Is it Moral?

Published: 2021-07-07 19:25:04
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Category: Moral

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For many the reading of Macbeth portrays a pretty straight forward plot, a wholesome man is unwittingly corrupted and must pay for his crimes. The issue with this assertion is that nothing is as it seems in the world of the English language. This is even more evident when Shakespeare is involved. Interestingly, Macbeth was written for a new king who hailed from the great rolling hills of Scotland. Shakespeare had an obligation to please the most recent man in charge. Another assumption can be made that, because of the new king’s origins, the sole purpose of the play was to highlight Scotland in favor of the king.
The more widely accepted objective of Macbeth is a matter of opinion and state of mind, based upon the reader, and will allow interpretation to be had in many different ideals. Chicago University’s Shakespearean scholar, David Bevington is one that has read and studied Macbeth. Coming to his own conclusion, he said, “Macbeth is NOT a conventional morality play and it is NOT concerned primarily with preaching against sinfulness or demonstrating that Macbeth is finally damned for what he does. ” It is not precise to simply say that Mr.
Bevington is wrong, because to each reader, parts of Macbeth could reveal another way of imagining the actions taken. Macbeth is a morality play as well as a myriad of meanings, based on each person’s moral value, its characters coinciding, creating a lust for power, and forcing a reality check in the deathly collection for wrong doings, but also that the values and the morality of the reader are brought into question. The most obvious way that Shakespeare presents a struggle with morality in Macbeth is through the disintegration of the main character, Macbeth.
As the reader enters the story, the very first scene paints a picture of valor and loyalty; all attributes are pertaining to Macbeth. At this point the reader is led to believe that this new Macbeth character must be a great guy. However, when the first and last scenes are read one after the other, it is clear that there is in fact, a morality change within this one character. Slowly, as the story progresses it is easy to see the way that this particular character is metaphorically warped and disfigured.
The straw that broke that back of Macbeth’s masochistic camel was the three weird sisters foretelling the fate of Macbeth. This one act created a chain effect that heads off the shattering of multiple personas, including his wife, Lady Macbeth. Macbeth truly takes his own values for a spin when he decides that the crown shall undoubtedly be his. This prompts him to not only kill Duncan but massacre the Macduff family as well. This kind of act does not happen accidently. It occurs because of the orders of a person who has been affected in a certain way.
Seeing as Macbeth begins the story as a patriot to his king, it is rational to state that his personal psyche, as well as his values, and ultimately, his morality, has been compromised. It is obvious that Macbeth begins as a “good” guy and slowly declines. To mirror this and add to the drama of the play, his wife, Lady Macbeth, begins as a corrupted and manipulating instigator to the crimes Macbeth commits. As the play draws close to the end, Lady Macbeth begins to switch places with her husband and is haunted by the horror she helped create, prompting her untimely, self-inflicted death.
The drastic way that the two main characters, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, inevitably trade places, both beginning the story as opposite personalities and ending the play by having taken each others’ personas, demonstrates a compromise of judgment and system of beliefs for the two. This “good guy” manner that Macbeth disregards so quickly never truly leaves him. On the contrary, it is that fundamental component that will eventually lead to his final realization before death (Warren). The fight between good and evil throughout the play is a battle that each character must enter, and not all leave as victors.
In Macbeth, the lines between right and wrong are skewed and blurred taking many of the choices made into an unmanageable grey area. Shakespeare navigates his characters through this mist with a poisonous concoction that all of human kind has wrestled with since the dawn of time- their conscience. For Macbeth, his conscience was not a little cricket that sat on his shoulder telling him what would and wouldn’t make his nose grow. It was a very faint sickness that metastasized into a malignant cancer burning him from the inside out by the closing act.
