prophecies, she becomes instantly overwhelmed with greed and the want to better her position in life. Lady Macbeth has visions of grandeur and can see herself as queen one day. She constantly provokes Macbeth to kill, in order to go forward with the witches’ predictions. Lady Macbeth plants the idea of killing Duncan in Macbeth’s mind because she, the more determined character of the two, wants to be on the throne. “She is more ambitious and power hungry than Macbeth, her husband, and when he tries to back out of the murders she has plotted, she calls his manhood into question” (Jamieson). Lady Macbeth describes Macbeth as weak for being afraid to go along with the killing. She constantly taunts Macbeth until he agrees to kill Duncan. She helps him plot and carry out the murder of Duncan, King of Scotland (“Macbeth-Everything Shakespeare”). The guilt from helping Macbeth assassinate Duncan leads her into a downward spiral. She starts to hallucinate and she slowly loses her mind. Lady Macbeth succumbs to the shame of the murders and kills herself, thus proving Macbeth’s character of being more of a man than Lady Macbeth thought.

At the beginning of the play, Macbeth’s character shows honor and virtue. The witches’ visions of Macbeth being king one day and Lady Macbeth’s prodding curse his character. The witches’ revelations haunt Macbeth until he starts to murder the people that stand in his way. Lady Macbeth’s ambitious rants spur him to believe his decisions to slaughter the innocent people demonstrates the right thing to do. After Macbeth murders Duncan, he feels terrible guilt for the assassination of his friend and he begins to think it was all in vein because Banquo’s heirs are predicted to be kings. “Macbeth starts to worry about the witch’s prophecy that Banquo’s heirs will be kings” (“Macbeth Shmoop”). For this reason, on the day Macbeth plans to murder Banquo and his sons he asks Banquo three times whether his sons will be with him that day (Friedlander). He ends up murdering Banquo, and Banquo’s sons flee the city. This leaves open the possibility that the three witches’ prophecy will come true about Banquo’s sons becoming kings one day. The witches’ other prediction, beware of Macduff, makes Macbeth fear Macduff and he plots to kill Macduff and his family. Macbeth hires assassins to kill Macduff and his family. They kill Macduff’s whole family except him because he leaves the city at that time. All these forecasts lead to Macbeth’s downfall. He goes into battle with Macduff and his army thinking Macduff can’t kill him because the witches’ predicted that no one born of a woman will harm him. Macduff tells Macbeth that prediction does not concern him, he was ripped from his mother’s womb and then Macduff proceeds to kill Macbeth (“Macbeth”). The witches’ calculations did not always bring about death and destruction.

Banquo does not let the witches’ foretelling affect his moral fiber. “Shakespeare’s Banquo is the antithesis of Macbeth” (Mabillard). Banquo, morally a good person, does nothing to advance his heir’s position to the throne. At the beginning of the play, Banquo praises Macbeth for being an upstanding and honorable solider. Banquo even warns Macbeth that the witches’ little truths could in the end mean our destruction. Banquo’s only flaw consists of believing and trusting Macbeth. Even though Banquo did not alter his desires and his trusting nature, this became his undoing and Macbeth killed him.

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In Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth’s unchecked dreams caused their collapse, while Banquo stayed his course. The three witches played an important part in the outcome of the play by controlling the fate of the characters. Their prophecies changed some of the character’s demeanors leading them to carry out unthinkable murders. Lady Macbeth’s ambitions drove her to provoke her husband to kill. Lady Macbeth’s aspiration to be queen guided her to help with the murders until her guilt caused her death. Macbeth’s character started out praiseworthy and respectable, but allowed the witches and Lady Macbeth to manipulate him. In the end, it was his own decision to kill the others to advance his position (Johnston). Banquo remained true to himself in spite of the predictions from the witches. He did not let the prediction of his heirs being king turn him into an unhonorable man and a murderer. Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a tragic play, portrays how ambition and imperfections can be the downfall of people, while others have the means to overcome this temptation.


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