In this essay I will attempt to prove that at the beginning Macbeth proved the title wrong and Lady Macbeth proved it right. Therefore Macbeth was not a ‘dead butcher’ but Lady Macbeth was a ‘fiend-like queen’. I will then try to show how, towards the end, Macbeth proves the title right and Lady Macbeth proves it wrong. Therefore Macbeth was a ‘dead butcher’ and Lady Macbeth was not a ‘fiend-like queen’. I will also try to find out whether good replaces evil and whether evil exists in Macbeth or Lady Macbeth. So does Macbeth really deserve the title of ‘The Dead Butcher’?
At the beginning of the play on the battlefields we are introduced to the wounded sergeant, who is Macbeth’s new friend. He tells of Macbeth’s tremendous bravery and skills on the battlefield. As the sergeant explains how the battle against the rebels went he says
‘For brave Macbeth-well he deserves that
Disdaining fortune, with his brandish’d steel
Which smok’d with bloody execution’
And then goes on to say how Macbeth forced his way fearlessly through the rebels until he reached their leader Macdonwald and then,
‘Which ne’er shook hands, nor blade farewell to him,
Till he unseam’d him from the nave to the chaps,
And fix’d his head upon our battlements’.
As the quotation says he didn’t shake his stand but cut him with a sword from his nave to his chaps. This suggests that Macbeth has always been a butcher, because of his ruthless method of killing.
The sergeant has given us a lot of clues about Macbeth’s character in a very short time. We now know that he is very heroic, brave and an extremely skilled soldier. He has proved himself to be a very loyal member of the Kingdom of Scotland.
King Duncan also backs Macbeth when he says,
‘What he hath lost noble Macbeth hath won’
This is said when the Scottish traitor, the Thane of Cawdor is about to be hung. A literal translation of this is what the traitor has lost Macbeth has won, meaning that Macbeth is now the Thane of Cawdor.
We now can sympathize with Macbeth and due to him being a noble Scot, already I can disagree with the title.
When the witches enter with thunder and lightning, you almost immediately know that it is going to be about the struggle between the forces of good and the forces of evil.
‘All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis!
All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!
All hail, Macbeth! That shalt be King hereafter.’
At the time Macbeth was Thane of Glamis and was Thane of Cawdor but did not know it yet. He was extremely shocked that the witches thought that he would get that far up the ladder and become King. The witches speech shows how Shakespeare has created a mood of terror and unearthly evil, almost immediately in the play. It also shows how the witches know about his past, from him being Thane of Glamis, know about the present, him being the Thane of Cawdor, and know about the future, from him becoming the King. The witches have now made fate responsible for their actions.
The first time you hear of Lady Macbeth is in Macbeth’s castle. She was reading a letter from Macbeth, which explains his feelings on the witches.
‘While I stood rapt in the wonder of it, came
missives from the king, who all-hailed me, “Thane of
Cawdor”; by which title, before, these weird sisters
This explains how Macbeth was so amazed about the witches prophecy coming true. The letter was written based on a true open relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
‘Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts! Unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty; make thick my blood’.
is said by Lady Macbeth to Macbeth while they are making plans for Duncan’s murder. I have interpreted this to mean that Lady Macbeth wants to be filled with evil thoughts and therefore I think that in turn she will become a witch in the sense that she will urge Macbeth in the wrong direction but not carry out the evil herself. So in this instance I empathize with Macbeth but not with Lady Macbeth, because of her links with the powerful forces of fate.
When Duncan was invited to Macbeth’s castle he had plans for more than just dinner. This is the time when Macbeth intends to murder him. This was carried out by Macbeth with the persuasion of Lady Macbeth. She persuaded him, by dropping hints of the new power they could inherit, but never spoke to him of what the consequences could be from their actions.
The next important speech was made by Macbeth when he had just met Banquo on his way to bed. It was a soliloquy, which gave the audience the true feelings that Macbeth had about the murder.
‘Is a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come let me clutch
This quotation was from the soliloquy and told the audience about the images that Macbeth had started to see. He saw a vision of a dagger covered in blood, with the handle pointing towards him. Macbeth wonders whether the dagger is inviting him to do the murder. This is also one of the first scenes where Macbeth starts to be unable to control his mind.
In the courtyard of Macbeth’s castle, Lady Macbeth waited for her husband to come out of Duncan’s room after killing him. When he came out with his hands covered in blood Lady Macbeth said,
‘My hands are of your colour, but I shame
To wear a heart so white’.
This is saying how Lady Macbeth feels that she also directly murdered the King by pushing Macbeth into doing it. She says that it is very hard to say that she is all innocent when she is not.
Going by the quotations already mentioned it is very clear how my statement at the beginning it correct. I have already said how Macbeth proves the title wrong, but now I have more evidence to make Lady Macbeth prove the title right. She is now filled with evil thoughts and is starting to understand how much she is involved with the murder of King Duncan.
When Macduff and Lennox arrived at the castle to see Macbeth, he went and showed them to Duncan’s room. When Macduff entered the room he saw Duncan on the floor and screamed for Macbeth and Lennox to come in. After Macduff had started shouting for people to help Duncan, Lady Macbeth and Banquo went in and wanted to know what the problem was. When Lady Macbeth was told what had happened she said,
What! in our house?’
This was a similar response to how Macbeth reacted. This tells you that they are obviously putting on an act, by looking as if they had absolutely nothing to do with it.
After Macbeth had made his talk on how he blamed the servants for killing Duncan, Lady Macbeth fainted. This was a turning point because a new question arose. Do fiends have consciences? Now that this question has been raised, you can no longer say that Lady Macbeth is a devil-like queen because although she urged Macbeth into murdering Duncan she also is now realising that it was the wrong thing to do just to get power. Therefore she did not look at the consequences.
