How Does Shakespeare Retain a Degree of Sympathy for Macbeth

Topics: Macbeth, Murder, King Duncan Pages: 4 (1359 words) Published: August 22, 2013
How does Shakespeare retain a degree of sympathy for Macbeth, through to the end of the play?

Shakespeare manages to retain a degree of sympathy for evil Macbeth, throughout the full play, no matter how small it might be. Initially, Shakespeare introduces us to the positive character of “brave Macbeth”. He is a hero to the people because he is a “noble” soldier. King Duncan holds Macbeth in high regard and refers to his cousin as a “worthy gentleman”. His positive attributes are stressed from the beginning of the play, while he fends off Scotland’s enemies. His basic kindness is also stressed. Lady Macbeth describes her husband as being “full of the milk of human kindness”, and fears that Macbeth may not be ruthless enough to kill the king. We immediately like Macbeth because of his loyalty and bravery. An assessment of Macbeth’s culpability must take account of the influence exercised on him by “The three weird sisters”. The witches know that Macbeth’s moral flaw is “vaulting ambition” and use this information to the best of their ability. The witches’ prophesise that Macbeth “Shalt be King hereafter”. They don’t have direct power over him but they achieve their aim by drawing out Macbeth’s deep rooted flaw; ambition. Macbeth plots to murder Duncan because of the trait he possesses. The fact that Macbeth has been deluded by these forces of darkness allows us to maintain sympathy for him. On the other hand, some might argue that if he wasn’t fundamentally evil that he wouldn’t have such a dangerous flaw. Macbeth is a reluctant murderer furthermore reserving our sympathies. Macbeth is dealing with a troubled conscience and no longer wants to proceed with the Duncan’s murder. He realises that as a noble kinsman, it would be disgraceful for him to commit treason. It takes Lady Macbeth’s powers of persuasion to get him to follow through with the plan. She insults his manhood and bravery “Art thou afeared?” Macbeth succumbs to his poisonous wife and carries out...
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