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Macbeth 15 Essay, Research Paper

Duncan and Macbeth’s downfall in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth results from their reluctance to question the motives and actions of others. It was that absolute trust, believing that no one would try to rise up against them, that foreshadows the murders of both characters. Duncan, the first to fall prey to over-confidence, trusted the Thane of Cawdor completely until he discovered that the Thane was a traitor who was betraying him. In Macbeth’s case, he believed the prophecies of the three witches without realizing that they have ulterior motives behind their glimpses of the future. Mabeth shows similar weakness when he accepts the vague statements of the apparitions as absolute fact instead of considering and acting rationally upon them. These poor displays of judgement by Macbeth and Duncan allow them to be taken advantage of at various times in the play. There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face: He was a gentleman on whom I built an absolute trust (I, iv, 11-4). With this statement, Duncan illustrates his recognition of his inability to tell the character of an individual by looking at him. He is referring to the Thane of Cawdor who, during the civil war, helped try to overthrow Duncan’s rule of Scotland. As a king, Duncan is well received which perhaps allows him to consider himself untouchable. He assumes that no one would have any reason to hurt or disobey him and so he allows his personal safety standards to fall to dangerous levels. This lack of concern also accounts for the manner in which he is unprotected while sleeping at Mabeth’s castle. Duncan is governed by his ego to such an extent that he dismisses this breech of security by killing the disloyal Thane rather than try to correct and prevent the problem in the future. Macbeth’s first meeting with the three witches shows his willingness to be led as he takes his prophecies to heart. When he says, “This supernatural soliciting cannot be ill, cannot be good; if ill, why hath it given me earnest of success, commencing in a truth,” (I, iii, 130-33) he believes that his prophecies will all be fulfilled even though he has already become Thane of Cawdor and Glamis without the help of the witches. Tragically, he fails to realize why the witches are seeing into the future for him. They are prophesying because they know that Macbeth will perform the evil deeds, which they are in favour of, necessary to accomplish his new-found goals. Macbeth, on the other hand, assumes that the witches’ purpose is to serve him and that because of his notoriety and local celebrity, they would not dare have plans of their own to deceive him. Macbeth was selfish enough to only realize his own needs and the witches were able to exploit this characteristic for their personal gains. Macbeth’s blind faith in the witches also accounts for his reaction toward the statements made by the three apparitions. When Macbeth says, “Who can impress the forest, bid the tree unfix his earth-bound root? Sweet bodements! Good! Rebellion’s head, rise never until the wood of Birnam rise, and our high-placed Macbeth shall live the lease of nature…” (IV, i, 95-9) it becomes obvious that he is thinking in a literal sense rather than the figurative which is being used by the witches. When the second apparition tells Macbeth that no one born of a woman is able to kill him, he begins to think he is invincible. In Macbeth’s current state of mind, he is so willing to believe the witches that he is unable to recognize that he has lost control of his own destiny. The predicament is staged by the witches to create chaos and set up Macbeth’s death by Macduff, who fits the criteria mentioned by the apparition. Macbeth is extremely vulnerable at this point and his fear of the future is expressed in the manner in which he has become obsessed about discovering what awaits him. The deaths of both Duncan and Macbeth were caused by their inability to properly deduce what others around them are thinking. Duncan, until he was told, was ignorant of the fact that one of his own men was divulging information and helping the enemy during the civil war. As for Macbeth, he was unaware that his actions were being dictated by the witches and thought that he was in control of his life. In a relentless attempt to stay alive, Macbeth also accepted the apparitions without question which brought about his defeat by Macduff. Macbeth and Duncan were both self-centered, proud individuals who allowed their fates to be placed in the hands of others and paid for their mistakes with their own blood.


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