The Mack English Literature Period 2 Macbeth’s Downfall or The Downfall of Macbeth One of the most hotly debated questions in English literature is: What was the primary cause of Macbeth’s downfall? In my view, the primary cause of Macbeth’s downfall was his wife, Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth caused Macbeth’s downfall by her own ambition to be the queen of Scotland and by her constant belittling of her husband. The main reason for Macbeth’s downfall was Lady Macbeth’s ambition to be Queen of Scotland. Lady Macbeth originally was like any normal woman, wanting to outdo the other noblewomen of Scotland. After Macbeth related the three weird sisters’ prophecies (that Macbeth would first be the Thane of Glamis, then the Thane of Cawdor, and finally the King of all Scotland) to Lady Macbeth, she started to aspire to becoming the queen of Scotland. She was already the Lady of Glamis, and then Cawdor, but she didn’t have enough patience to see the third prophecy come true on its own. Her ambition is shown beautifully in the following quote: “‘They met me in the day of success; and I have learned by the perfectest report, they have more in them than mortal knowledge.
When I burned in desire to question them further, they made themselves air, into which they vanished. Whiles I stood rapt in the wonder of it, came missives from the king, who all-hailed me ‘Thane of Cawdor’; by which title, before, these weird sisters saluted me, and referred me to deliver thee, my dearest partner of greatness, that thou mightst not lose the dues of rejoicing, by being ignorant of what greatness is promised thee. Lay it to thy heart, and farewell.’ Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be What thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature; it is too full o’ the milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great; Art not with ambition, but without The illness should attend it.
What thou wouldst highly That wouldst thou holily; would not play false, And yet wouldst wrongly win. Thou’ldst have, great Glamis, That which cries, ‘Thus thou must do, if thou have it’; And that which rather thou dost fear to do Than wishest should be undone. Hie thee hither, That I may pour my spirits in thine ear, And chastise with the valor of my tongue All that impedes thee from the golden round, Which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem To have thee crowned withal” (Macbeth 1.5, 1-24). The quote shows Lady Macbeth’s glee in reading Macbeth’s letter about the three weird sisters’ prophecies and how the first two had already come true. Lady Macbeth knew that the third one would definitely come true, but she decided to speed things up a little bit because she knew that her husband didn’t have the will to do so.
Lady Macbeth then planned the murder of good King Duncan of Scotland, framing the two guards in his chambers and blaming them for the foul deed. Macbeth then slew them after everyone else woke up, before the guards had a chance to deny that they killed Duncan. After that, Macbeth was chosen as the new King of Scotland because Duncan’s two sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, fled to England and Ireland respectively. Macbeth then became a tyrant and killed many good people including Banquo (a fellow general in King Duncan’s army), young Siward (the son of the great English general who helped Malcolm in his quest to wrest the throne of Scotland from Macbeth’s clutches), and the wife and children of Macduff (a good man, soldier, and the Thane of Fife). Macbeth was then just fully beheaded by Macduff, and Malcolm became king.
If Lady Macbeth had not been so ambitious, Macbeth and she would have lived comfortably as the rulers of Glamis, then Cawdor, and eventually as King and Queen of Scotland. However she did not have patience, was not satisfied with what she had, and caused Macbeth to change from a good, noble, and brave man into an evil, tyrannical, and despised king. Lady Macbeth’s constant belittling of her husband was another reason for Macbeth’s downfall. If Lady Macbeth had not kept on getting after Macbeth to kill Duncan, Macbeth would have remained a good man and wouldn’t have been beheaded by Macduff in the end. The following dialogue between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth shows how much of a shrew Lady Macbeth was and how the belittling of her husband worked wonders to suit her desires and cause Macbeth’s downfall: Macbeth: “We will proceed no further in this business. He hath honored me of late; and I have bought Golden opinions from all sorts of people, Which would be worn now in their newest gloss, Not cast aside so soon.” Lady Macbeth: “Was the hope drunk Wherein you dressed yourself? Hath it slept since? And wakes it now, to look so green and pale At what it did so freely? From this time Such I account thy love.
Art thou afeard To be the same in thine own act and valor As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life, And live a coward in thine own esteem, Letting ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would,’ Like the poor cat I’ the adage” Macbeth: “Prithee, peace! I dare do all that may become a man; Who dares do more is none” Lady Macbeth: “What beast was ‘t, then, That made you break this enterprise to me? 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. Nor time nor place Did then adhere, and yet you would make them both. They have made themselves, and that their fitness now Does unmake you. I have given suck, and know How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me; I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums, And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn you Have done to this” (Macbeth 1.7, 31-58). Lady Macbeth’s constant belittling of Macbeth caused him to undertake evil deeds that he would never have done otherwise.
If Lady Macbeth had not kept on belittling Macbeth “To be a real man (killing Duncan and all the others),” he would have remained much better off. However, that was not to be, and so many people died, including the Macbeths. In my view, the answer to one of the most hotly debated questions in English literature is: Lady Macbeth caused Macbeth’s downfall. Macbeth was driven to evil due to his wife’s disapproval of him and his manliness. Lady Macbeth displayed two flaws that are common in most people, that of searing ambition and disparagement of one’s spouse. This led to their downfall and to the death of her husband and herself.