Literary Analysis of Macbeth
Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a classic example of the degradation of a character from valiant to villain. This degradation is chiefly achieved by the main character Macbeth himself as he is swayed by murderous intentions, but also by the provocative words of his inamorata, Lady Macbeth. The corruption exercised upon Macbeth as he travels his corrupted path is the ultimate and clearest theme of Macbeth: the self-generated damnation of one’s soul. Macbeth and Banquo are homeward bound from battle when Macbeth is confronted by the three Witches for the first time. The three Witches present Macbeth and Banquo with prophecies.
Whereas Banquo dismisses the witches as “instruments of darkness that tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray’s in deepest consequence—” (Act I, Scene III, Line 124), Macbeth readily ponders their words and initializes his certain fate. Macbeth’s eager acceptance of the Witches’ words foreshadows his darkened decisions in the future. The regicide plot contrived by Lady Macbeth at first concerns Macbeth: “He’s here in double trust: first, as I am his kinsman and his subject, strong both against the deed; then, as his host, who should against his murderer shut the door—” (Act I, Scene VII, Line 12).
Through challenging Macbeth’s manhood, however, Lady Macbeth is able to persuade Macbeth to commit the murder. This ability to be persuaded is a key component of Macbeth’s degradation, falling deeper and deeper into the clutches of greed and immorality as he thirsts for power and security along with it. Macbeth is greatly remorseful after the murder of Duncan, revealing his emotions to Lady Macbeth: “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?
No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous sea incarnadine. making the green one red. ” (Act II Scene II Line 64). Lady Macbeth is short in her responses with Macbeth in this scene, and her words are clear and sharp: “My hands are of your color, but I shame to wear a heart so white. ” (Act II Scene II Line 68). The cold and calculating nature of Lady Macbeth effectively manipulates Macbeth into becoming a dastardly king. Macbeth’s indecision throughout the play is demonstrative of his growing degradation and wickedness.
Though Macbeth regrets his sins and develops sleeplessness and exhaustion, he is seen constantly paranoid of the people surrounding him and ordering rash decisions such as the murder of Banquo. The deteriorated characters of both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth become worse as the play progresses, displaying the wear that their damnation is bestowing upon them. Macbeth’s gradual degradation is reflective of life’s temptations and how those temptations affect us all: it marks not only a consistent and immersed theme in Macbeth, but also in life itself.