1. What did you learn through a change in the character? In the play Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, we learn that the idea of using evil as a short cut to achieve our ambitions in life is exceedingly dangerous. After the witches’ prophecies, Macbeth becomes full of ambition and commits numerous evil deeds in order to fulfil his desire to become king. This change in the character reveals that even though it may seem expedient to use evil, in the long run, evil cannot be trusted and it extracts a heavy price for its help; in Macbeth’s case, the loss of everything he loves.
During the first act of the play, Macbeth’s admirable qualities are easy to observe. Macbeth is a loyal vassal of Duncan and proves his courage on the battlefield by defeating the Norwegian army which is assisting a rebellion against Duncan’s reign. For example, when the captain is reporting back their victory to King Duncan, he describes Macbeth as ‘brave Macbeth’ and tells how Macbeth ‘unseamed [Macdonwald] from the nave to chops, /And fixed his head upon our battlements’.
However, returning from the battle, Macbeth and Banquo meet the three witches and Macbeth is given prophecies which tempt him and test his moral courage. Unfortunately, Macbeth cannot withstand his ambitions to become King and eventually murders Duncan, which reveals that his moral fortitude is not equal to his physical courage. Although the witches tell Macbeth the truth, Banquo puts it best when he says ‘oftentimes, to win us to our harm,/ The instruments of darkness tell us truths,/ Win us with honest trifles’.
However in the end they betray us. It is regrettable that Macbeth does not listen to his friend, but instead chooses to commit an evil act and thus he begins to change. However killing the king is not the last of Macbeth’s act of evil. He soon realises that once you start down the path of evil there is no going back. In order to secure his position as King, he kills Duncan’s guards. Soon after, we can see that Macbeth has become evil when he is not able to say ‘Amen’ and because he heard a voice tell him he will not be able to sleep again.
Then Macbeth orders the murder of his best friend, Banquo, and his son, Fleance. He tells his wife that his mind is ‘full of scorpions’ because ‘Banquo and his Fleance lives’. This shows us that Macbeth has become so evil that he is even willing to kill his best friend. He has fallen from the brave man who wins the love of his king for his loyalty and becomes something evil. This is further shown when he goes to visit the witches who say ‘Something wicked this way comes! ’ before Macbeth enters.
Macbeth is told by the witches to ‘beware Macduff’. This leads to Macbeth ordering the murder of Macduff and his family. Fortunately Macduff escapes to England but Macbeth is now beyond redemption. He has become a creature of evil. This change in Macbeth’s character shows us that although we may agonise about the decision to commit our first evil act, once we have, further acts become easier until very soon we lose our moral inhibitions. Therefore it is better not to start down the path of evil, no matter how alluring it may seem.
The end of the play teaches us that there are consequences for using evil as a shortcut to achieve our ambition. After Malcolm returns to Scotland with Macduff and an English army, we see a very different Macbeth from the confident commanding figure of before. Now he is filled with self doubt and self loathing. Even when he hears the news of his wife’s death, he is not moved to strong emotion; instead he pathetically says ‘she should have died hereafter’. The evil that Macbeth has committed seems to have destroyed his capacity to feel strong emotions.
He says ‘I have almost forgot the taste of fears’. This teaches us that it is impossible to enjoy the benefits which can be accrued from using evil as we become so emotionally detached from the world, that we begin not to care. This is a sign of Macbeth’s loss of humanity. However, Macbeth tries to reassure himself, saying ‘I bear a charmed life, which must not yield/ To one of woman born’. But as Macduff was a caesarean birth, this fulfils the prophecy, and allows him to kill Macbeth. This is case of justice being served as the tyrant Macbeth has caused his country untold misery.
The change in Macbeth made me realise that the price we pay for using evil is too great. Sometimes it is better to be satisfied with what we have and forget our ambitions if the only way to achieve them is through hurting others. In conclusion, through the change in Macbeth we learn that using evil to attain what we desire can be very dangerous. As Macbeth falls for the temptation of using evil to achieve his ambition, he becomes a puppet of evil. We learn that evil will tell us small truths to gain our trust, but if we succumb to its lure, it will eventually betray us and take everything we have.