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What causes the downfall of MacBeth?

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kate93 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted November 5, 2008 at 1:40 PM via web

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What causes the downfall of MacBeth?

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pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 6, 2008 at 6:28 AM (Answer #1)

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Macbeth's downfall is attributed to a sense of over-confidence and unchecked ambition, and the impact of the witch's prophecy all three seal Macbeth's fate and his destruction 

At the start of the play, Macbeth is a loyal, courageous servant of the King of Scotland, but he is a man who harbors a hidden ambition for power.  He is both noble and brave in his defense of the King in battle, he is rewarded for his actions.  Macbeth has an encounter with a trio of witches and his life is changed.

Once the witches show him his future, he becomes obsessed with speeding up the anticipated coming into power.  He is told he will be King of Scotland, so Macbeth makes it happen by killing the King, which casts a shadow of doubt on his two sons, thereby allowing Macbeth to ascend to the throne.

Once Macbeth seizes power through violence and murder, his life is darkened with the crime of regicide, he has killed a rightful, good and much loved king.  His life begins to fall apart after this because he develops a serious case of paranoia over having the crown stolen from him.

He becomes a slash and burn murderer and he loses sight of his humanity, he has no morality governing his actions.  He thinks that he will be able to maintain his power through murder and intimidation.

This leads to Macbeth's isolation from everyone, his wife commits suicide and Macbeth is killed by Macduff.

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eabettencourt | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted November 5, 2008 at 8:41 PM (Answer #2)

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Macbeth is typically considered to be a tragic hero, so most would believe his tragic flaw is what causes his downfall.  Arguably, this tragic flaw is his blinding ambition or his lust for power.  He is so blinded by this that he neglects to make wise (or moral) choices, such as trusting the witches or becoming so steeped in murder that he feels he can never go back.


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kierabug2010 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 3, 2010 at 2:49 AM (Answer #3)

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Macbeth's downfall is caused by Macbeth himself.  Some could even say that it was fate.  Macbeth chose his own path that ended in his own self destruction.  It was Macbeth that chose not to listen to the weird sisters and Macbeth who chise to take his wife's advice in murdering Duncan.  Macbeth knew the risks he was taking and ended up being the cause of his own demise.

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Yojana_Thapa | TA , Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted December 24, 2014 at 7:17 PM (Answer #8)

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Macbeth's downfall is caused by the society and himself. Gender plays a big role in this play by Shakespeare. Macbeth being the tragic hero is a man and as a man in his society is expected to be strong and violent. Lady Macbeth manipulated him into killing Duncan. She manipulated him by making him prove his manhood.  

Lady Macbeth says "Unsex me" "take my milk for gall(poison)". This dialogue says a lot because for her a man is associated to be fearless, evil, and violent. Also in the beginning of the play the captain talks about Macbeth's violent act. He in fact praises it. So in this society violence is a good thing for a man. It defines a man. 

This is what was expected in this society. In Macbeth's soliloquy he expresses his inner feeling saying that he doesn't want to kill Duncan because there is absolutely no reason. Everybody loves Duncan. When he tells Lady Macbeth that he doesn't want to kill Duncan, after what  she says, he transforms. You know why? Because he wants to prove himself. Every time Macbeth shows signs of weakness , Lady Macbeth falters him saying that he is less of a man. Lady Macbeth manipulates him saying that he will be more of man if he does this deed. A lot is expected of him. 

Macbeth tries to fit into this role by killing Duncan and finally proving to his wife that he is a man. The guilt is constantly killing Lady Macbeth, that now a little water won't wash away the blood that is stained in her hand. Blood is a motif, it is stained in their hearts. She commits suicide because of the guilt.

Macbeth in the other hand goes far from killing Duncan. he kills Macduff's wife and his children, when they aren't even a threat to him. He kills Banquo, who's ghost triggers him. All of this causes his downfall. The fact that he tried to fit in his role as a violent man. Macduff on the other hand represents the good notion in this play. He says that he will fight back with remorse (feelings). According to him a man has feelings. He won at the end because he represents the good notion.

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emilyhoang7 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 11, 2013 at 7:31 AM (Answer #4)

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Macbeth's downfall was Lady Macbeth, the 3 Witches and Macbeth himself.

Macbeth caused his downfall due to over-confidence and ambition. When the witches told him his prophecies, he believed it. He becomes obsessed with all the power, Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor and King. When he was told he will be King of Scotland, Macbeth knew it meant something will happen in order for him to become king. In page 29, Macbeth says “If change will have me king, why change may crown me.” Macbeth was clearly getting obnoxious and wanting the prophesies to be true. When Macbeth starts becoming violence and murdering all the people he once cared about, his life fell apart. He starts having paranoia because he killed Duncan and his close friend Banquo. He was so fond of power; he was blinded by all the good choices he could’ve made. Macbeth was his own enemy.