Macbeth is bursting at the seams with the blatant contradictions of good and evil. He desires what he can gain from acts of brutality, but initially hesitates to commit them himself. In an essay written about the duality of this play, it is stated that by the play’s end he has not so much overcome this hesitation than he has utterly destroyed the emotions which drive it in the first place. In a sense, Shakespeare has made it so that the true tragedy of the play is not the death of individuals, but the decaying of Macbeth’s humanity; his slow decline into becoming little more than a mechanical warrior.
What drives him to this devastating end is his failure to win the battle raging within himself. In this play, Macbeth has every intention of committing these evil deeds and not thinking twice, but is fraught over the actual physical act of it. He is a true killer, and at the same time, is fully aware of his actions- at times horrified by them. “I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition which o’er leaps itself and falls upon the other”(Shakespeare). It is clear that Shakespeare has every intention of exposing the fact that Macbeth is fighting his own humanity and depravity.
The conflict depicted here is a huge factor that drives the play Macbeth and results in many of the deaths that are sure to have catastrophic consequences (Evangelista). Macbeth let his mind be subject to the torment of his twisted conscience, as well as his own warped image of himself beginning with this good guy persona and ending on a much lower note. With all of this in his past, in the closing act what does Macbeth have to depend on? What can he depend on now that he has made so many enemies? These questions are the assumed inquisitions running through Macbeth’s head as he finally realizes his own mortality.
The way that Macbeth has gone, letting his own self-image be sculpted by the witches’ prophecy, has led him to the universal conclusion that evil will have to face consequences sooner or later. An example of Macbeth first coming to terms with this inevitable fact is at dinner when he sees the ghost of Banquo. Macbeth is getting inside his own head and allowing the guilt, that he has so far not shown, come slightly into the light for the reader to see. The death of Lady Macbeth is another prime example of evil being brought to a Shakespearean adaptation of justice.
The pride that is deeply instilled in both Macbeth and his wife takes precedence when weighing out their next moves. The problem, being their pride, cannot withstand the universal fate of all evil being vanquished by good. Just as Adam and Eve were too engrossed by the forbidden fruit- Adam being too cowardly to see it is wrong and Eve being very persuasive; they ate, and for a moment, were content until God’s wrath rained upon them (Louise). When Lady Macbeth and her husband heard of the prophecy it was as if they were hearing of the forbidden fruit.
It is the human disposition to be manipulated and thwarted by those close to us, with the intention of some kind of personal gain, the result of this usually being a downfall of some kind. Even though many are not restricted by the evil category their actions do not bid well. It is seen time and time again- first in the Bible, and again in other works, such as The Odyssey and Oedipus Rex. Through trial and error humanity has shown that evil will fall at the feet of good, and yet it does not inhibit pursuing those vices (“StudyMacbeth).
Even though the human race is able to see the triumph that prevails when one chooses good over evil, the appeal of defiance is hard to ignore. Ambition and power are two such considerable deviances that, in Macbeth’s case, enhance the call by adding finesse and valor to the idea of disobedience. Climbing to the top is not easy. Furthermore making friends in the process is unusual and can slow the rise to power. In Macbeth, the lure of becoming the next king of Scotland is too much of a prize to cast off as a simple mistake made by three sisters.
The three sisters were able to instill within Macbeth a yearning for a title he was not fit for. This is Shakespeare at his very finest, testing the morality of a man by tempting him with the promise of fame and fortune- another great downfall of this race. This man, Macbeth, starts out as such an amazing warrior, defending his country with pride. The promise of more is what draws him in, enticing his need to be the best and prompting him to take his unbound ambition to a level that was beyond any moral standard ever set. Macbeth and his wife share in the need to be great and powerful.
Due to this, they will both sacrifice their morality to achieve that. When comparing these two characters with others in the play, such as Macduff, who also aspires to be a leader of power, but does not allow for his heart to become infected with ambition, and instead aims for honor, the corruption of naked ambition is shown. Without any kind of moral or social conscience this type of authority can take over a person’s life, and in Macbeth, that kind of unchecked command is exactly what causes his demise (Leeland). Macbeth’s downfall is not based solely upon one failing attribute that he possesses.
