How Macbeth’s Character and Morals Have Changed

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By this didactic scene alone, it is clear to see how Banquo behaves differently to the supernatural as opposed to Macbeth and how powerful of a hold they can have over both characters. In the beginning of the extract, we are immediately met with Banquo talking to Macbeth about his suspicions about the witches, calling it ‘strange’. The thing that can immediately be noticed is the way Shakespeare has purposefully eluded the ongoing battle between good and evil within Banquo’s words. The juxtaposition of words that oppose each other, such as ‘instruments of darkness tell us truths’, ‘honest trifles’ and ‘betray’s,’ is the way in which Shakespeare is trying to show the stark contrast between Macbeth and Banquo’s character. It reflects upon what they both represent; Macbeth representing evil and Banquo being his foil, as he represents good. The difference between them links to their morals. Unlike Macbeth, he has been unconvinced by the witches’ ‘dar9kness’ and perhaps can already sense the bad in the supernatural. We can clearly see Banquo is represented as good, pure, and strong-willed because of the way he questions the witches without any hesitation but instead, with a lack of trust, potentially making Macbeth view Banquo as an enemy of his regicide. This could be seen as a way for Shakespeare to subtly reinforce the idea about how untrustworthy the supernatural was, and how people should be questioning it. Another interpretation is that Shakespeare could be using Banquo’s character as his mouthpiece to the audience, warning them about the dangers of thee wrath and destruction it could cause to humanity and how evil will always attempt to triumph but will not prevail.

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On the other hand, Macbeth begins to describe his true feelings about the witches in his aside. We are introduced with Macbeth saying that ‘two truths are told’ when talking about the witches. It is interesting to note how Shakespeare has used an aside, intentionally making sure Banquo does not hear what is being said, then makes the ‘truth’ the first thing he talks about, showcasing his secrecy towards good (Banquo). The ‘two’ truths refer to how the witches have already proved the nature of their power because of their past predictions coming true: Macbeth has already been made Thane of Cawdor, but whether he would become king or not is where his uncertainty lies. However, Macbeth’s belief in the supernatural is already so vehement that he doesn’t doubt the witches’ words, unlike Banquo. Shakespeare evidently uses this soliloquy to mark where Macbeth’s ‘vaulting ambition’ starts to grow and flourish. Also, this scene is ironically used as a turning point to show his eventual downfall due to how he trusted the word of supernatural and trusted that the ambiguity would still be able to guide him to gaining more power by getting the ‘golden round’. Shakespeare portrays how Macbeth’s character and morals have changed drastically because of the supernatural; instead of being ‘honest’ and good, Macbeth resorts to having ‘deep and dark desires’ because of how brainwashed he essentially is, becoming into the epitome of a Machiavellian. In a sense, the situation in this scene could link back to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 and how the treasonous thoughts in Macbeth’s mind foreshadow his regicide, just like the treasonous nature of Guy Fawkes.

The aspect that is so prevalent about the supernatural is that it has acted as a catalyst in both Macbeth’s ambition and additionally, has been a huge component within the whole play, almost as if it is driving it forwards entirely. A reoccurring theme of sickness and disease is what Shakespeare uses as a metaphor for corrupted ambition. Shakespeare has intertwined the theme of sickness into his language in order to reinforce this idea: once the supernatural have ‘infected’ your thoughts, it is like you have caught an illness. When you begin to believe in the supernatural, it is like you have been tainted by the disease of evil. This can be seen when Macbeth is referred to as ‘green and pale,’ feeling ‘feverous’ with ‘fatal vision.’ The use of these words showcases the impacts of Macbeth’s ‘spur’ beginning to not only take over his ‘heat oppressed’ mind, but also his whole body. The impacts are further emphasised when you take a closer look at how the ‘ambition’ develops within Macbeth’s character. He is not only physically affected by it, but he is also mentally affected, which is a subtle indication of his later psychological downfall, which eventually destroys him. Shakespeare does this to effectively demonstrate how a single act of evil can determine the eventual turmoil of an individual. Alternatively, the theme of supernatural could evidently be linked to the religious preconceived notions within the play due to Shakespeare’s intentions towards Jacobean audiences. After Macbeth has ‘done’ the ‘deed’, he struggles to pray to God and say ‘amen.’ It has been suggested that Macbeth has been restricted of using any holy vocabulary because it is a spiritual sign of God already condemning him to hell. Ever since he had been plagued by sin, his descent into evil has restricted him from ever being able to redeem himself due to how he defies the nature of divine right by committing murder. Shakespeare has utilised this in a way that Jacobean audiences would be able to understand; witches were seen as works of the devil, which would have been horrifying and completely unconventional in a Christocentric country because of their established beliefs in God’s superiority over humanity. Macbeth’s malevolence, as a direct derivative from the sinister thoughts now embedded into his conscience, has disrupted the Great Chain of Being, completely opposing the orthodox society of those contemporary times. Not even the inhumane or supernatural can reverse the consequences and eventual tragedy for every character. Ultimately, Shakespeare has subjected the characters of Macbeth to face against evil to showcase the powerlessness of humans in the path of the immortal supernatural.  

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