beth essaysThe Murder of King Duncan in Macbeth
In the play Macbeth we can argue that there are three possible choices for who is most responsible for the murder of King Duncan. The first choice is the witches. In the whole of the play they seem to embody evil and make a morally corrupt atmosphere. In Elizabethan times they were regarded as evil so these prophecies would be thought to be evil.
Macbeth first meets them after the battle against the Norway and they predict that he will be Thane of Cawdor and then King. At first he can not believe this but when he finds out he is Thane of Cawdor he and Banquo are surprised. Banquo says, ‘Can the devil speak true?’ in surprise. This shows us they did not expect the witches to be telling the truth. After this Macbeth seems to be astonished and Banquo points out ‘Look how our partner’s rapt’, which shows us Macbeth is deep in thought about the third prophecy. Therefore, we could argue that the witches make him feel that he will be king and that it is his destiny. He is always thinking about the prophecies after this and drops hints to Banquo, for example he says, ‘Let us speak our free hearts to each other’. He is trying to see whether Banquo would be interested in helping him. It also shows his great interest and desire for the throne.
However, we could argue that the witches put real ideas to him that are already in his head. He has great ambition and may already want to be king so the witches therefore could not be totally responsible and just act as a catalyst. We can see it is quite easy to resist the witches as demonstrated by Banquo. He knows the witches could just be trying to plant ideas in his head as he says,
‘And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray’s in deepest consequence’
This saying that often, to bring about our damnation, the agents of evil tell us simple truths, so that we trust them. Then they deceive us in important matters. This shows us Banquo can control his thoughts and that most people can. Macbeth, however, has a weak point and can not control his ambition.
The second choice is Lady Macbeth. Macbeth writes a letter to her telling her of the witches’ prophecies. He writes this letter because he wants the crown and knows she will have to push him to get it. She drives him to the murder and acts as a more physical catalyst than the witches. She bullies him, uses emotional blackmail and knows he is morally sensitive so he must be pushed. She mocks his bravery and knows he is a warrior and will be insulted. When Macbeth is having doubts she says
‘When you durst do it, then you were a man; and, to be more than what you were, you would be so much more the man’.
This is basically saying that you will be more of a man if you do this.
She answers every objection he comes up with. Before the murder Macbeth says, ‘If we should fail’ she replies, ‘We fail?’ She is surprised by him thinking this because she believes there is no way they will fail. Macbeth also doubts their ability to cover up the truth. Lady Macbeth says,
‘Who dares receive it other as we shall make our griefs and clamour roar upon his death’
This suggests that no-one will dare believe anything else (this is referring to the daggers planted on the soldiers) because Macbeth and her will mourn so much that they will be convinced Macbeth is genuinely upset.
She also organises the fine details of the murder. The main part is when she goes to put the daggers back. Macbeth has returned from the murder scene and brought the daggers with him. She is annoyed with him because he is being careless and is too scared to go back after the murder. She goes and puts them back herself.
Lady Macbeth plays a key role as she removes