In another soliloquy with Macbeth, he reveals his problems with Banquo. He says,
‘Our fears in Banquo
Stick deep, and in his royalty of nature
Reigns that which would be fear’d: ’tis much he
This quotation explains how threatened Macbeth feels by Banquo. It his terms Macbeth only feels sick when Banquo is alive, but if Banquo were dead. He would be perfectly healthy.
Macbeth gets three murders to make him ‘healthy’ again by killing Banquo. Making the decision to kill Banquo was not hard for him. He has now got the idea of killing in his blood, and so it is becoming somewhat of an obsession. As I said in the beginning in the statement that I made, Macbeth will become a ‘dead butcher’ while Lady Macbeth will totally prove the statement wrong and not end up like a ‘fiend-like queen’. As I have already shown I have proved my statement right but I will try to show that even more throughout the rest of this essay.
Lady Macbeth in her new role, not as a ‘fiend-like queen’, talks to Macbeth about how the thoughts of murder should have died with Duncan.
‘Using those thoughts which should indeed have
Macbeth in response talks about him feeling evil. He says that the evil is in danger now, just as it was before the death of Duncan, from the righteousness. For a brief moment it disproves my statement, but in my view this was just to make Lady Macbeth feel better about herself.
Macbeth does not want to give much away about the murder of Banquo, but is constantly hinting at it. When Lady Macbeth asks what is to be done about him, he just says that she doesn’t need to know and that everything will be done in its natural order. He refers to Banquo’s life as a legal document (‘that great bond’), again showing that power is more important than friendship.
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth organised a state banquet held for Banquo. The idea of it was to draw the attention away from the murder and make it so they have a type of ally for themselves. During the banquet Banquo’s ghost appears so that only Macbeth can see it. All the Lord’s were there, so when Macbeth acts strangely, like when he said,
‘Thou canst not say I did it: never shake
Thy gory locks at me’.
it looks as if Macbeth is hiding something because he has gone mad. Lady Macbeth claims that he often gets sudden fits and she then left the table to speak with him. Lady Macbeth questions his manhood (‘Are you a man’). Macbeth then went back to the table and apologized about his ‘strange infirmity’. He then proposed a toast to Banquo who he said we all miss today.
As soon as he mentioned Banquo’s name he appears as a ghost. Macbeth has now shown how he can go from calm to having fits of madness. He shouts at everyone on the table accusing them of putting Banquo’s ghost in front of him. Due to only Macbeth being able to see it, some Lord’s could start putting two and two together, and find out that Macbeth was behind both murders. Lady Macbeth try’s to make excuses for Macbeth by saying that he needs some sleep, but this is ironic because Macbeth has murdered sleep and Banquo has not risen from sleep. Once all the guests and the ghost have gone, Macbeth says,
‘We are yet but young in deed’
hinting at the fact that Macbeth has still more murders to commit and he still needs to gain himself more experience.
As I said in my statement at the beginning, Macbeth turns into a ‘dead butcher’ and makes killing an addiction. Lady Macbeth is still holding out not to be a ‘fiend-like queen’, like the title suggests, because she is now trying to have absolutely nothing to do with the murders.
In this scene the witches gather on the moor to meet Macbeth. Macbeth now doesn’t care about anything other than his future. He wants to know what exactly in is store for him. There are three apparitions. The first is of an armed head, the second is of a bloody child and the third is of a child crowned, with a branch in his hand. The armed head tells Macbeth to beware of Macduff, the bloody child tells of Fleance, and the child being crowned holding a branch tells of Malcolm approaching Macbeth’s castle camouflaged with branches and then being crowned. This occurs later in the play. After the ‘truth’ has been told by the evil he says,
‘The castle of Macduff I will surprise;
Seize upon Fife; give to the edge of the sword
His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls
That trace him in his line.’
This quotation tells of how Macbeth is going to solve another problem of his. This problem is Macduff. He intends of killing all his children and wife and maids. This tells you how paranoid Macbeth is getting about power. He is so desperate for it that he intends on killing innocent children. Macbeth is now really living up to his title of the ‘dead butcher’.
Lady Macbeth now is really proving the title wrong. She is suffering from a guilty conscience. She walks in her sleep, and dreams that she and her husband are murdering King Duncan. Macbeth asks a doctor to look at her and find out how to help. Macbeth doesn’t seem to care for Lady Macbeth as he did at the beginning of the play, in the letter for example. The gentlewoman and the doctor discussed what had been happening and said that she was writing in her sleep onto some paper. The gentlewoman said that her thoughts were too likely to cause trouble if they were repeated.
Now you hear Macbeth trying to comfort himself by recalling the witches prophecies, before he goes to battle. As Macbeth talks to the doctor, the doctor wants to leave because he is starting to know too much. He is worried that he himself could get killed. As one of the apparitions said Birnam wood would move toward the castle therefore battle is commencing. As Macbeth prepares to fight he is told by Seyton that Lady Macbeth has been killed. Macbeth does not grieve because he feels that life is meaningless.
As the battle continues Macbeth meets young Siward. He fights with him and then kills him. After Macbeth had just finished killing young Siward, Macduff enters. Macbeth says,
‘I will not yield,
To kiss the ground before before young Malcolm’s feet,
And to be baited with the rabble’s curse.
Though Birnam wood be come to Dunsinane,
And thou oppos’d, being of no woman born,
Yet I will try the last.’
This quotation tells Macduff that he will not be taunted by the curse, and will not bow down to Malcolm. He will fight to the end. Malcolm kills Macbeth and is declared King. In the last speech of the play Malcolm presents his view on Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. It is a view that I have agreed and disagreed with throughout the essay but people still find it controversial,
‘Producing forth the cruel ministers
Of this dead butcher and his fiend-like queen.’