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Shakespeare aims to have his audience identify with Macbeth and then become involved in...

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argff | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 15, 2009 at 12:33 PM via web

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Shakespeare aims to have his audience identify with Macbeth and then become involved in his pain and suffering. Do you agree that he succeeds?

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sagesource | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted June 16, 2009 at 2:32 AM (Answer #1)

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Since Macbeth is the protagonist of the play and is not presented in an uncompromisingly negative light (as Iago is, for instance), we are safe in assuming that Shakespeare intended his audience to see things from his standpoint and share his emotions to an extent. I would say that Shakespeare did succeed in this. He presents Macbeth as an ambitious man who is clearly superior in some ways to his ruler, King Duncan. He is then told that he will be king, along with other predictions that quickly prove true. Who would not be tempted? But we note that Macbeth immediately comes to the rational conclusion yielded by dispassionate analysis,

If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me
Without my stir. (Act I, Scene 3)

He is tempted, but he seems on the road to resisting temptation -- until he brings others into it. Banquo, by failing to press the point he initially makes,

But ’tis strange;
And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
Win us with honest trifles, to betray's
In deepest consequence— (Act I, Scene 3)

and still more Lady Macbeth, in the raging ambition ignited by Macbeth's communication to her, set up a social context that tempts Macbeth into improving fate by taking an active hand in Duncan's murder. Lady Macbeth even taunts him with unmanliness if he fails to proceed,

When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And, to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more the man. (Act I, Scene 7)

One might reasonably object that it is unfair and sexist to blame Macbeth's moral weakness on his wife's nagging, but in a more general sense, that of "peer pressure," it shows Macbeth falling into crime and ruin for a reason most of us can understand and sympathize with. Thus, no matter how bloody his future career becomes, we can become involved in his pain and suffering even while we recognize that he brought them on himself by his own folly.

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krathje | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted June 26, 2009 at 5:10 AM (Answer #2)

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Not really.  I believe the audience is glad, by the end of this play, to see Macbeth defeated and is thrilled that Malcolm will make all things right in Scotland.  Macbeth's tyrannical actions, including his apathy toward the death of his wife, the murder of his close comrade Banquo, and the annihilation of his friend MacDuff's family, cause the audience to turn against Macbeth and wish for his end.  Although Shakespeare paints a strong and courageous Macbeth in the opening scenes, Macbeth's transitions to a coward and then a tyrant make him unlovely to the characters in the play as well. Shakespeare clearly wanted to demonstrate the destruction of a man who is all-comsumed by ambition.

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tyke | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 5, 2010 at 10:13 PM (Answer #3)

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For me, this exposes Shakespeare's inherent sexism as Macbeth starts off confident and content with life, but allows himself to be 'influenced' by women. The witches are evil and twist his mind, and his wife encourages him to act on their words, accusing him of not being man enough to kill. It is as if  all the women in the play have put a spell on Macbeth which completely changes his personality. All the women in Macbeth are crazy, mad and evil yet apart from the 'corrupted' Macbeth the men are portrayed positively like Banquo or the 'good' Mcduff. The subtext to me is clear, Shakespeare is warning men to be aware of how women can control them.

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