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Was Macbeth evil from the beginning or do you think the witches made him this way? by...

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brkedncenotharts | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 2, 2007 at 12:23 PM via web

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Was Macbeth evil from the beginning or do you think the witches made him this way?

by saying "evil" i mean he's evil because he killed Duncan and had Banquo killed. I wonder if he still would have done what he did even if the witches never told him anything about his future.

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lmillerm | College Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted February 2, 2007 at 1:36 PM (Answer #1)

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The witches definitely contribute to Macbeth's choices; however, once Lady Macbeth learn of the witches' prophesies, it is she who convinces Macbeth to go through with the murders: "Art thou afeard/To be the same in thine own act and valour/As throu art in desire? Wouldst thou have that/Which throu esteem'st the ornament of life,/And live a coward in thine own esteem,/Letting 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would',/Like the poor cat i'th'adage?" (I.vii.39-44)
Macbeth seriously contemplates the thought of murdering the king, and he only agrees to go through with it after his wife insults his manhood through manipulation: "I have given suck, and know/How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me./I would, while it was smiling in my face,/Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums/And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn/As you have done to this." (I.vii.54-57)
Lady Macbeth does suffer for the actions of she and her husband. Her subconscious taunts her through her dreams, which does give her character sympathetic and redeemable qualities.
It does not seem likely that Macbeth would have even considered murdering Duncan and Banquo if the witches had not intervened.

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blacksheepunite | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted May 26, 2007 at 2:17 PM (Answer #2)

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Do the witches *make* Macbeth evil? They don't have that kind of power. They can already work with what is already there. Having said that, they do seem to have awaken something within him. They plant the seeds that he allows to grow into pure evil.

Had they not told him anything about his future, he may have gone along happily fighting on Duncan's sides and, just as happily, being rewarded for his acts. The witches are masters at sowing seeds that humans use to destroy themselves.

Macbeth knows that what the witches tell him "cannot be ill", but also "cannot be good." Unlike Banquo, who immediately suspects the witches motive (he says sometimes the instruments of darkness tell small truths to gain the soul), Macbeth seems willing to suspend his misgivings, even to the point where he almost immediately pictures himself killing his king. Yes, he wrestles with the deed, and yes, he does take some convincing from the mistress of manipulation before he actually decides to go through with the murder, but the fact that he can't decide is not as telling as the fact that he almost immediately entertains the notion of murder. Were this potential not already within him, his response would be more like Banquo's. Macbeth is human, but his humanity is weak for he is all too willing to yield to his own dark imagination.

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revolution | College Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted August 31, 2009 at 5:13 PM (Answer #3)

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Yes, the witches are the main culprit for the evil path that Macbeth take and they play a significant part in the bad choices that Macbeth took. They deceitfully addressed Macbeth with three glorious titles "Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor and King", which gives Macbeth false hope and desires and give Macbeth a wonderful ambition to take control over the whole empire. To fulfill this destiny, he had decided to kill King Duncan and Banquo in his path of conquest and world domination. If the witches had never told him anything about these title positions, Macbeth would be happy to help Duncan and being rewarded for good work just the same. He won't have all these selfish thoughts and desires that keeps on clouding his life and he won't have to needlessly kill people to usurp the throne. This would cause hatred to rise up to a breakable point and people would start killing each other just for the throne and bloodshed would start spilling.

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