In Macbeth, how does Macbeth treat his servants [5.3.11-17], and how does this fit with Banquo's comment about ill fitting robes?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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As Malcolm's forces close in on the castle, Macbeth's soldiers run away, deserting him before the battle. Many crossed over to fight with Macbeth's enemies. He is infuriated as his kingdom crumbles about him and takes out his fury on a terrified servant nearby:

The devil damn the black, thou cream-faced loon.

Where got'st thou that goose look?

Macbeth's situation and his relationship with this servant show that Angus's previous assessment of Macbeth was correct:

Those he commands move only in command,

Nothing in love. Now does he feel his title

Hang loose about him, like a giant's robe

Upon a dwarfish thief.

Macbeth was the monarch only because he stole Duncan's crown. In no way did his nature equal Duncan's royal nature. Macbeth's subjects felt no love or loyalty for him; those who stayed and obeyed did not do so by choice.

 

 

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lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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In Act I Sc.3 on seeing Macbeth surprised at being hailed as the 'thane of Cawdor' and thus the withches' prophecies being fulfilled instantaneously Banquo remarks:

"New honours come upon him,

Like our strange garments cleave not to their mould

But with the aid of use."

Macbeth is only a general, a military officer, in King Duncan's army.  But after the treacherous aristocrat the Thane of Cawdor has been killed, King Duncan rewards Macbeth and elevates him to the position of an aristorcrat and gives him the title Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth is shocked and surprised that the the withches' prediction has been fulfilled so quickly and he finds it difficult to adjust his behavior and lifestyle to that of an aristocrat, leading Banquo to remark that just like a person needs some time and usage to get used to his new clothes so also Macbeth will gradually get used to his new elevated status of an aristocratic Thane. The description of the purpose of clothing in Macbeth is the fact that these garments are not his.  Therefore, Macbeth is uncomfortable in them because he is continually conscious of the fact that they do not belong to him.

His rude behaviour to his servants who report that his castle has been besieged by the English soldiers is proof enough that Macbeth who is now the King of Scotland has not yet got used to his new and elevated position as the king.  The soldier is frightened and fears the worst, but Macbeth who has now come to believe only what the witches say and is completely under their spell is foolhardy enough to believe that he is safe, because Malcolm had been delivered as a normal baby. He foolishly believes the witches' prophecy that Birnam wood will never come to Dunsinane and dismisses the servant very harshly:

"Bring me no more reports; let them fly all:
Till Birnam wood remove to Dunsinane,
I cannot taint with fear. What's the boy Malcolm?
Was he not born of woman? The spirits that know
All mortal consequences have pronounced me thus:
'Fear not, Macbeth; no man that's born of woman
Shall e'er have power upon thee.' "

This irrational outburst is clear proof that Macbeth has not got used to his new status and position as an aristocratic ruler who instead of checking the truth in the soldier's statement dismisses him rudely.

 

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