To what extent was Malcolm justified in his statement ‘Macbeth the dead butcher and his fiend-like queen’

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Last updated: August 14, 2019

It is an obvious fact that due to Malcolm being Duncan’s son and hopeful for the throne, he will take a bias view against Macbeth and his lady, because they make the decision to kill the king and all opposition.In scene 2 Macbeth fights bravely alongside Banquo for King and country. Duncan praises Macbeth whilst in conversation to Banquo in scene 4 mentioning he has ‘disdaining fortune’, and also likens him to ‘Bellona’s bridegroom’. This shows a great mutual respect between the King and Macbeth.

Macbeth, at this stage, is a loyal and heroic individual who strives for success. In my opinion he does not convey ‘butcher’ like tendencies early on, unless his act of sheer bravery and charisma in the opening battle is interpreted to be ‘butcher’ like behaviour.However, once he has been presented with the title ‘Thane of Cawder’ and listened to the ‘instruments of darkness’ he begins to envisage future glory and the possibility of toppling the throne. It is also ironic how Duncan comments on the former Thane of Cawdor- ‘There’s no art/ To find the mind’s construction in the face’ failing to notice what is in the new Thane of Cawdor’s ‘face’.

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Macbeth torments himself, and his soliloquy beginning ‘Two truths are told’ shows that Macbeth is balanced between a morbid fascination at the prospects of committing his evil deed and whether to carry his plan through at all. Macbeth realises that treachery to his king is the worst crime imaginable. He also admits to himself that Duncan is a splendid king and neither deserves the disrespect of having a mutinous general by his side or having his life vanquished.

At this stage it is important to realise that even though Macbeth is toiling and contemplating the murder of his king, he still shows signs of having a conscience with strong arguments against treason and murder. This, in my opinion does not make him a butcher. My personal analogy of a ‘butcher’ is someone who mutilates his or her victims in sadistic outbreaks of violence without thinking about possible consequences.

It is in fact Lady Macbeth who demolishes his arguments by questioning his manhood; and so it is she who is to blame for Macbeth’s early actions since a general will never have his manhood challenged. Macbeth is noticeably troubled by his future plans due to his final words ‘False face must hide what the false heart doth know.’It is once Macbeth has decided to go through with his plan and does not deviate; each step subsequently reaffirming his initial objective, when he shows ‘butcher’ like characteristics. When Duncan is murdered, Macbeth shows determination, and with his determination comes a violent and ruthless nature that disposes of possible threats such as Banquo. In this respect Malcolm was quite in his right to refer to Macbeth as a ‘butcher’.When Macbeth is left alone, he imagines he sees a dagger in front of him.

This dagger guides him towards his ultimate goal of killing Duncan. Initially he experiences horror at the reality of what he is contemplating. This shows he still displays an active conscious just before he commits his evil deed. It is difficult to determine whether he is truly an evil man. He kills Duncan despite his last minute warning which would certainly agree with Malcolm’s accusation of him being a ‘butcher’ but Macbeth shows that he is not necessarily happy with all of his decisions; likewise is his ‘fiendish’ queen who finds it all too much towards the end.Lady Macbeth is rather more difficult than Macbeth to define as the essay title suggests. On one hand she shows a brutal scheming personality but also towards the end a side which shows she is obviously incapable of handling her ever-tormenting guilt and so suffers an untimely death.After reading the letter she is worried that Macbeth is too soft a person for the crown.

She determines that she will assist him through ‘the valour of my tongue’. Shortly after she invokes demonic spirits to harden her own resolve and to destroy any weakness of pity. This shows that she is confident that Duncan must be killed, this is supported by her setting upon Macbeth’s intentions as soon as he returns to the castle. This ‘flawless’ plan which they both instigated and hoped to execute is likely to be interpreted as ‘fiend’ like behaviour therefore agreeing with Malcolm’s initial statement.It is also interesting to reflect how Lady Macbeth instantly invokes spirits to possess her body. ‘Unsex’-ing and her ‘woman’s breasts’ no longer being used for milk but murder bares a curious resemblance with the ambiguous sexuality of the witches. She could then be seen at the witch’s level of evil and therefore a ‘fiend’.Lady Macbeth also requests ‘make thick my blood’.

The ‘blood’ in question represents a natural function of any human body but by being made thick therefore suggests she wants to stop feeling man’s capacity for repentance. This could also be seen as the behaviour of someone described as a fiend.Lady Macbeth is also shown to portray fiend like behaviour when she is contemptuous of Macbeth’s change of heart and accuses him of being a coward.

She shows that she desires to be queen and is likely to take any path, and so her violent resolution of their argument prevails.Lady Macbeth shows a bold personality and boasts how she drugged the guards, yet she could have murdered the king except he reminded her too much of her own father; offering some evidence she isn’t as fiendish as earlier evidence leaves us to believe.Lady Macbeth is entirely in control of her husband’s actions with the exception of Banquo’s death when their roles begin to switch. She planned the execution, and it was her readiness of mind and strength of purpose that compensated for Macbeth’s failure to incriminate the guards once the murder was committed. This shows that she manipulates Macbeth and is overcautious to the penalty if they were to fail. She displays fiendish and devious behaviour continually through the plot where Macbeth is too overwhelmed with fear and guilt to think rationally, however I feel the fiendish behaviour she demonstrates is a token of her love and support to Macbeth and when reality punctures their surreal plan she is overthrown by guilt.I would suggest that there is enough evidence to show that both Macbeth and his lady acted as Malcolm exclaimed.

However I feel that they were both guided by greed and power, each step of the plot casting them further from rationality. At the beginning they were both greatly in favour with the throne and loyal subjects of Duncan, but power can corrupt even the most trustworthy and so they both changed dramatically.

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