In this essay I will look at three chief influences which drove Macbeth to do what he did. By careful study of the play I have realised, in committing Duncan's murder how far Macbeth is driven by his own ambition; how far he is dominated by his wife's ambition; and how far he is influenced by the three witches. Macbeth was written by William Shakespeare in 1606, the Jacobean period. The audience in those times were very aware of witches, believing in their chants and riddles. Witches were thought to be dangerous and servants of Satan which is why the opening of the play seems so much more intense, eerie and hair-raising as they actually believed in such creatures of supernatural origin.
It is clear that at the beginning of the play Macbeth is a brave war hero, we learn about his lion heartedness in battle winning the victory for Scotland. Macbeth is then given the title 'Thane of Cawdor", once belonging to a disloyal traitor and we start to wonder if maybe Macbeth will turn out the same way. Because Macbeth is the king's cousin we, as an audience, start to question whether he has simply drawn tired of being just a war hero, maybe he wants to make something more of his life.
In Act 1 Scene 3 Macbeths willingness to believe the witches is clearly obvious; he uses language such as "Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more". Banquo, though, is more suspicious- "Things that do look so fair". This line suggests he is not entirely sure things are the way they seem. This important because it proves to us that right from the very star Banquo isn't completely comfortable about this 'meeting'. This suggests for the future that Banquo might turn out to be proven right about his wariness.
Macbeth clearly feels that he has to kill Duncan- the way he speaks and the language he uses portrays this, "If good, why do I yield do that suggestion/Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair..." He clearly realises that killing Duncan is an option. This soliloquy technique allows us to see his inner thoughts, letting us see the transformation into the other side of his dual character.
The dramatic irony emphasises Macbeths decision because when Macbeth enters King Duncan is just saying there is no way of telling what's going through a persons mind by looking at their face, he says "There's no art/ To find the mind's construction in the face". Macbeth is able to be kind to the king, showing his duplicity and diversity. Macbeth's thought process, following Malcolm's appointment as heir apparent (Prince of Cumberland) went straight to murder saying, "that is a step... for in my way it lies" he then goes on to say "The eye wink at the hand: yet let that be", meaning 'let the eye close for a moment and not notice what the hand is doing- murder. This is admitted aside, he is thinking of murder and he faces up to the reality of his evil thoughts, "Let not light see my black and deep desires". This line makes us as an audience anxious for Macbeth's next move, the words 'deep' and 'black' make us think of him as 'ominous' and 'devoid of morals'. In Act 3 Scene 1 Macbeth shows his coldheartness by setting up the murder of Banquo, he also ensures the death of Lady MacDuff.
Overall Macbeth is a weak character, easily led astray by his other-half, his own ambition and his imagination- started off by the witches.
It is clear to the audience that from the moment Lady Macbeth receives the letter from Macbeth she is immediately ambitious for her husband, "and shalt be/ what thou art promised" but begins to think of murder, saying "to catch the nearest way". She is so eager to become in control that she will do anything it takes to get there. An example of this is when she talks about defeminising herself- "Come to my women's breasts, / and take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers". This translates as, 'take my milk in exchange for the bitterest vinegar, evil spirits who inspire murder'. This indicates her cold-heartedness and sly, manipulative ways. We discover she is plotting and evil with a negative influence.
The address of the letter, "dearest partner of greatness", shows love and devotion. Their relationship shows trust because Macbeth writes the letter divulging everything he has passed with regard to the witches. The fact that Lady Macbeth can 'read strange matters' in Macbeths face shows how well she knows his character. Macbeth asks her to "Lay it to thy heart", keep it a secret making the play more exciting.
Lady Macbeth paints her husband as a weak man "too full o' th' milk of human kindness". This contrasts with how the audience would envisage him because just before this scene we are told about his bravery of slaying a traitor in battle. Lady Macbeth resolves to persuade Macbeth to do it and asks for the strength to commit the murder.
Lady Macbeth uses various strategies to encourage Macbeth's success in gaining the throne for example praise, "worthy Cawdor", which is heavily contrasted with her belittling and patronising of her husband. No man (especially in these times) could have stood to be seen as weak by their wives. Lady Macbeth builds up his manly ego and the fact that he has her approval undermines his masculinity.
