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It is said that whoever keeps company with the wolves will learn to howl. In the same way, if a person keeps company with another who has murderous intents, they will follow and learn to murder. In William Shakespeare¿½s Macbeth, the antagonist of the play, Macbeth is manipulated and influenced easily. He murders several people even though at first he has no intention to do so. However, Macbeth alone is not responsible for the murders because he is influenced by various people throughout the play to commit those murders. The three factors that contribute to the murders are the prophecies from the three witches, the influential and manipulative words from Lady Macbeth which drove Macbeth¿½s judgment, and Macbeth¿½s ambition which is incited by his desire to be king.
Another reason Macbeth should not be blamed for the murders because his ambition had overcome him and influenced his already declining character. Ambition is generally the motivating factor that leads a person to success. Moreover, ambition is also generally considered a necessary quality in leaders. At the beginning of the play, Macbeth shows his ambitious character by bringing victory to Scotland. However, the same ambition leads him to his end. Macbeth¿½s ambition is the driving force of the play. Even after receiving a new title, he is still not satisfied and aims for the throne. Macbeth wants to fulfill his goal and ambition of being king and to do that he needed to murder King Duncan. Initially, he is hesitant and does not want to murder the king. However, by the influence of his wife and his ambition to obtain the crown by any means, Macbeth murders Duncan which ultimately leads him to the path of disaster. His ambition not only drives him to do evil deeds, it controls him, ¿½I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o¿½er-leaps itself and falls on the other.¿½ (Act I sc 7 ll 26-28) He means that his ambition is like a horse that tries to jump too high and falls on the other side of the fence. His ambition is out of control to the extent that it now controls him. It becomes the cause for his new character which contained greed, violence and lust for power. After the murder of Duncan, his vaulting ambition drives him to murder Banquo and later, Macduff¿½s family. When Macbeth starts feeling insecure, he says, ¿½The very firstlings of my heart shall be the firstlings of my hand,¿½ (Act IV sc 1 ll 147-148) which shows that he would do anything to gain power. Macbeth alone should not be blamed for the murders because he was not only influenced by his overwhelming ambition, he was being controlled by it causing him to become an insecure tyrant leading him to commit the murders. If his ambition did not overwhelm him and if Macbeth kept it under control, he would not have committed the murders or met his tragic end.
Finally, the three witches contributed to the murders by telling Macbeth of prophecies which aroused his curiosity and lead to him believing that he could become king. Moreover, at the beginning of the play, the witches meet upon the moor and decide his fate. This shows that regardless to whether Macbeth wants to meet the witches or not, the witches are in control of when and where they shall meet with Macbeth. Upon the heath, they reveal to Macbeth that he will receive the title of Cawdor and be king later on, ¿½All hail to Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis! Thane of Cawdor! That shalt be King hereafter.¿½ (Act I sc 3 ll 48-50) Macbeth¿½s curiosity was piqued by this prophecy, and this one prophecy would later be the cause of the series of murders committed by Macbeth. The sisters equivocated the whole matter because they told Macbeth he would become king later on, however, they did not tell him how. Furthermore, Macbeth is impatient and speeds up the process. This is all because of the first prophecy made by the witches. Also, Macbeth¿½s ambition, which was previously dormant, now starts rising. Later in the play, they witches and Macbeth have yet another meeting. In this meeting, the witches provide some information to Macbeth through apparitions. One of the apparitions says ¿½Beware the Thane of Fife,¿½ (Act IV sc 1 ll 72) and this confirms Macbeth¿½s suspicion of Macduff. He then proceeds to murder Macduff¿½s family which ultimately caused by the witches. Macbeth also becomes overconfident after another apparition says, ¿½None of woman born shall harm Macbeth,¿½ (Act IV sc 1 ll 80-81). He also learns that he cannot be defeated until Birnam Wood moves to Dunsinane. The witches gave false hopes to Macbeth of being indestructible which makes him believe that he can do anything to attain power. If the witches had not told Macbeth that he would be king, he would not have murdered the king and if they had not showed him apparitions, he would not have murdered Macduff¿½s family. The purpose of the witches in the play is to create trouble and wreak havoc. They successfully accomplish this by being partly responsible for the murders that Macbeth commits.
Overall, Macbeth is a truly tragic character who murdered people just to obtain power. He goes from being a kind and noble man to a man who was greedy, violent and had lust for power. However, Macbeth¿½s character changes due to the influence of various factors, and that is why he alone is not at fault for the murders that took place in the play. These factors include Lady Macbeth¿½s influence and plan, his vaulting ambition, and the delusional prophecies given to him by the witches. The three greatly contributed to the degeneration of Macbeth¿½s character and in the end, resulting in the murder of several people. Many yearn for power, but often do not have ambition. Macbeth had too much ambition and was blinded by it.
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