Every human being has a weakness and that weakness is pride. ‘Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted (Matthew 23:12, The Bible)’. Pride is a natural flaw that most people do not realize. Some can control it, while others let their pride blind them from logic and truth. Naturally, Macbeth has this attribute and he demonstrates it throughout the play. Shakespeare purposely introduces Macbeth as a proud character. The witches’ prophecies give him his confidence. And as his confidence grows, so does his pride until it eventually consumes his power-crazed mind.
Macbeth is introduced to the audience as a noble general and thane with quite a bit of power. This can lead one to believe that he is proud of his position and his authority over others. It is this pride that sparks the ambition and desires locked within him. His greatest ambition is to be king, although that would mean Duncan must die. ‘If Chance will have me king, why, Chance may crown me/ Without my stir (I. iii. 143-144). In this quote, Macbeth openly states how he is willing to seize the crown should he ever get the opportunity.
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This changes how he feels towards Duncan and the natural order of things, instead, he is scheming against it. Macbeth is very certain of his ‘fate’ to become king in the letter he wrote to his wife. ‘[…] and referred me to the coming-on of time with ‘Hail, King that shalt be! ‘ This have I thought good to deliver thee […] that thou might’st not lose the dues of rejoicing, by being ignorant of what greatness is promised thee (I. v. 8-13). He openly promises Lady Macbeth that she will be Queen soon without any concrete evidence.
This shows how he is convinced by the witches’ prophecy that he will succeed Duncan as King. Furthermore, Macbeth’s status, power, and his achievements give him much to be proud of, as hard as he tries to hide it. One can see that he cannot help being proud. Nevertheless, the witches’ prophecies played a very important role in Macbeth’s character development. Their first prophecies, including that he will be king, ignited a spark within Macbeth’s pool of ambition. ‘Two truths are told/ As happy prologues to the swelling act/ Of the imperial theme (I. iii. 127-129).
Macbeth enjoys the thought of perhaps becoming king in this quote. He is optimistic about the witches’ prophecies, and deep inside, he hopes that they will come true. The two truths are the prophecies of becoming thane of Glamis and Cawdor. The word ‘happy’ reveals his excitement about the possibility of being king; if one prophecy came true, why not the other? Macbeth is especially influenced by the prophecies during the end of the play. ‘[…] for none of woman born/ Shall harm Macbeth (IV. i. 80-81)’. This prophecy causes Macbeth to think he is invincible.
It reinforces his confidence so that he is blinded from its true meaning. However, the prophecy is confusing, since all humans are born from a mother, then logically, no human should be able to defeat Macbeth. Therefore, it is understandable why Macbeth becomes extremely hubris following this prophecy. The witches’ gave Macbeth a nudge in the beginning and then pushed him to his death in the end using the prophecies. Without the assurance of these prophecies, Macbeth would have never acted on his ambition alone and there would be no play to analyze.
Since pride is in all human beings, does that make everyone weak? It is definitely one of man’s many weaknesses and for Macbeth, his tragic flaw. His pride combined with the witches’ prophecies and a few successes transformed him from the loyal and noble subject to an arrogant, scheming tyrant. In other words, Macbeth is very much corrupt with power in the last few scenes. After Macbeth is crowned king, he becomes very paranoid. ‘There is none but he/ Whose being I do fear; and under him/ My genius is rebuked (III. i. 53-55)’. His pride causes him to be suspicious of those close to him like Banquo.
He fears that someone would steal his crown just as he stole Duncan’s. In fact, this feeling of distrust was so strong that Macbeth ordered Banquo, his best friend, to be assassinated. During the end of the play, Macbeth becomes more and more confident because he is assured by his recent successes and by the witches’ prophecies. ‘Bring me no more reports: let them fly all:/ Till Birnam wood remove to Dunsinane/ I cannot taint with fear. What’s the boy Malcolm? / Was he not born of woman? (V. iii. 1-4) Macbeth reflects upon two of the later prophecies by the witches’ as being in favor of him.
Logically, since Malcolm is a human, he cannot defeat Macbeth. And it’s not possible for a forest to move by itself. Misguided by these prophecies, Macbeth and his army are relaxing while Malcolm prepares to lay siege to his castle. Because of his earlier successes, Macbeth thinks that he will always win and his pride blinds him from logic and reasoning. His pride makes him stubborn, and he refuses to accept defeat after those prophecies came true. Pride, ultimately, led Macbeth to his downfall. Pride will always be a weakness of mankind. As much as one tries to hide it, their pride will still show.
For example, is Michael Jordan proud because he led the Bulls to six NBA titles? Or is a regular student proud when they score 100 on a test? Everyone is proud of themselves or someone else at one point of their life. Therefore, pride is not necessarily a bad thing but if left unchecked, it will grow. Macbeth’s pride grew and grew until he was corrupted with power and blinded from the truth. ‘With great power comes great responsibility (Ben Parker, Spiderman)’. Pride is in everyone, but those who can control it are the victors. Works Cited Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Singapore: Longman, 1999.