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What Is The One Dominant Force That Leads To Macbeth?s Downfall? Essay, Research Paper
In the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare there are many forces that lead to the downfall of the lead character, Macbeth. The most dominant one, prophecy is introduced at the very beginning. If it were not for prophecy, none of what happened would have occurred. Any other forces that may have had a secondary role in leading Macbeth down were brought to life or nursed with the hearing of the prophecy. The prophecy is always on Macbeth?s mind during the entire play. He even returns to the witches when he needs comfort. In the end, the prophecy is what is to blame for his death. Proof will be given from the play and also from other sources as to why this is true.
Though there are many different forces pushing Macbeth towards his downfall and the events that lead up to it, all of them are influenced by either the prophecy at the beginning (Act I, Scene iii, L: 48-50) or the second prophecies later (Act IV, Scene i, L: 71-124). For example, although Macbeth had previously thought of claming the throne, the witches? prophecy gave him the push he needed to kill Duncan. If it were not for the prophecy, he would not have told his wife about the prophecy and therefore she would not be able to convince him to kill Duncan. Also, it was the prophecy that Banquo?s children would be kings that caused Macbeth to hire the murderers to kill Banquo and Fleance (Act III, Scene i, L: 115-127). This murder was even entirely Macbeth?s doing, with no help from Lady Macbeth or anyone else. Many sources say that Lady Macbeth was the reason for Macbeth?s downfall and while she did have a hand in the first murder the second and third were entirely his idea. ?Macbeth?has been changed by the witches prophecy more than his wife can be aware.? (Mehl, p113) This quote shows that Lady Macbeth is not aware of how much the witches? prophecy changed her husband. If she is the cause for his downfall, how can this be? Thirdly, it is the second prophecy that causes Macbeth to send the murderers to Fife to kill Macduff and his family (Act IV, Scene i, L: 82-86). This was also entirely Macbeth?s idea based on what the prophecy had told him. Even though the prophecy said that ?none of woman born/Shall harm Macbeth? (Act IV, Scene i, L: 80-81), Macbeth still tries to have him and his family killed. Thus, it can be seen the prophecy feeds his paranoia to the point that he acts on every impulse and threat he finds. The three murders that Macbeth has a hand in, and lead him towards his downfall, are caused by prophecy.
Also, the ultimate downfall was the fault of the prophecy. First, Macbeth loses his wife; she goes insane and kills herself (Act V, Scene v, L: 16). This is caused by guilt from Duncan?s murder, something that would not have occurred if it were not for the prophecy. This shows that Macbeth is losing everything close to him. Even though he does not show emotion at the time of her death, it still shows his loss. Also, because of all the murders and his terrible ruling, all of his close friends and nobles leave him. They even gathered an army and marched against him. Things have become bad in Scotland because of Macbeth?s insanity, brought on by guilt for the murders, which were caused by the prophecy. Ross describes the situation to Malcom and Macduff in England:
Alas! Poor country;
Almost afraid to know itself. It cannot
Be call?d our mother, but our grave; where nothing,
But who knows nothing, is once seen to smile;
Where sighs and groans and shrieks that rent the air
Are made, not mark?d; where violent sorrow seems
A modern ecstasy; the dead man?s knell
Is there scarce ask?d for who; and good men?s lives
Expire before the flowers in their caps,
Dying or ere they sicken. (Act IV, Scene iii, L: 164- 173)This shows life is deteriorating in Scotland under Macbeth?s rule. All of this is caused by prophecy. ??when the witches call him ?King hereafter,? that sets his heart knocking at his ribs, that wrings from him unsafe extremities of rhetoric, that reduces him to a maniac when Banquo walks again, that spreads from him to all of Scotland until it?s inhabitants ?float upon a wild and violent sea? (Act IV, Scene ii, L: 21)? (Van Doren, 352-353). This shows the connection from the witches? prophecy to the turmoil in Scotland very well. Lastly, Macbeth?s death is also basically caused by the prophecy, when the second apparition told Macbeth that ?none of woman born/ Shall harm Macbeth? (Act IV, Scene i, L: 80-81), he was very happy and pleased with the news. But as he was fighting Macduff and found out that ?Macduff was from his mother?s womb/Untimely ripp?d? (Act V, Scene vii, L: 44-45) Macbeth lost his edge and lost the battle. Because of the prophecy in the back of his mind Macbeth lost the fight. He was convinced that because everything else that had been prophesied came true, he would also lose this fight as well. It can now be seen that Macbeth?s losing everything close to him, and finally his life, can be blamed on the prophecy.
In conclusion, the dominant force leading to Macbeth?s downfall was the prophecy given by the witches at the beginning and by the Apparitions later in Act IV. Macbeth committed three murders: Duncan, Banquo and Macduff?s family. The motive for all of these murders came, if not directly, indirectly from the prophecy. Macbeth also lost everything that was important and close to him. This can also be blamed on the prophecy. He lost his wife to insanity caused by guilt from Duncan?s murder, he lost the trust of all his nobles and friends because he was ruling like a maniac because of his guilt from his murders and finally he lost his life because he believed the prophecies handed down to him, which at the time had seemed so good. Even if the prophecies were pure luck, and did not mean a thing, that does not take away from the fact that if the witches had not proclaimed Macbeth to be ?King hereafter,? (Act I, Scene iii, L: 50), there would be no play.
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