SHAKESPEARE’S MACBETH PRESENT A DARK AND PESSIMISTIC VIEW OF HUMANITY.
“In the early hours of the morning, Gardaí found the body of a forty-year old man stabbed continuously in the chest. The victim was lying in his bed and was found by his housekeeper. A man was arrested later this afternoon of suspicion of binge connected to the murder…Gardaí found the body of a young man last night at the side of the Scots Road. The body was found beaten and stabbed by a young boy who claimed the man to be his father. Gardaí have announced that there is an ongoing investigation however, they have no suspects as of yet.”
All of this is occurring in our world. The entire human race has been on a killing spree since the beginning of time when Cain murdered his brother Abel and it hasn’t seemed to stop since. Whether it is war, terrorism, an accident, premeditated…it has all been accomplished by humanity. It seems there are some who wake up one morning craving the taste of blood and end up killing whoever first decided to walk in their path. There are those who itch with curiosity, wanting to know so desperately what it would be like to kill someone, to know that they have the power to suck the very living essence from a human body. Then there are those who wake up every morning wanting to kill and enjoy doing so. And, the further time progresses, the more of these dark souls we see. Macbeth was the odd one who had always thought of murdering someone, yet never proceeded with the task. He wanted power and autonomy and when the ‘imperfect speakers’ predicted that he will be king, he thought that a signal giving the go ahead to put his dark thoughts into action. But, this one murder soon changed Macbeth into the type who wakes up every morning with the purpose of killing, because even though he may have felt remorse at the sacrilegious regicide, he still went on to murder Banquo, Macduff’s entire family and the commoners in between. In my opinion, Macbeth must have had a liking for killing. He was a warrior by nature and unequalled on the battlefield and even though he did declare that ‘full of scorpions is my mind’ and he is ‘in blood stepp’d in so far, that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go’er’ he still continued down the pessimistic path of murder. It is pessimistic in the sense that it has no good effect on the mind or soul and it has only one obvious end i.e. a very painful death. He follows the path so far that life no longer has any meaning or significance for him and when he hears of his wife’s death, he reacts nonchalant and unemotionally ‘she should have died hereafter’. He had become cold and life is now just a litany of tomorrows. For Macbeth, life is just a ‘walking shadow’ that is but the flame of a ‘brief candle’, a ‘tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’. We can compare this to humanity in the sense that this is often the mind frame of someone suffering from depression. We have gone so far down the path of the ‘modern day world’ that depression is now considered a disorder and people cannot help themselves anymore. Then, there are those who do not have the disorder, but simply refuse to help themselves. They just wake up day after day continuing on with these thoughts jammed into their heads taking up valuable space. But they can help themselves and so could Macbeth. Humanity has the power of choice, yet it seems only the dark choices of whether to kill or not to kill seem to be the ones considered. Whether to be happy or not to be happy seems unimportant. Our priorities have changed, shifting from the right ones to the wrong. Macbeth changed his priority of fighting and protecting his country to being king, which should have been at the bottom of his list never mind that it shouldn’t even have been on the list. How can humanity live good fruitful lives when our morals are back to front and our minds are the dark corners, which we try to escape? We seem to be going backwards more than anything, just as Macbeth had done. He had learned to love his wife, yet since the murder of king Duncan, he was trying to create a void between them, pushing her further away. The result being that he doesn’t care when she dies. The country that he fought so desperately to protect and build was now going to ruin because of him. His reputation of being fierce and loyal ‘brave Macbeth-well he deserves that name…valiant cousin, worthy gentleman!’ was in one turn being reduced to nothing but a ‘tyrant…hell hound’.
Reputation, marriage, politics…everything was disintegrating because Macbeth didn’t have his morals set straight, which reveals what has happened to humanity and the reason for the violence, killing and never ending wars.