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samteacher | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted June 4, 2014 at 4:34 PM (Answer #7)

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At the start, Lady Macbeth sees to be a controlling character, because for example, when she receives the letter, in her opening soliloquy she says: ‘Hie thee hither, that I may pour my spirits in thine ear.’ It has a dramatic effect that shows us how much power she has over Macbeth, and also implies how much power she has. Moreover, we understand that she is a devilish character, imploring the evil spirits to full her with ‘direst cruelty’. And her association with the powers of evil would horrify Elizabethan audience. As we can see, she is more of a manly character, she is very brave and is the most ruthless character in the play, and this may not be what could qualify and real women, the stereotype of the women that is inferior doesn’t apply to her as she is more of a man than most of the men in the play because of her power and her strong character. As she is a manipulative character, her role in the murder is very important, she tricks Macbeth with flattery and by being sexually attractive. Hence, she was able to convince him to kill Duncan, and this conveys that she is partly responsible for the murder. Once Macbeth was on the throne and took power, Lady Macbeth was incapable and Macbeth could only protect himself against other characters such as Banquo or Macduff who tried to take him off the throne. Even though Lady Macbeth was oen of the main reasons for the murder, and for Macbeth to be king and in a way responsible for him not being able to protect himself whilst he was king. Hence, we cnas say that Lady Macbeth was responsible partly for Macbeth’s downfall.

            Even though Lady Macbeth plays an important role in the downfall of Macbeth, the witches can also be held responsible for his downfall. At the time of an Elizabethan audience, witches would be considered as real. Everyone feared them at this time, and they would get burned if they were suspected of sorcery. These characters create a dramatic effect as soon as they appear, first because of there appearance, and also because of there character, they are shown as spooky, very evil, dangerous and most importantly because of there magical powers. The weird sisters had a big influence on Macbeth, the first time they appear made Macbeth greedy and when they prophesied that he was going to be king. If it wasn’t for the witches, Macbeth would have never thought about killing Duncan, and when they appeared they made him change his mind and he then wrote the letter to Lady Macbeth. When Macbeth becomes king, they influenced him into thinking that he was invincible. As well in act 4, when the appeared, they told he prophecies that weren’t really precise and that got him into thinking that he was invincible and it also made his ego bigger, it then lead him into taking some actions such as when he killed Macduff’s family that then lead to his downfall. The fact that they appeared in the first place is because without them there wouldn’t be any story and as well I think that they did this because they were playing with his mind and they then managed to trick him, which lead straight to his downfall.

            As we said, Macbeth was partly influenced by the witches and his wife, but some actions of him such as the killing of Macduff’s family makes think that his own ambition could play an important role in his own downfall. At the start, Macbeth is a strong and brave soldier, he is showed as valiant and a really kind of ruthless person. But later on, after one of the fights that made him Than of Cowdor (he doesn’t know it yet), the three witches appear and they told him the prophecy, hence as soon as they leave his mentally is directly affected with greed and ambition. He doesn’t believe it until he is titled as Thane of Cowdor; he then starts thinking about the witches. Later on he writes the letter to his wife with the intention of maybe doing something about him being king. From this moment and on, his ambition plays the most important role in his downfall as he does things that weren’t prophesied by the witches it implies that the witches tricked his mind and therefor made his ambition grow and affect his life into getting him killed. After the murder of Banquo Macbeth feels immortal. However, during dinner when he sees him he becomes crazy and doesn’t understand what’s happening, but it start to scare him as witches are known to be able to bring up the dead. When he remembers that the witches said that he could only die if the Burnham forest moves he calms down, but what he didn’t know was that Malcolm came to attack him and that Malcolm was hiding in the Burnham forest. Hence he doesn’t panic until he sees the forest moving, he understand that he will die.

In conclusion, we understand that the witches and Lady Macbeth lead him into trusting his ambition that was getting bigger and bigger. The reason why the play ended this way is to show that you can’t trust your ambition too much and that if he would have survived, the story would have no point. As well, because the play was written for James I who thought that witches were real, Shakespeare had to make it end in such a way that the witches’ prophecies were real.

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albomamii | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted November 6, 2008 at 7:28 AM (Answer #5)

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The witches' Prophecy causes Macbeth's downfall.Also the witches were poking fun at him making him believe that even though he committed all those murders he'd be safe until someone not born of woman challened him and until Birnam Wood came to Dunsinane Castle which happens later on in the play.But Macbeth should have listened to the apparition when it said "Beware Macduff." becuase little did Macbeth know Macduff was technically not born of woman.He was born from a sea-section.

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