Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most well-known tragedies. The story revolves around Macbeth’s descent into madness, brought on by his own ambition and Lady Macbeth’s manipulation. Macbeth is a classic example of how power can corrupt even the most honorable of men.
Lady Macbeth is often cited as the true villain of the play, as she is the one who first encourages Macbeth to kill Duncan in order to seize the throne. She is a master manipulator, using her own husband’s ambitions and weaknesses to her advantage. Even after Macbeth has killed Duncan and taken the throne, Lady Macbeth continues to manipulate him, goading him into further acts of violence in order to protect their position. In the end, Lady Macbeth’s manipulation led to Macbeth’s downfall, and ultimately her own demise as well.
We feel that Macbeth is a man who follows only what he believes to be correct when we first hear about him from the sergeants’ report. Furthermore, when he first appears on stage, Banquo, another nobleman, goes with him. As a result, we would believe that he acts justly and makes all of his own decisions. This view proves incorrect. Although Macbeth begins as a loyal Duncanian subject, he is ambitious, which is a flaw that allows him to be influenced by several variables in the play.
The first time Macbeth is manipulated is by his wife, Lady Macbeth. She plants the seed of ambition in Macbeth’s mind and tells him that it is not a woman’s role to be a warrior. Macbeth then starts to question his manhood and if he is truly fit to be king. Lady Macbeth also convinces Macbeth that it is their destiny to be king and she even quotes the witches prophecy to help back up her argument.
Macbeth is also manipulated by the witches, as they tell him that he will be Thane of Cawdor and then king. These prophecies give Macbeth the idea that maybe it is his fate to be king and this allows him to be manipulated even more. Macbeth is finally manipulated by his own guilt.
After Duncan’s death, Macbeth starts to feel guilty and this causes him to have hallucinations of Banquo’s ghost. This makes Macbeth become paranoid and he starts to believe that everyone is out to get him. Macbeth’s weaknesses allow him to be manipulated by others and this eventually leads to his downfall.
Lady Macbeth is the first example of manipulation in the narrative. She thinks that Macbeth is “overrun with human compassion” (Shakespeare 1. 5.4). Lady Macbeth feels that Macbeth is too compassionate to be able to fulfill the prophecies on his own, therefore she labels him weak and unmanly.
Macbeth is not immune to Lady Macbeth’s influence, he wants her to be proud of him, and so allows her to influence his thoughts and decisions.
Macbeth is not the only one that is manipulated however. Banquo is also a target of Macbeth’s manipulation. Macbeth kills Duncan in order to gain the throne, but fears that Banquo will be able to take it from him. Macbeth employs assassins to kill Banquo, and then later hires murderers to kill Banquo’s son Fleance as well. Macbeth’s manipulation results in the deaths of many people, including those who are close to him. In the end, Macbeth pays for his crimes with his own life. Macbeth is a prime example of how manipulation can lead to tragedy.
It is clear throughout Act 1, Scene 5 till the death of Duncan in Act 2, Scene 2, that Lady Macbeth influences and persuades Macbeth to kill him. This is when Lady Macbeth has control over Macbeth. Following Duncans murder, part of Macbeth’s motivation comes from evil spirits. It can be seen in her mind: “Thou wouldst be great, Art not without ambition; but without the illness should attend it.”
Macbeth is ambitious, but he is not prepared to go to the extremes that Lady Macbeth wishes him to go. Macbeth knows that becoming king would result in many problems, which is why he is reluctant about it at first. Ambition is not a crime, but Macbeth’s ambition coupled with Lady Macbeth’s manipulation leads to disastrous consequences.
Lady Macbeth begins her manipulation by questioning Macbeth’s manhood: “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” (1.7.49-51). Macbeth is still unsure about the whole murder plot, and Lady Macbeth makes him feel like he is not a man if he does not go through with it. Macbeth starts to believe that killing Duncan is the only way to become king, which is what Lady Macbeth wants him to believe.
Macbeth also has doubts about his own ability to kill Duncan, but Lady Macbeth tells him that no one will know that it was him who killed Duncan: “But here’s a spot. / The thane of Fife had a wife: Where is she now? What, will these hands ne’er be clean? No more o’ that, my lord; lest that our measure’s pent, / And time uses us forgot” (2.2.54-57). Macbeth is worried that he will get caught, but Lady Macbeth reassures him that everything will be fine.
After Duncan is murdered, Macbeth starts to regret his decision and he says that they should not have done it: “I am afraid to think what I have done; / Look on’t again I dare not” (2.2.59-60). Macbeth is starting to realize the gravity of his actions, but Lady Macbeth is still trying to convince him that it was the right thing to do: “Infirm of purpose! Give me the daggers: The sleeping and the dead Are but as pictures: ’Tis the eye of childhood That fears a painted devil” (2.3.64-66).
Lady Macbeth is trying to make Macbeth believe that there is no difference between reality and imagination, which is why he should not feel guilty about killing Duncan. Macbeth is still hesitant, but Lady Macbeth tells him that he will be rewarded for his actions: “What, did these hands not rid thee of thy foes? / The king hath cause to wet his head; thou hast no cause to mourn” (2.3.85-86). Lady Macbeth is telling Macbeth that he should be happy because he is now the king, and that is all that matters.
Macbeth is finally convinced by Lady Macbeth’s manipulation and he agrees with her: “I am settled, and bend up Each corporal agent to this terrible feat” (2.3.87-88). Macbeth is now fully committed to the murder plot, and there is no turning back. Lady Macbeth has successfully manipulated Macbeth into doing what she wants, and Macbeth will never be the same again.