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In Macbeth, how is Macbeth responsible for his own downfall?

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wanderista | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 2) Valedictorian

Posted September 4, 2013 at 7:45 AM via web

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In Macbeth, how is Macbeth responsible for his own downfall?

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 4, 2013 at 11:49 AM (Answer #1)

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One of the advantages of watching a play or reading as book is that audiences or readers form opinions of their own. Over the centuries, Macbeth's accountability in Macbeth and Shakesperare's intent have been discussed at length. A modern audience may feel that Macbeth is answerable for his actions as the notion of the noble soldier has dramatically changed with time. They would not feel sorry for a man who cannot be "so much more the man" (I.vii.51) except through deceit and murder.

Macbeth starts scheming right from the start as the witches reveal the possible extent of his future rise to king. He is faced with a similar future as Banquo and yet his actions are very different. Banquo even wonders " "Good sir, why do you start, and seem to fear things that do sound so fair?" ((I.iii.51) The witches have been proven right in the first context of the Thane of Cawdor, so why not wait for the next, natural event. Banquo even warns Macbeth of "the instruments of darkness."(I.iii.124)

Although stereotypes do still exist, in Shakespeare's day, they abounded and we see Lady Macbeth breaking with stereotypes in her efforts to "unsex" herself but at the same time conflicted by her need to nurture her husband and "Partner of Greatness"(I.v.10) such as Macbeth calls her. This reversal of gender roles could have confused Macbeth but, as the previously valiant, courageous soldier, he later has no difficulty reaching past this as he continues on his killing spree having successfully killed Duncan. He uses his position of power to commit the most heinous deeds. It is his fear of discovery that sends him into a madness that cannot be described or recognized, under the false belief that "none of woman born shall harm" him.(IV.i.80)

Therefore some will argue that he is responsible for his own downfall due to his own schemes and refusal to keep his ambition in check.

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