Tuesday, September 9, 2014


QUESTION: Who is the most evil character in Macbeth--Macbeth of Lady Macbeth?

RESPOND in analytical essay (PEEL) style.

Not all quotes are referenced. You can look them up yourself!!

YELLOW - broad statement on the topic
BROWN - general statement on the topic
GREEN - plot summary
PINK - thesis
 BLUE - arguments (3) using characters (3)
LINK: link to thesis

In the 15th Century play, Macbeth by William Shakespeare, there are many expressions of evil, but evil is mostly expressed in the characters Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. It is often debated which of the Macbeths was the most evil. At the beginning of the play Macbeth appears a brave soldier, loyal to King Duncan, while Lady Macbeth appears the more evil of the two, overstepping her role in the Great Chain of Being, pushing Macbeth to  murder the king. However, events unfold which reveal that Macbeth is the most evil character in the play, degenerating from the time of the witches' prophecies due to his "vaulting ambition". Once Macbeth hears the witches' prophecies, he vows to murder King Duncan, then Banquo, his best friend must die because of the succession to the throne, then his evil reaches its zenith when he arranges the murder of the good wife, Lady Macduff and her children.

When the play begins, Macbeth appears a brave character who is loyal to his King and cousin, but not for long.  When he meets the weird sisters on the heath when returning from battle, they promise him he will become Thane of Cawdor, then the King hereafter. He sends a letter to Lady Macbeth, telling her of the "fateful news." It is his wife who encourages him to go through with King Duncan's murder, goading his masculinity. He probably would not have killed the king without his wife pushing him, although he admits to "vaulting ambition". Macbeth equivocates, then falls in on fate's side, blaming the "...dagger, which I see before me..." (1.6...) Once he kills the king, even though at first repentant, wishing he could wake King Duncan, he continues on his murderous rampage. He no longer tells his wife of his plans, protecting his "dearest chuck". From this point on, once partners in crime, Macbeth now appears the most evil character of the two, relegating his wife to the subservient position expected of women in Elizabethan times.

Once King Duncan's murder is achieved and Macbeth is crowned king at Scone, he is not content. As the weird sisters prophecied to Banquo that "Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none." (1.3.68) Macbeth feels insecure in his position as he feels it is pointless that he has killed the rightful king just so Banquo's sons can inherit the throne. Macbeth does not carry out the murders himself, instead his evil heart plans it; he hires three murderers to do the deed, first blackening Banquo's name to them. He says of his best friend: "Banquo, thy soul's flight, If it find heaven must find it out tonight" (3.1.62-63). Banquo is killed, but Fleance flees, so Macbeth cannot relax in his kingly position. At this stage of the play, evil still drives Macbeth's actions, and he sees the ghost of Banquo at the feast, revealing his guilty conscience at murdering his friend. Lady Macbeth spends the night covering up for her husband's shattered mental state, as Macbeth is the only one who can see the ghost of Banquo. Lady Macbeth protects Macbeth by sending the lords home before Macbeth can reveal his evil acts to them all.

By the time Macbeth decides to kill Lady Macduff due to his suspicions of her husband who has flown to England, he is a seasoned murderer, moving from evil act to evil act. Lady Macduff, although warned of pending disaster, holds her ground, stating "Whither should I fly? I have done no harm." (4.2.82-83) That Lady Macduff is an innocent does not stop Macbeth from sending murderers to kill her and her children. He has become, as Macduff says to Malcolm, "treacherous". Malcolm replies "Macbeth is a tyrant" (4.3.20-21). Macduff, even before hearing that Macbeth has killed his family says, "Not in all the legions of horrid hell can come a devil more damned In evils to top Macbeth." (4.3.63-65).

Macbeth, the play personified evil through the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Once Macbeth murders once, he goes on a rampage unassisted by his wife. Perhaps his most evil act is killing Lady Macduff and her children. When he faces Macduff on the battlefield, he expresses some regret at the evil act. Macduff calls Macbeth a "Hell-hound" (5.8.4) and that is the way Shakespeare crafts his character through the play. Therefore, Macbeth is the most evil character. After her initial involvement in King Duncan's murder, Lady Macbeth deteriorates into madness, shocked at her husband's murderous rampage.

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