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In Act 1 of the play, “Macbeth”, William Shakespeare allows the audience to follow the emotional and psychological journey Macbeth takes as he decides whether or not to murder King Duncan. The combination of the influence of the witches, Lady Macbeth, and Macbeth’s own ambition ultimately lead to Macbeth’s resolution to murder the King. As the play begins, King Duncan is being told that Macbeth, Thane of Glamis, and an admirable and noble general in the king’s army, has just defeated two invading armies.
Macbeth shows the qualities of both violence and courage during Act 1. An early indication of his aggressive nature is when a Captain describes Macbeth’s sword after the battle as, “brandish’d steel which smoked with bloody execution.” This proves he is capable of murderous and violent actions. He seems merciless and unstoppable. In addition Ross depicts Macbeth as “Bellona’s Bridegroom,” as if he were the husband of the Goddess of war. He was born for the purpose of ruthlessly murdering his opponents and enjoys doing so. The Captain also speaks of Macbeth as brave, “Like Valour’s minion,” proving he’s fearless and probably will have no compunction for his actions.
The witches play a crucial part in contributing to Macbeth’s decision to murder King Duncan. In Act 1, Scene 1, there is foreshadowing as the three witches mention they will “meet with Macbeth.” This suggests a link with Macbeth and the supernatural. In Act 1, Scene 3, the witches tell Macbeth he will become “Thane of Cawdor” and then “King of Scotland.” This poisons his mind, making him covetous and releases the evil in his character. When Macbeth’s status as “Thane of Cawdor,” is confirmed, “[the King] bade me, from him, call thee Thane of Cawdor,” he first thinks about murdering the King as it makes him realize that he is not far away from being King. They plant an evil seed in Macbeth’s head that grew, together with other influences, to dominate his mind. Macbeth believes in the predictions because they seem so alluring to him and he is drawn to the thought of so much power. “My thought [of murder]â€¦ Shakes so my single state of man that function Is smother’d in surmise.” He is unable to get the thought of murdering Duncan out of his mind. Macbeth is intrigued by the prognostications of the witches, and very keen on knowing more about what the witches had told him, “Tell me more,” and “Speak I charge you.” Macbeth becomes awfully interested in the prospect of becoming King and seems as if the idea had already crossed his mind. Macbeth does not realize that he cannot fully trust the witches, as said by Banquo, “to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths; Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s in deepest consequence.” He is therefore seen as easily brainwashed and easily manipulated.
Lady Macbeth is a strong influence on Macbeth to kill King Duncan. In Act 1, Scene 5, Lady Macbeth reveals she believes Macbeth is too compassionate a man, who will only come to be king in a righteous manner, “thy natureâ€¦ too full o’th’milk of human kindness,” and, “[becoming king] wouldst thou holily.” She does not believe he has the cruel willpower to murder a king and would only accept the honor of becoming king honestly. Therefore, she uses her slyness and cunning to manipulate Macbeth into killing king Duncan. She questions his manhood and courage, “When you durst do it, then you were a man,” and “And live a coward in thine own esteem?” By exposing Macbeth’s vulnerability, she acquires power over him. Macbeth takes it as a challenge, thinking she does not respect him as a man, “I dare do all that may become a man,” and does not think he is brave, “And live a coward,” and wants to prove his masculinity and audacity. In addition, Macbeth is skeptic whether they will truly get away with the murder, and Lady Macbeth convinces him they will not fail. “And we’ll not fail . . . What cannot you and I perform upon the unguarded Duncan?” Lady Macbeth convinces Macbeth that he should not be so worried. Consequently, he becomes more assured and his fears are calmed. Macbeth finally gives in to Lady Macbeth’s persuasion, although he realizes it is the wrong thing to do, “I am settled and bend up each corporal agent to this terrible feat.” This proves Macbeth is malleable and his wife is very influential in making his decisions.
However, Macbeth himself has ambitions of becoming king. At the beginning of the play, Macbeth is spoken of as brave and unstoppable, and ruthless. This proves Macbeth seeks glorification and admiration. The witches predict Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor and then King. After the first part of the prophecy by the witches comes true, he begins to think he must kill Duncan himself to make the second one true. “My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical.” Macbeth’s ambition drives him to think about murdering the king, even if he must sacrifice his dignity, “why do I yield to that suggestion
Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair, And make my seated heart knock at my ribs.” However, he later shows signs of doubt and uncertainty about murdering Duncan by himself, “Who should against his murderer shut the door, Not bear the knife myself.” Macbeth knows killing King Duncan would be immoral and unforgivable. Macbeth is eager to seize the throne, however he knows it unethical. He has dual sides to his personality: one which desires the splendor of being on the throne, the other knowing it is the wrong thing to do. He is very unstable, easily manipulated, and unsure of what is the right choice.
To conclude, it is a combination of all four influences which eventually led to Macbeth’s decision to kill King Duncan. However, I believe Shakespeare intends for Lady Macbeth to seem to have the greatest influence in Macbeth’s decision as she manipulates his mind and she is the one who, in the long run, convinces Macbeth to agree with murdering King Duncan. However, in my opinion the greatest influence of Macbeth’s decision to murder King Duncan was the stimulus given by the witches. They told him the words which gave him hope and reason to kill King Duncan. The witches planted an evil seed which grew to dominate his mind. The thought of murder would never have been considered so strongly was it not for the witches.
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