It is a combination of all of the corruption and lies he allows to infiltrate his mind. When it truly comes down to it, is it Shakespeare trying to portray Macbeth dying as justification for all of these short comings? An important issue, that is to be made by Macbeth, is the idea that because he was such a horrible person, his death, and that of his wife, is justified. Malcolm takes the throne; all is well. This assumption is based upon the initial validity of good being the way of God and evil being punishable with death.
The way that Shakespeare incorporates Macbeth’s death into the ideals of “just desserts” is somewhat skewed by many readers. Is Macbeth’s death a finality that closes the door for this kind of corruption to again take over Scotland? Macbeth justified his own killings by calling on the ideal of the greater good when truly he was acting upon his own selfish ambition. Due to Macbeth’s vulnerability, image of himself wearing the crown, he was able to commit such acts as killing a loyal friend and a family of innocents.
All of these crimes that have been committed by Macbeth go unchecked, and he is able to ascend to the throne without one man seeking justice with his blood. However, Macbeth does indeed meet his own demise, and it is this fact that draws into question the morality of the entire play. Throughout the pages it is obvious that Macbeth is a “bad guy”, and the need to vanquish him is noble and understandable considering what he has inflicted. It is here that morality takes an unexpected turn taking the reader on a quest of their own.
Even though Macbeth has committed heinous acts, does the death of Macbeth put all of that to rest? It is the classic problem of the value of human life. For humans, it is natural to see somebody and measure them up. Yet that kind of judgment rarely extends to the death penalty. The call for life or death is thought to be made from a higher place, usually spiritual. For all intents and purposes, however, Shakespeare leaves this moral conundrum up to his readers/viewers. Along with the choice of taking a person’s life also comes the justification of their death.
With the morality question of Macbeth needing to die or not pushed to the side, the problem of postmortem exoneration arises. The death of Duncan and the Macduff family can be absolved, assuming their murder joins them in the after life. Still more conflict is brought into perspective by calling into question the kind of person that would wish death upon another human being for personal satisfaction. A rational way of reasoning with the death of Macbeth would be allowing Malcolm to rise to the throne in the rightful place of his father.
This being the case, there is still the fact of Fleance being able to recreate the horrors executed by Macbeth himself. The death of Macbeth gives way the second part of the witches’ prophecy, and allows the reader to make the assumption that Macbeth’s departure was little more than a slight intermission (Jaffa). With almost everything, from Macbeth’s murders to his own death, brought to question by individual morals and values, it is hard to see any other purpose in the play of Macbeth. If not the question of morality and human nature coming to a head, then what could be Shakespeare’s true meaning?
From past experience with Shakespeare it is easy to pull up almost any underlying factor, but for all intents and purposes the biggest allusion that can be seen, other than morality, is that of fate. The three weird sisters are witches that toy with Macbeth, but ultimately seal his doom in telling him about the crown. The fight between fate and free will in Macbeth is one alternative to questioning morality. Shakespeare left the readers of his play to decipher the line between what is destined for Macbeth and what he has inflicted upon himself.
The play pits the prophecies of the three weird sisters against its own dramatization of Macbeth’s internal conflict—and it’s not clear which wins. In fact, fate and free will might just be working together (Future). Macbeth is not only a morality play within its own pages, by affecting its characters conscience, creating a lust for power, and forcing a reality check in the deathly collection for wrong doings, but also that the values and the morality of the reader are brought into question.
Starting off as a man of valor and bravery, and slowly disintegrating into the mess of a man he is by the end of the play, goes to show that morals and values will be comprised by even the best of man. Macbeth suffers a downfall the likes that have never been seen before or since, and it is hard to argue that morality played a key part. Shakespeare’s intentions with Macbeth may not be crystal clear. Some could argue that fate is the objective of the script, but main objective or not, the principle of morality was a factor questioned time and time again.

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