Macbeth has been depicted in various ways since its first appearance on stage, and is widely known as a tragedy, about the downfall of Macbeth and his lady. Macbeth’s ambition leads him to kill King Duncan, after he is visited by three witches who tell Macbeth that he will be king. Macbeth murders the king in his sleep, and Macduff flees to England with King Duncan’s son Malcolm. Macbeth goes on to murder Macduff’s family, and Macduff swears revenge by killing Macbeth at the end of Act 5.
Macbeth is a tragedy because Macbeth has an ambition which leads him to kill others, eventually destroying himself when he loses his sanity in Act 5. The witches tell Macbeth that he will be King, making him believe it is inevitable that he will become king. They then say that Banquo will have a line of Kings descending from him, which makes Macbeth determine to kill Banquo as well as the king so that Banquo cannot fulfill the prophecy of Macbeth being King. Macduff is the only character who tries to stop Macbeth from becoming king, making Macbeth determined to kill him before he becomes a threat.
Macbeth’s ambition leads him do terrible things, and eventually ruins his life. Some critics argue that Macbeth’s ambition is not the main cause of his downfall because “the witches have gained their ends” by getting Macbeth to kill Duncan so they are satisfied with him being King once more (Booth 117). This suggests that no matter what happens in the play, Macbeth would end up killing Duncan again if the witches wanted it. The plays many references to Fate hint at this theory; when Banquo predicts that Macbeth will be King, Macbeth asks him “What man dare, I do? (1. iv. 32).
Macduff then replies to Macbeth that “no man of woman born shall harm Macbeth” (2. ii. 59-60), suggesting that Macbeth is fated to be King whether he likes it or not, and Macduff even warns Macbeth about the witches in Act 1 saying they are “withered hags [… ] grim and ancient [… ] prophets of terrors” (1. iii. 14-17). Macbeth’s downfall results from his ignoring this suggestion by trying to kill Macduff anyway, making him lose his sanity when the predictions come true in Act 5.
Macbeth is fated to lose his sanity at this point in the play because Macduff has declared that Macbeth should be killed by no man of woman born (2. ii. 59-60). Macbeth kills Duncan because he wants to become king, but Macbeth’s ambition only leads him to ruin when Macduff decides to become an enemy; Macbeth fails to realise that Macduff will pose a threat if Macbeth does not kill him earlier in the play (Hoenselaar 381). The witches’ predictions give Macbeth confidence that he will be King, but it is actually Macduff who makes Macbeth realise what he must do in order to become King.
Macbeth’s ambition nearly ruins his life because Macduff kills Macbeth in the end, contrary to Macbeth’s belief that he would be unstoppable once he became king (Hoenselaar 381). One possible argument for Macbeth having blind ambition is that if Macbeth had not been so confident in every situation and killed Macduff when he was a child, Macduff would have never become a threat to Macbeth. Another interpretation of why Macbeth has mad ambition is that Shakespeare uses madness as an explanation for how Lady Macbeth persuades him to kill Duncan even though she does not appear onstage until Act 1, scene 5.
In Act 2, Scene 2, Macbeth says “Had I but died an hour before this chance, / I had lived a blessed time; for from this instant, / There’s nothing serious in mortality: / All is but toys; renown and grace is dead” (2. 2. 63-66). Macbeth believes that the only way to be successful in life is by dying young, which Macbeth believes he has lucked into because Macduff was too late to save Duncan. Macbeth then says “I am in blood stepped in so far that should I wade no more, / Returning were as tedious as go o’er” (2. 2. 8-69), indicating that Macbeth feels trapped into going down a dark path, which only Macbeth could go down because he was the one who killed Duncan in the first place (Shakespeare Macbeth).
The scene between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth is when Macbeth finally succumbs to blind ambition; Macbeth’s guilt catches up with him when Lady Macbeth persuades him to keep killing people even though it goes against his morals. Although Shakespeare never explicitly states that Macbeth suffers from mental health issues, this scene can be interpreted as evidences that Macbeth does have some sort of mental illness.
Macduff is the one who stops Macbeth from becoming king by assassinating him, but it takes Lady Macduff to make sure his line dies. Macduff’s children are Macbeth’s successor Macduff kills Macbeth in Act 4, scene 3, Macduff says “Had I but died an hour before this chance [… ] Of all whom we should lose be least lamented. ” (4. 3. 148-150), making Macbeth realise that Macduff will definitely become king one day. Macbeth then realises that once Macduff becomes king, Macbeth’s line will end because Macduff plans on killing Lady Macbeth and her children (Shakespeare Macbeth).
Lady Macbeth persuades Macbeth to kill Duncan by convincing him that he is capable of doing it; she him how there was never any fault in Macbeth (1. 5. 40-41). Macbeth is convinced that killing Duncan will not be wrong or evil because Lady Macbeth says “Who can be wise, amaz’d, temperate and furious / Loyal and neutral [… ]” (1. 5. 42-44). Macduff persuades Macbeth to stop killing people by saying how Macbeth has done enough damage; he then finishes off Macbeth – showing that Macduff wants to restore peace in the world once again (4. 3. 177).
Shakespeare uses mad ambition as a means of explanation for why tragedy happens to certain characters in the play; specifically, it creates the downfall of Macbeth . Near Macbeth’s death Macduff says Macbeth “hath been known / As one in suff’ring all, that suffers nothing. ” Macduff knows Macbeth very well and he can conclude that Macbeth must have a mental illness (4. 3. 226-227). Literary critics’ interpretations on Macbeth’s madness vary; some believe that Macbeth has no mental illnesses while others think that Macbeth is bipolar or schizophrenic.
The result of Macduff killing Macbeth ends up being the same either way because anyone who kills Macduff will become king and make the tragedy worse for everyone else (Hoenselaar 381). There are many other instances where Macbeth demonstrates his mental illness, but Macduff killing Macbeth is the best scene to conclude Macbeth’s madness. In Act 2, Scene 2 Macbeth says “But ’tis strange: / And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, / The instruments of darkness tell us truths;” (2. 2. 67-68). Macbeth says this because he feels as though everything around him is telling him lies and it makes Macbeth wonder if he actually did kill Duncan or not.
By Lady Macduff saying that Macduff will become king she gives Macbeth a truth that will hurt him even more than any lie could ever do; therefore, it would make sense that Macduff is also one Macbeth’s instruments of darkness. Macbeth wants Macduff to stop Macbeth from becoming king but Macduff does not want Macbeth to be king either; thus, Macduff says “Had I but died an hour before this chance [… ] Of all whom we should lose be least lamented. ” (4. 3. 148-150). Macflat is saying that he wishes he were dead and it would not make the situation worse if Macbeth was also dead at this moment.