Downfall of Macbeth

Downfall of Macbeth Analysis 




Downfall of Macbeth Factors


Reasons of Macbeth Downfall in the play Macbeth 

Macbeth is the central character in Shakespeare's tragic play Macbeth. He can be truly defined as Shakespeare's concept of tragic hero. There are some noticeable features in his character that help him to make his character memorable. 

Tragic Flaws in Macbeth:


Shakespearean tragedy is a story of suffering and death of a man of high esteemed. Shakespeare's heroes are essentially men with great possibilities and possessing virtues. But there are flaws which are not fatal by themselves, but become fatal in the circumstances in which the heroes are placed. All the heroes leave an impression that they are subdued by some malignant, ironical third party. Moreover, in their struggles and sufferings, they exhibit the grandeur of spirit. 

Macbeth before his downfall was an honourable man, noble and gifted. He is brave, valiant. His virtue is ascertained by his wife, "Too full of the milk of human kindness". He is ambitious, but this ambition is whetted by his meeting with the witches at a psychological moment, by the instigations of his ambitious wife, by the partial fulfillment of the predictions of the witches. Thus, circumstances are largely responsible for the downfall of Macbeth. 

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Let us see the factors responsible for Macbeth's downfall 


● Vaulting Ambition:

The hero of a Shakespearean tragedy is always an exceptional individual both socially and personally, and Macbeth is no exception in this respect. He is a brave, heroic warrior and the king refers to him as his "peerless kinsman." But like the other tragic heroes, he also has his own tragic flaw", a dominant trait of character which compells him to act in some particular way. This 'tragic flaw' proves fatal for him in the circumstances in which he is placed. In the case of Macbeth this 'tragic flaw' is his "vaulting ambition". There is indeed a paradox in Macbeth's nature. His ambition leads him to crimes. He is desirous of winning the crown even by murdering the king Duncan. The prediction of the witches tempted to fulfill his ambition. He yearns for the crown of Scotland. It seems that he has often discussed the matter with his wife, who is equally ambitious, if not for herself, at least for her husband. It is this evil within him which makes him start at the prophecy of the witches, and also to think of murdering Duncan, his relative, his king, as well as his guest of the night.

● Macbeth's War with the Future:

Not only has Macbeth vaulting ambition for himself, he is also ambitious to find a dynasty of king. This makes him war with future. His war with the future is symbolised by the child child or baby, and baby-images recur with great frequency and the witches show him apparitions of two children, and a number of kings who are the descendants of Banquo. Therefore, he decides to wage a war against the future and defeat the prophecy of the witches. Banquo is brutally murdered but his son Fleance escapes, thus symbolizing the truth that the future would always elude him and so to war with the future is futile. However, he fails to realise this truth and the murder of Macduff's wife and children soon follows. He rushes on his bloody career till the very end. He and his Queen both die childless, defeated by the future. 

● Influence of External Forces:

Macbeth's tragic flaw is his ambition. But this is by itself not fatal: it is fatal in the circumstances in which Macbeth is placed. It is not true to say that in Shakespearean tragedy character is destiny. Tragedy is the joint product of character and circumstances. Macbeth meets the witches at a psychological moment when he returns from the battlefield with a sense of glory. The prediction of his great future kindles his ambition. The partial fulfillment of the prediction of the witches set in Macbeth robust optimism. His wife who is extremely woman goads him on. Without Lady Macbeth's influence the murder of the king Duncan would fantastical. These are the external circumstances roused the dormant ambition within Macbeth. 

● Weakness of Will:

Besides his vaulting ambition which makes him a ruthless murderer and a thorough villain he also has weaknesses of will. That is why he yields to the suggestion of the witches, and Lady Macbeth called the 'Fourth Witch' is able to overcome his resistance by 'the valour of her tongue'. She taunts him and thus succeeds in persuading him to act against his better judgement and commit the murder. He understands clearly the full enormity of the crime, yet because of his lack of will-power, he yields to his wife and commits the murder.

● Macbeth's Feeling of Insecurity:

The murder of Duncan is Macbeth's first crime. Macbeth does it after a good deal of hesitation. At first he decides against the murder. In his soliloquy he weighs not only the practical consequences of his act but also the moral values involved. Macbeth suddenly declares that he 'will proceed no further in this business'. But at the same time, he is urged by a spirit of ruthless bellicosity. He feels that 'to be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus'. Now the will to evil is excited and enforced by a blind instinct for self-preservation. He wants to get rid of his enemies by means of murder. The self-torture has expiated his crime. So he plans the murder of Banquo and Fleance and entrusts it to hired assassins. Macbeth then resolves to murder Macduff. As Macduff escapes, his family has to pay the penalty. He has bathed himself profusely in blood in order to keep his security doubly sure. 

● Poetic Imagination:

Besides his 'vaulting ambition' and weakness of will, Macbeth also has the imagination of a born poet. Macbeth is essentially a melodramatic tale of murder, but it is raised to the level of pure tragedy by the poetic imagination of its central figure. His poetic imagination makes him see visions of the terrible consequences of his crime and it intensifies its horrors.  In the words of A. C. Bradley, "This bold ambitious man of action has, within certain limits, the imagination of a poet an imagination, on the one hand, extremely sensitive to impressions of certain kind, and on the other, productive of violent disturbance both of mind and body". Thus he is imaginative, he is inclined to be superstitious and, therefore, profoundly influenced by the predictions of the witches. Criminal thoughts are at once aroused. Secondly, because he is imaginative, he is deterred and horrified at the thought of crime. 

Macbeth's imagination is pictorial and it is in conflict with his ambition. As he hurries from crime to crime, his soul never ceases to bar his advance with shapes of terror or to clamour in his ears that he is murdering his peace and casting away his eternal jewel. "Palpable dangers leave him unmoved, what terrifies him is always the image of his guilty heart or bloody deed, or some other image which drives from them its terror or gloom. It is this imagination which makes him see the blood-stained dagger just before the murder, which makes him hear cherubin voices crying out against the murder or conjure up visions of naked new born babes blowing the "horrid deed in every eye". It is this poetic imagination which makes him hear voices ponouncing upon him the doom of sleeplessness. 

● Spiritual Anguish:

This conflict between his imagination and his ambition results in heart-rending spiritual anguish: his soul gradually falls to pieces and that is the real tragedy. Whenever, his imagination is stirring, we feel suspense, horror and pity, but as soon it is dormant, these feelings vanish and he becomes a brutal, pitiless murdered. This is so because the will to live is mighty in him. He is not prepared to lose the glittering prize, the worldly power and pelf, despite his sleepless torture, and the scorpions in his mind." He fails to understand his own true nature, and interprets his sleepless torture as resulting from a sense of insecurity and the fear of retaliation. Hence, his ruthless career of crime despite inner remorse, and hence his gradual descent into hell. It is an engrossing spectacle and psychologically it is perhaps the most remarkable exhibition of the development of a character to be found in Shakespeare's tragedies.  

● Conclusion:

Thus the character of Macbeth degenerates, and this degeneration is his tragedy. The brave, noble Macbeth becomes a senseless maniac, a hypocrite, a liar, a butcher. This is the tragic downfall of Macbeth from a noble and gifted man. But even when his downfall is complete, he has flickering glimpses of his old glory. He retains his honour, love, obedience, valour in the minds of the readers. His despair is expressed in superb poetry:

"My way of life
Is fall'n into the sear, the yellow leaf."

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