It has often been said that Macbeth is a character of powerful contradictions. He is evil and all-powerful.
Are his violent acts and his criminal activities simply the result of Macbeth’s ambition to be King of Scotland? Why is he willing to kill his king and his best friend with apparently no remorse? Are his acts the result of blind ambition? No, Macbeth is the target of manipulation. He is not the manipulator, but instead is manipulated by different people and different forces. Macbeth encounters his first group of manipulators in the form of witches. The witches prophesize that Macbeth will one day be King of Scotland and that the descendents of Banquo will become kings. Having shared this prophecy with Lady Macbeth, the goal of being king becomes very enticing. Macbeth’s first act of evil is the killing of Duncan.
Before the murder, Macbeth tries to tell Lady Macbeth that he will not go through with it. She has to goad him into killing the King. After committing the murder, Macbeth seems almost delirious. He says that “all great Neptune’s ocean will not wash this blood clean from my hand”(Act II, Scene ii, lines 60-61). When he murders Banquo, Macbeth is still in torment, but the cause of his anguish seems to have changed.
He is afraid of Banquo, because Banquo knows about the witches and because the witches predicted that his descendents would be kings. Banquo’s death, he says will put his mind at rest. As the play goes on, there is a fundamental change in Macbeth’s character. Due to the manipulation of others, Macbeth has lost all sense of morality and right and wrong. The craving for power and obtaining more control consumes Macbeth.
Macbeth orders the murder of Macduff’s wife and children. Their killings gain him nothing. He has good reason to fear Macduff, but slaughtering his enemy’s family is pointless. Macbeth wants to spite Macduff.
He kills Macduff’s family to maintain control and power. Despite the witches new prophecies, Macbeth is paranoid of losing the crown. Since he cannot get at Macduff directly, he lets loose this senseless violence. As the target of manipulation Macbeth strikes out at random, and his moral sense seems to have entirely disappeared. The brave hero we met in Act I who at least seemed honorable, is completely twisted.
Macbeth’s crimes have cost him dearly. His reaction to Lady Macbeth’s death is a sign of complete despair -all feeling is dead in him. “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” (Act V, Scene v, lines 17-28) is less an expression of grief than it is a speech about the utter meaninglessness of life. Macbeth’s ambitions are now stronger than his conscience. The witches have tempted and controlled him with the idea of becoming king. Lady Macbeth manipulates him to overcome his natural hesitation to commit murder.
Due to his manipulation, Macbeth chooses the crown over his honor and material gain in this world over salvation in the next world. Once he has killed to get the crown, the other crimes seem inevitable. In order to keep what he has taken, Macbeth learns to lie and kill as a matter of course. His values become totally confused.
“Fair is foul, and foul is fair” to him now; he has lost track of the difference. By the end of the play, manipulation by others has completely consumed Macbeth. Once Macbeth kills Duncan, he is committed to a course of lying and killing. His sense of right and wrong is eaten away.
Even before Macbeth is killed, he is dying of a diseased spirit. Scotland is also infected, and Macbeth is its disease. Macbeth is a prime example of the corruption of power, and how absolute power corrupts absolutely. Shakespeare’s play Macbeth is a study of manipulation, control, and power.
It shows how individuals can control the mind and actions of others. That control when evil, can create not only turmoil within the person being controlled, but can lead to death and destruction of others around the person. In the case of Macbeth, not