Lukas Jeffery Ms. Gruban ENG 3U1 21 October 2010
Macbeth Noble Macbeth‟s Evil Purposes The play Macbeth by William Shakespeare is a tragic historical play, where one man‟s ambition causes the death and sorrow of many. It may be believed that Macbeth was a man with no admirable or great traits, however that is not true. Macbeth had great gifts, but he used his gifts for evil purposes. There are three specific events where Macbeth used his gifts without moderation, and he used his gifts for evil purposes. These three specific events lead to his eventual death. The first event occurs when Macbeth kills King Duncan out of ambition. If he had used this gift in moderation perhaps he would not have done this deed that he was so disturbed with thereafter, as he says he would be best not knowing himself after what he has done, and even remarks that he wishes whoever is knocking so loudly could awake Duncan. “To know my deed „twere best not know myself./Wake Duncan with thy knocking! I would thou couldst” (2.2.7374). Macbeth clearly states in his soliloquy before he kills Duncan that ambition is his motive, “I have no spur/To prick the sides of my intent, but only/Vaulting ambition which o‟er leaps itself/And falls on the other” (1.7.25-28). Macbeth had no reason to dislike Duncan; in fact he thought Duncan was a fine king. So his only motive is the “vaulting” ambition he refers to. In his reference he almost foreshadows the failure that will ensue, as he “o‟er leaps” himself and falls. In conclusion, Macbeth‟s evil purpose was killing Duncan and his great gift was ambition; however he used it with no moderation.
The second event occurs when Macbeth tries to have both Fleance and Banquo murdered, only succeeding in having Banquo killed. Two of his great gifts work in combination with a lack of moderation so he can complete this evil purpose. Firstly Macbeth‟s ambition is a gift he uses here, he is not content with the prophecy of only being king, “Upon my head they plac‟d a fruitless crown,/And put a barren sceptre in my gripe,/Thence to be wrench‟d with an unlineal hand,/No son of mine succeeding” (3.1.61-64). Macbeth is frustrated that the witch‟s prophecy stated that Banquo would be the father of kings, but did not say that Macbeth‟s descendants would be kings. Macbeth says “For them the gracious Duncan have I murder‟d:/Put rancours in the vessel of my peace/Only for them” (3.1.66-68), explaining that he has murdered Duncan then, not for his own descendants but those of Banquo. In addition Macbeth also had great courage, and in trying to kill Fleance and Banquo he is trying to make the witch‟s prophecy untrue, he calls upon Fate, for a fight to the death “Rather than so, come fate into the list,/And champion me to th‟ utterance!” (3.1.71-72). In conclusion, Macbeth‟s gifts of ambition and courage were used without moderation resulting in this evil attempt to change fate by killing his friend. The final event occurs when Macbeth‟s evil purpose was having Macduff‟s family killed. The only great gift that is clearly seen here is the impulse and tenacity of an obvious army commander, which Macbeth certainly was. Macbeth received news of Macduff fleeing to England and then said “Time, thou anticipat‟st my dread exploits;/The flighty purpose never is o‟ertook/Unless the deed go with it;” (4.1.144-145). This shows that he is better suited for war than politics; he explains that he cannot achieve his purpose if he does not do it as soon as he thinks of it. In a battle this is true, seeing an enemy and not acting quickly and attacking would render him unsuccessful. Above all this evil purpose is the worst, he has little motive and it is likewise the worst mistake he possibly could have made, for the Witch‟s prophecy was that he
should beware Macduff. In conclusion, Macbeth‟s gift of being a great army commander was used for the evil purpose of killing Macduff‟s family, a bad mistake that chiefly lead to his death. The three events eventually lead to the death of Macbeth. When Macbeth killed Duncan his morals were still present and he felt bad. However he almost grew numb as the play progressed, and by the time Macduff flees Macbeth does not have any morals whatsoever and has Macduff‟s family killed in cold blood. The slaughtering of Macduff‟s family not surprisingly angers Macduff very much. This is significant because Macduff decides that he must be the one to kill Macbeth, or else he will be haunted by his family‟s ghosts “If thou be‟st slain and with no stroke of mine,/My wife and cildren‟s ghosts will haunt me still”(5.7.14-15). Macduff was “untimely ripped” and so he is one of the few that, by the witch‟s prophecy, can kill Macbeth. In conclusion, as Macbeth says “I have almost forgot the taste of fears”(5.5.9) if he had not killed Duncan initially, his ambition may not have grown as it did. Macbeth became evil, and by this he angered Macduff who killed Macbeth. In conclusion, there are three specific events where Macbeth used his great gifts with a lack of moderation, for evil purposes. When he killed King Duncan he was ambitious, when he had Banquo murdered he was ambitious and courageous and when he had Macduff‟s family murdered he was a commander. From seeing what happened to Macbeth we can realize the importance of moderation, because even the greatest gifts can turn into the greatest vices.
Work Cited Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Roma Gill, ed. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1993