“This dead butcher.” To what extent is it possible to sympathize with Macbeth?
William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Macbeth” is based upon the danger of the lust for power and betrayal of friends, which certainly involves Macbeth. I feel that to describe Macbeth as “this dead butcher” is an unfair way of summarizing him at the end of the play because he was a hero to begin with, but he ruins his noble nature as he is weakened by evil.
Macbeth, a hero at the opening of the play, is told by three “weird sisters” that he will become great. Macbeth then acts upon this prophecy and it comes true, which soon leads Macbeth to his disastrous downfall, the ambition of Lady Macbeth also influences him and Macbeth then unwillingly murders King Duncan. Macbeth (now king) kills many other supposed enemies, innocent woman and children, even his own best friend Banquo, all to secure his position as king, which we know the original Macbeth would not have done. Further prophecies by the three witches persuade Macbeth into believing that he cannot be killed, but in act five, scene eight, we discover Macduff was “from his mother’s womb untimely ripped” who then kills Macbeth in battle, and Lady Macbeth has already committed suicide.
Shakespeare engages the audience’s sympathy at the beginning of the play for Macbeth by revealing the positive way in which he is perceived by others. Macbeth is deeply lauded, and very highly thought of by King Duncan, who then ironically awards Macbeth with the title “Thane of Cawdor”. The irony here is that the last Thane of Cawdor was a traitor as he will soon be, too. Macbeth’s kindness at the beginning of the play interferes with the murder of Duncan as Lady Macbeth also mentions in her soliloquy that Macbeth…
… we still feel sorry in the sense others have also part to take, causing his death.
In conclusion, to a sympathetic extent, we can feel pity for Macbeth.
His fatal flaw was exploited by the witches who toy with his mind, when Macbeth thought he was merely fulfilling his fate, and Lady Macbeth’s manipulation. However we also remember that his ambition was more important than other people’s lives; the murder of his best friend Banquo, Lady Macduff and Macduff’s son, and even the suicidal death of Lady Macbeth, which he seemed not to care about. However describing Macbeth as a “dead butcher” isn’t a fair summary of his character. His downfall was more emotional than this, if we remember the loyal soldier Macbeth was to begin with.
Although I think he deserved to die the way he did, Macbeth doesn’t deserve to be remembered by the description Malcolm gives him.