However, killing isn’t the only dark side of humanity. I wish it were. The tongue is more dangerous than any knife or gun. More harm is done every day by just merely uttering a few sentences. Be it a rumour, a mean joke or a lie. Humanity cannot escape from lying. It is the one sin that none seem to be able to eradicate from themselves. Even the goodiest of goodie-two-shoes lie, even if it is just a white lie. Saying you did your homework when you didn’t is the same as saying you didn’t kill a man, when you did. Lying is by far the one trait that places a dark cloud over humanity and makes our future seem very dangerous and wicked. ‘Macbeth’ reveals this trait. It reveals how simple the human mind is, how murderous the soul can be and how humanity can lie with a straight face and not a second thought. Lady Macbeth, for example, lied immediately. When Macbeth sent her the letter telling of the prophesies, there wasn’t even a second thought as to what was to be done. Deceit was her only conclusion. She would plot against the king of Scotland and kill him, and for what? Her own selfishness!-For her own desire to be Queen of Scotland. At least Macbeth had the curtsey to turn around half way through and say ‘We will proceed no further with this business’, but Lady Macbeth once again proves how dark humanity can be and manipulates her husband, bringing all her will to bear upon his moral wavering and challenge him to prove his love to her by regicide. Even the witches had control over Macbeth, acting as a catalyst that brings to the surface the latent evil, which already lies buried in Macbeth’s mind. Their few words of ‘hail Macbeth Thane of Glamis…Thane of Cawdor… thou that shalt be king hereafter’ is enough to make Macbeth kill, to lie, to plot and to be cunning beyond imagination. However, Macbeth is not the only victim. In fact, after the death of King Duncan, Macbeth goes and manipulates two farmers into murdering his best friend Banquo, which shows how evil can spread like wild fire within the human race and how none are strong enough to withstand it. In relation to reality, all we have to do is observe the street gangs, the mafia, wars! They all consist of hundreds, even thousands of people with the same objective, the same thoughts. And they are all lead by one man. A million soldiers are lead by one general, an entire cult is lead by one man. He tells them what to do, how to do it and where to do it, no questions asked. It shows how simply humanity can sell its soul to the devil and Macbeth did just that when he listened to the witches and his wife and plunged the golden dagger into the heart of the king. He became evil, deceiving and bloodthirsty, caring for none but himself and progressed ‘from a brave and loyal general, to a treacherous murderer, to a hirer of assassins, to an employer of spies, to a butcher, to a coward, to a thing with no feeling for anything but itself, to a monster and a hell hound’ as Helen Gardner had said.
Throughout the play, everywhere there is a sign of a lie: when Banquo asks Macbeth had he thought of the three witches and Macbeth replies no, even though it has been gnawing at him constantly: the denial of guilt: Lady Macbeth lying to her guests at the banquet. This proves the point that people live life on a lie and the fact that Lady Macbeth and her husband showed no repentance for their deeds ever in the play, illustrates that the concept of lying is now the same as eating a piece of bread. It reveals the pessimistic side of humanity because of our willingness to do wrong is negative. Humanity no longer is capable of seeing the light and going through life positively. Now its all rape and escape, unfortunately. The ‘we are all interdependent’ philosophy of life has disappeared and been replaced by ‘survival of the fittest’ no matter what the lengths were. Macbeth even complied with this. He had incredible paranoia over the safety of his title and throne and to survive, he went to the one place that had started it all - back to the witches. Macbeth called on the demonic spirits of hell ‘that look not like the inhabitants of earth’ to help him justify his future. He had to survive and he would do anything to do so, even if it meant killing, in cold-blood, the innocent family of Macduff ‘the firstlings of my heart shall be the firstlings of my hand’. Macbeth has finally decided to allow his baser instincts to override his conscience. Yet, Macbeth forgets the basic rule, which he himself had uttered ‘they say blood shall have blood’
Sunday, January 14, 2007
SHAKESPEARE’S MACBETH PRESENT A DARK AND PESSIMISTIC VIEW OF HUMANITY.