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Factors That Cause Macbeth's Downfall
In any literary tragedy, the protagonist always ends up in a bad situation through a series
of unfortunate events. In the play Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, the central
character, Macbeth, is a good example of this. Macbeth has many forces behind him that
lead him into events that eventually cause his downfall. The most important forces are
supernatural influences, Lady Macbeth, and Macbeth himself.
To begin, one of these factors is the supernatural influence that Macbeth experiences.
The first supernatural factors are the witches and their prophecies. When the witches first
speak to Macbeth they say, "All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis! ... hail to
thee, thane of Cawdor! ... All hail, Macbeth! that shalt be king hereafter."(1.3.50-53).
After hearing the prophecies, Macbeth thinks that, "This supernatural soliciting/ Cannot
be ill; cannot be good: if ill, / Why hath it given me earnest of success, / Commencing in
a truth? ..."(1.3.140-143). Macbeth believes the prophecies, and they fuel his ambition.
They cause him to try to fulfill their promises no matter what it takes. This disregard for
anything except power leads to his death, because he has to lose many friends and allies
to obtain his goal. Similarly, the hallucinations Macbeth sees and his insanity are
supernatural forces behind Macbeth. Immediately before Macbeth kills Duncan he says
to himself, "Is this a dagger which I see before me, / The handle toward my hand? Come,
let me clutch thee."(2.1.40-41). After Banquo is killed, Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost and
says, "Avaunt! and quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee!"(3.4.113-114). Macbeth is
becoming insane and he starts to see hallucinations which lead him to commit evil deeds.
These evil deeds turn out to cause his death. Therefore, supernatural influences have a
large impact on Macbeth and cause his death by leading him into bad situations.
In addition to supernatural influences, Macbeth is strongly influenced by Lady Macbeth.
One of the ways that Lady Macbeth is a strong force behind him is the fact that Macbeth
is reassured by her confidence. During a conversation between Macbeth and Lady
Macbeth on whether or not Macbeth will kill the King, Lady Macbeth says, "But screw
your courage to the sticking place, / And we'll not fail. ..."(1.7.67-68). While he
disagreed with her before, Macbeth now agrees with Lady Macbeth and tells her that he
will, "... bend up/ Each corporal agent to this terrible feat."(1.7.89-90). Even when
Macbeth has already made a decision, Lady Macbeth can get him to do what she wants
because of her confident nature. Her strong, manipulative can influence Macbeth to do
anything she wants. This weakness causes Macbeth to do many things he does not wish
to do, and causes him much inner conflict. Likewise, Macbeth is easily controlled by
Lady Macbeth, and her evil nature and lack of conscience cause him to turn evil. Lady
Macbeth shows her evil side when she says, "... Come, you spirits/ That tend on mortal
thoughts, unsex me here, / And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full/ Of direst
cruelty! ..."(1.5.43-46). She shows that she has no conscience or regard for others when
she asks Macbeth, "What cannot you and I perform upon/ The unguarded Duncan? What
not put upon/ His spongy officers who shall bear the guilt/ Of our great quell?"(1.7.7679). Lady Macbeth's evil nature is transferred to Macbeth and causes him to have evil
thoughts himself. The evil actions, such as murder, that result from the evil thoughts are
the events that end up causing Macbeth's death. In summation, the actions that lead to
Macbeth's death are greatly influenced by Lady Macbeth's confident and evil personality.
Finally, a strong factor that contributes to Macbeth's downfall is his own character. For
example, one of Macbeth's strongest traits is his ambition. When contemplating whether
or not to kill Duncan, Macbeth says to himself, "... I have no spur/ To prick the sides on
my intent, but only/ Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself/ And falls on the
other."(1.7.25-28). Macbeth realizes that his own ambition is too strong and will cause
him trouble. His ambition to be King causes him to push away all his other emotions and
do anything to become King, even if he has to murder his own friends. It makes him lose
his sense of morals, which helps to cause his misfortunes. In contrast, Macbeth is very
loyal to the King and has a good conscience. When Macbeth is convincing himself to
end the plan to kill Duncan he says, "... He's here in double trust:/ First, as I am his
kinsman and his subject, / Strong both against the deed: then, as his host, / Who should
against his murderer shut the door, / Not bear the knife myself. ..."(1.7.12-16). Deep
inside Macbeth is still a good person and loyal to his King, even though he is plotting the
King's murder. His ambition eventually wins over every other emotion and force, but his
conscience and loyalty are still present, causing Macbeth much inner conflict. This inner
conflict causes him to go insane and causes his downfall. Therefore, Macbeth's
personality traits, especially his ambition and loyalty, and the inner conflicts they create
lead Macbeth to his death.
In conclusion, different forces influence Macbeth, and these forces all play a part in
causing his downfall. There are three main influences on Macbeth, which are
supernatural forces, Lady Macbeth, and himself. There are always many things that
guide a person into a decision or action, and in the tragic story Macbeth; the protagonist's
journey is no different.
Works Cited
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Ed. M. Kortes. Toronto: Harcourt Brace and Company,
Canada, 1988.
factors that cause macbeth downfall literary tragedy protagonist always ends situation
through series unfortunate events play macbeth william shakespeare central character
macbeth good example this many forces behind that lead into events that eventually
cause downfall most important forces supernatural influences lady himself begin these
factors supernatural influence experiences first supernatural factors witches their
prophecies when witches first speak they hail hail thee thane glamis hail thee thane
cawdor shalt king hereafter after hearing prophecies thinks this soliciting cannot cannot
good hath given earnest success commencing truth believes prophecies they fuel
ambition they cause fulfill their promises matter what takes this disregard anything
except power leads death because lose many friends allies obtain goal similarly
hallucinations sees insanity forces behind immediately before kills duncan says himself
dagger which before handle toward hand come clutch thee after banquo killed sees
banquo ghost says avaunt quit sight earth hide becoming insane starts hallucinations
which lead commit evil deeds these evil deeds turn death therefore influences have large
impact death leading into situations addition influences strongly influenced lady ways
lady strong force behind fact reassured confidence during conversation between whether
will kill king says screw your courage sticking place fail while disagreed with before
agrees with tells will bend each corporal agent terrible feat even when already made
decision what wants because confident nature strong manipulative influence anything
wants weakness causes many things does wish causes much inner conflict likewise easily
controlled evil nature lack conscience turn shows side when come spirits tend mortal
thoughts unsex here fill from crown full direst cruelty shows conscience regard others
asks what cannot perform upon unguarded duncan upon spongy officers shall bear guilt
great quell nature transferred causes have thoughts himself actions such murder result
from thoughts events causing summation actions lead greatly influenced confident
personality finally strong factor contributes downfall character example strongest traits
ambition contemplating whether kill duncan have spur prick sides intent only vaulting
ambition which erleaps itself falls other realizes will trouble king push away other
emotions anything become even murder friends makes lose sense morals helps
misfortunes contrast very loyal good conscience convincing plan kill here double trust
first kinsman subject both against deed then host should against murderer shut door bear
knife myself deep inside still person loyal even though plotting murder eventually wins
over every other emotion force loyalty still present causing much inner conflict inner
conflict insane therefore personality traits especially loyalty conflicts create conclusion
different influence these play part causing there three main there always things guide
person into decision action tragic story protagonist journey different works cited
shakespeare william kortes toronto harcourt brace company canada
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