Macbeth’s downfall is essentially caused by his vaulting ambitions and fatal flaw in his personality, while other external factors also contribute to his self-destruction. The witches, Lady Macbeth and fate all contribute to Macbeth’s downfall by fuelling his climbing ambition. This is conveyed through both Shakespeare’s text and Polanksi’s film. Macbeth’s vaulting ambition and tragic flaw are the principal factors, which lead to his downfall by gradually destroying his conscience and reputation.
Macbeth is seen as a noble hero before his ambition takes over, reflected in the hyperboles, “For brave Macbeth ??? well he deserves that name ??? Disdaining Fortune, with his brandished steel, Which smoked with bloody execution, Like Valour’s minion,…”. This exaggerates and emphasises that Macbeth was well respected, and was depicted as a courageous, valiant and worthy gentleman, before his ambition takes over.
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Macbeth’s ambitions begin to arise after he is named Thane of Cawdor, reflected in the whispered dialogue of, “Glamis, and Thane of Cawdor The greatest is behind. ” It also foreshadows his downfall and is ironic because Thane of Cawdor was guilty of treason and Macbeth eventually becomes a traitor too. His vaulting ambitions are portrayed when Duncan does not name him his heir. This is depicted in the metaphoric notions “Stars, hide your fires, Let not light see my black and deep desires. It shows that Macbeth has begun to yearn for greater power. Macbeth’s conscience is still in control after Duncan’s murder since he cannot bring himself to return to the scene of the murder and is depicted as feeling excessively guilty of his crime, reflected through the cumulative listing of metaphors of no sleep, “Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care, The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath, Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course…” It emphasises his fear of sleepless nights and having no peace of mind.
However, Macbeth’s vaulting ambitions begin to completely erode his character when he murders Banquo. This is reflected in his exaggerated accusations and fears of Banquo, “To be thus is nothing, But to be safely thus. Our fears in Banquo Stick deep; and in his royalty of nature Reigns that which would be feared…. There is none but he Whose being I do fear;” This shows that Macbeth’s ambitions to become king has overridden any conscience he previously had and has lead him on a “killing rampage”.
Banquo’s ghost appearing at the banquet is the symbol of the last of his conscience, “Avaunt and quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee! Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold; Thou has no speculation in those eyes Which thou dost glare with! ” The cumulative listing and vivid imagery of death, emphasises his guilty conscience of killing Banquo and the fears that haunt him. It also suggests that Macbeth is beginning to lose his sanity. Macbeth’s specific orders to not let Fleance live suggests that his ambitions to become king have revoked his conscience. This is portrayed in “.. eave no rubs nor botches in the work, Fleance his son, that keeps him company, Whose absence is no less material to me Than is his father’s, must embrace the fate Of that dark hour. ” It reveals Macbeth’s ruthlessness and that his conscience does not exist any more. Macbeth’s vaulting ambitions isolate him, and suggest that he is unable to relate to and communicate with anybody but himself, reflected through the destruction of his relationship with his wife, Lady Macbeth. This is conveyed through his reference to Lady Macbeth as “My dearest partner in greatness” and “My dearest love” , in comparison to “How goes your patient doctor? This shows that as Macbeth becomes more greedy, their relationship becomes destroyed which suggests that Macbeth was unable to maintain a relationship with his wife, whom he treated as an equal, let alone anybody else, when his ambitions began to take control. Macbeth’s ambitions and hunger for power taunts him to murder Duncan, portrayed by Polanksi’s use of graphic imagery of an imaginary dagger. Macbeth is seen as even more ridiculous as he grabs at the imaginary dagger because Polanski emphasises his gradual insanity by putting a visual to Macbeth’s dialogue.
Polanksi marks Macbeth’s downfall by an additional scene suggesting he is alone in his time of need when he fights Macduff’s army. Polanksi also suggests that a great hero was destroyed because of his vaulting ambition and pride. This is reflected through dramatic imagery depicting Macbeth’s head on a pike, which was what Macbeth specifically did not want to happen to him. Macbeth’s downfall is fueled by Lady Macbeth who spurs his ambitions and pushes him on, until his ambitions take over, and she is pushed to the side, no longer needed.
Lady Macbeth drives Macbeth’s ambitions by profusely insulting his pride. This is reflected through the imagery and comparisons to a proverb in “Wouldst thou have that Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life, And live a coward in thine own esteem,Letting ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would’, Like the poor cat I’ the adage? ” It suggests that he desires to be king but is unwilling to dirty his hands. Lady Macbeth also spurs his ambitions by insulting his masculinity, reflected in the harsh and direct dialogue of”What beast was’t then That made you break this enterprise to me?
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. ” This is also reflected in the vivid and clear imagery of “I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn As you have done to this. ” It is completely contradictory to what a mother would say and she suggests she has more masculinity than Macbeth. Lady Macbeth’s insults cause him to defend himself and induce his ambitions to become king.
Lady Macbeth is heavily influential initially because Macbeth sees her as his equal, symbolised by “My dearest partner in greatness” and the letter he sends her. However, as his ambitions grow, she is eventually left on the sidelines, and not informed of his actions, suggesting her role in Macbeth’s downfall changes ??? She only gives Macbeth the initial push to spur his ambitions. Polanksi portrays Lady Macbeth to “look like the innocent flower, But be the serpent under’t”, contrasting her appearance with her personality.
Her appearance is idealised, but she is anything but the fragile, innocent, young and gentle lady. Her personality traits clash with the appearance Polanski provides, and emphasises that no matter how womanly she may look, her cruel and brutal personality, overrides her beautiful appearance. This suggests that Lady Macbeth was able to influence Macbeth and spur on his ambitions. The witches are a crucial external factor contributing to Macbeth’s downfall. The witches stir Macbeth’s ambitions initially and are a catalyst for Macbeth’s tragic demise. This is reflected in the repetition of “All hail, Macbeth!
Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis! All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor! All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be King hereafter! ” , which accentuates their certainty and arouses his ambitions to become king. Macbeth’s belief in the witches is strengthened because they have prophesised that he will become Thane of Glamis, an event that has already come true. Shakespeare also suggests that the witches are a link between fate and Macbeth, foreshadowing his downfall in linking the witches and Macbeth together with the paradox, “Foul is fair, and fair is foul. The symbolism and paradoxical notions, foreshadow the clashing of evil against the forces of good, and Macbeth’s eventual downfall. The witches give Macbeth a false sense of security at their second encounter through their prophecies and apparitions, “Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn The power of man, for none of woman born Shall harm Macbeth. ” These equivocations provide Macbeth with the affirmation he was looking for and consequently removed all seeds of doubt of his downfall.
In Polanksi’s film, harsh lighting is used at Macbeth’s second encounter with the witches, symbolising the evil forces at work and their impure souls. The witches are also conveyed as having control over fate in Polanksi’s film since it was suggested that the witches were lying in wait for Macbeth at their first encounter. Polanksi also depicts them as excessively repulsive through vivid imagery. The witches naked, deformed bodies and faces, and the obnoxious ingredients that were added to the brew, repel the audience more and contribute to their supernatural aura and severe all connotations to the natural world.
Macbeth’s willingness to seek out these repugnant creatures reveals that all traces of his conscience have disappeared and his ambitions have taken over, leading to his self-destruction. It also suggests that the witches have take Lady Macbeth’s place in his need of support, representing their control over him. Polanksi and Shakespeare clearly portray Macbeth’s downfall as predominantly caused by his vaulting ambition and pride, while the witches, Lady Macbeth and fate provoke his ambitions and spur him on, which all lead to his self-destruction.