She welcomes him with how she thinks he will be greeted in the future as King ('all-hail'). Lady Macbeth plans the murder and says Macbeth is not a man is he doesn't perform it. The scene ends with Lady Macbeth saying "Only look up clear: /To alter favour ever is to fear: / Leave the rest to me". In Elizabethan plays, the end of a scene was often indicated by the use of one or more rhyming couplets. In Act 1 Scene 5 we are left with this couplet (clear, fear) but extra impact is given by the other line after the couplet, this is because it seems incomplete as there are only three of the five beats expected in a pentameter. We are left on a cliff hanger, excited to see what happens next.
So although Macbeth has the idea of murder first, Lady Macbeth pursues it and therefore without her Macbeth would never have killed Duncan.
The Supernatural personified in the characters of the three witches is an important theme within the play of 'Macbeth' and it runs throughout the production. We discover they can only make 'men' suffer, they can't take life. This affects our understanding of their influence on Macbeth's life as they purely catalyse influence and reveal hidden desires, rather than alter his life. This reminds us of an earlier plot the witches made because "a sailor's wife had chestnuts" but wouldn't give the witch one. Instead of just killing the woman they devise a plan to give the sailor lasting injuries to make the wife suffer as revenge, this suggests dire cruelty and vengefulness.
The witches don't tell Macbeth how to achieve those prophetic ends but merely talk in riddles like a chant or incarnation, this makes the words seem more powerful and mystical.
In Act 1 Scene 1 the witches discuss Macbeth, who we have not yet met. They plan 'to meet with Macbeth' which seems to suggest that they have something in mind. Because we assume Macbeth has something to do with these witches straight away we make a presumption he is not a good person. If the witches were not there it would make a considerable difference to the play, for without them the seed of future greatness wouldn't have been planted in Macbeth's mind which is what the whole play is about.
The witches show themselves to be evil, for example they cause men's deaths. Early on in the play, the three of them chant the paradox "fair is foul and foul is fair" meaning all things that are good are evil and all things that are bad are good. The witches all say this together perhaps emphasising their wickedness. This line reminds us that appearances are often deceiving and it could be used as a warning of what's about to come, murder maybe?
The witches don't tell Macbeth the whole truth, just give him part of the story for him to fill in the rest, encouraging him to let his imagination and thought take over. Banquo feels the witches might not be all they seem and he doesn't believe what has happened, asking "have we eaten on the insane root?" Banquo is obviously referring to, in modern terms whether they are on drugs. He feels that this is unreal (the same as the audience) and is confused about the whole situation, seemingly in a daze. Macbeth seems almost hypnotised by what they tell for he doesn't speak for about twenty lines whilst the witches and Banquo talk. Banquo reacts very differently from Macbeth, questioning their every word, whereas Macbeth is stood stunned. Banquo says, "That he seems rapt withal" meaning Macbeth is so entranced by what the witches speak.
The opening scene is dedicated to the witches who suggest their significant role within the play as they are the first "characters" we meet. They are obviously of great dramatic importance. They meet on "a wild heath land", as said in the stage-descriptions, in "thunder and lightning". This pathetic fallacy makes us have the presumption trouble is around the corner and our thoughts soon turn foreboding. From the start of the play we are introduced to the mood of evil, this makes us not trust anybody and we get the picture nothing is as it seems. Shakespeare might have been trying to prepare the audience of what's ahead, drawing them in. To conclude my analysis of the opening scene, we as an audience all get the words 'devilry', 'revenge', 'plotting' and 'evil' into our heads after experiencing the witches first on-stage gathering. They plant the seed into Macbeths mind which blossoms into this whole story. The witches are behind it all, for without them this story wouldn't exist.
In conclusion it is clear that there are many possible reasons why Macbeth may have behaved the way that he did. Lady Macbeth plays a compelling part in Macbeth's decision along with his own ambition, but in my opinion it was the witches who endorsed him the most, after all it was their plan he was following along with help from his wife, because of her manipulative ways. Without the witches though, Lady Macbeth would never have had the seed planted in her mind either so wouldn't have encouraged Macbeth in killing Duncan. It was like a ripple effect, starting with the witches. So, I think, it should be the witches who should be held in account of King Duncan's murder because although it wasn't their finger prints on the daggers, it was their evil mastermind and their 'game' all along.