Weakness and Selfish Ambition Through the Macbeth Play

Essay details

Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.

Shakespeare’s shortest and most fast-paced play, Macbeth, examines the propensity for evil in human beings and how, once embraced through the abandonment of God and goodness, evil corrupts the human soul. Through his use of the three witches, complex character foils, and the presentation of the dichotomy between a private verse public persona, William Shakespeare’s Macbeth serves as a commentary for what happens when human beings turn away from good, and thus reject the guidance of their moral consciousness.

Essay due? We'll write it for you!

Any subject

Min. 3-hour delivery

Pay if satisfied

Get your price

The witches play, arguably, one of the most important roles within the tragic play. Contrary to popular belief, and despite their spooky and foreboding presence, the witches are truly powerless, and serve, instead, as instigators of evil in the life of Macbeth. Unbeknownst to Macbeth, his very first words in the play, “so foul and fair a day I have not seen” eerily echo the words of the witches, “fair is foul and foul is fair” and thus the audience witnesses, from very early on, the complex and intertwines relationship between Macbeth and the witches. The witches represent the physical manifestation of evil, and the similar lines establish a precedent of Macbeth’s evil from his very first lines. The examination of whether or not the occult forces that appear to exist throughout the play are in fact real, pales in comparison to the gravity that the inclusion of these supernatural figures bring to the discussion of the human conscious that this play naturally evokes. Ultimately, whether or not the witches are actually real is unimportant, for the purpose of their role within the play is to serve as instigators, not representations, of evil, and thus allow Macbeth to reject his humanity and allow for evil to overtake his psyche. 

William Shakespeare’s use of character foils throughout his play, Macbeth, serve to highlight the difference between good and evil, and warn the audience of the tragedies that might ensue when a human rejects his or her morality and succumbs, through weakness, to the power of evil that lives inside of everyone. In order to grasp the complete gravity of Macbeth’s moral demise, he is placed at odds, and in stark to comparison to Macduff, who serves as a foil for Macbeth’s character. With regard to the issue of evil overcoming a human’s soul, Macduff’s moral conscious appears to be impenetrable, while Macbeth, from the very beginning of the play, is at a clear and present risk for rejecting goodness and becoming fully evil. The death of King Duncan puts the contrast of these two men on display for the audience. While Macbeth murders Duncan, Macduff mourns his loss and elevates Duncan to a divine level, recognizing a king’s God-given right to rule. Additionally, Macduff renounces Macbeth and damns him, outwardly calling him evil in a religious context, nothing, “not in the legions of horrid hell can come a devil more damned in evils to top Macbeth”. Additionally, Lady Macbeth and Lady Macduff serve as foils for one another. Though they never speak to each other throughout the play, they are both victims, and ultimately experience the same fate. While many tend to view Lady Macbeth as her husbands right-hand and partner-in-crime, it is more likely that Lady Macbeth was actually the ultimate victim of her husband. She, like all other people, was born with a propensity for evil; however, it was her weakness, and the influence of her husband’s lack of moral consciousness, that led to her ultimate demise.

One of the most significant aspects of the play that displays the demise or Macbeth’s morals conscious is the portrayal of public and private faces. Macbeth serves as a tool to exemplify the dichotomy between a person’s public verse private faces. At the start of the play, the audience was keen to Macbeth’s internal struggle that stemmed as a result of his increasing ambition. The audience is aware of this from the start of the play when Macbeth is about to act as a host, and has to address his inner wants with struggle to maintain his morals. When discussing his guest in an aside, Macbeth announces, “He’s here in double trust: First as I am his kinsman and his subject, strong both against the deed; then, as his host, who should against his murderer shut the door, not bear the knife myself… I have no spur to prick the dies of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself and falls on th’ other.” In his private face, Macbeth considers murdering King Duncan for the sake of his own political aspirations, but publically, Macbeth must be appear to be a kind and welcoming host to his guests. Though not inherently evil at the beginning, Macbeth is so consumed by power that evil ultimately overcomes him. As the evil becomes more enveloped in Macbeth’s soul, he is thus forced to abandon his religion. “I go, and it is done: the bell invites me. Hear it not, Duncan, for it is a knell that summons thee to heaven, or to hell.  As the play continues, the audience notices that Macbeth’s private and public face seemingly morph into one. The three witches act as instigators inducing the wants of his private face and influencing him to shed his moral conscious. Ultimately, when Macbeth shows that he is willing to sacrifice his own wife for the sake of his political dreams and desires, the audience comes to terms with the fact that Macbeth has forgone his total humanity by succumbing to weakness and selfish behaviors.

The story of Macbeth, told throughout William Shakespeare’s tragic play, demonstrates the propensity for evil that all humans possess in their soul, and the ways in which weakness and selfish ambition can force someone to reject their morality and indulge, fully, in evil. Through the presence of occult and supernatural elements, Macbeth’s internal weakness and highlighted, and it is his own ambition that pushes him over that line between good and evil, ultimately resulting in complete and utter tragedy.

Get quality help now

Prof. Carstensen

Verified writer

Proficient in: Plays, Writers

4.8 (459 reviews)
“ Excellent! She is very professional, meet all the requirements, fast turn around time, communicates, and an overall 100/10. ”

+75 relevant experts are online

More Macbeth Related Essays

banner clock
Clock is ticking and inspiration doesn't come?
We`ll do boring work for you. No plagiarism guarantee. Deadline from 3 hours.

We use cookies to offer you the best experience. By continuing, we’ll assume you agree with our Cookies policy.