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Often debated is the role of the witches in Macbeth s life, whether they controlled him, or merely provided him with insight. The witches are introduced at the beginning of the play and give Macbeth three prophecies. First, that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor, second that he will become Thane of Glams, and finally he will become King. There is the possibility that once Macbeth met with the witches, they controlled every move he made. It is more realistic, however, to believe that Macbeth was responsible for his own actions throughout the play, rather than being controlled by the witches.
The witches could foretell the future, therefore adding temptation, but they could not control his destiny. Macbeth’s misery is driven by his own sense of guilt. This causes him to become insecure and paranoid about his actions, which in turn drives him to commit more murders. The three Witches are only responsible for the introduction of these ideas into Macbeth’s head, not for his actions throughout the play.
Macbeth s motivation is dominated more by Lady Macbeth than the witches. Lady Macbeth is shown early in the play as an ambitious woman with a single purpose: to manipulate Macbeth. This is shown in the line “That I may pour my spirits in thine ear. (I, V, 26) She is also, however, selfless, and wants what is best for her husband. Before the speech that Lady Macbeth gives in act one scene five, Macbeth has resolved not to go through with the killing of the king. However, Lady Macbeth manipulates Macbeth’s self-esteem by playing on his masculinity and his bravery. This then convinces Macbeth to go through with the murder. Macbeth is easily swayed just like a child may be. Lady Macbeth knows this and acts on it accordingly. Although Macbeth has the final say in whether or not to go through with the initial killing, he loves Lady Macbeth, and wants to make her happy.
Lady Macbeth plays the dominating role in their relationship, which is shown, in her soliloquy in Act 1 Scene 5. It seems that she can convince him to do anything as long as she presses the right buttons. On the other hand, as the play progresses, and Duncan is killed, there is a reversal of natural order: Macbeth becomes the dominating partner and Lady Macbeth becomes weak, only a shadow of her former self.
Ambition plays a large role in this tragedy. It is the combination of Macbeth’s fierce ambition and the initial prophecies, which put the very idea of killing Duncan into his head. And if it were not for Lady Macbeth’s ambition, which drives her to try to convince Macbeth that he needs to kill Duncan, he may have never done so. It is Lady Macbeth who states “Thou wouldst be great; Art not without ambition. (I, V, 13-14) And Macbeth states that it is his besetting sin: “I have no spur; to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition. (I, IV, 25-27) Macbeth’s continued ambition is present in his wanting to have a succession of kings after him.
It is this ambition that gets him into so much trouble initially, and once Macbeth kills for the first time, he has no choice but to continue to cover up his wrong doing. If he does not continue killing he risks losing everything he has worked so hard for. Everyone is responsible for ones own destiny. This is an essential theme in this tragedy.
Macbeth chooses to gamble with his soul. He is responsible for everything he does and must take total accountability for his actions. Macbeth is the one who made the final decision to carry out his actions. The killing of Duncan starts an unstoppable chain of events in the play that ends with the suicide of Lady Macbeth, and finally the murder of Macbeth himself. In the beginning he had all the qualities of an honorable gentleman who could have become anything if it were not for his fatal flaw. Unfortunately, ambition overrode his sense of morality, causing his ultimate downfall. Banquo warns Macbeth not to trust the witches prophecies, but he pays no attention. Even when the second set of prophecies Macbeth receives begin to show their faults, he blames the witches for deceiving him with “half-truths. While the witches are not responsible for the actions of Macbeth, they are responsible for putting the ideas into his head, which in turn fire up Macbeth’s ambition and lead him to a disastrous and untimely end.
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