Yet Another MacBeth


Word Count: 1636

Macbeth is presented as a mature man of
definitely established character, successful in certain fields of
activity and enjoying an enviable reputation. We must not
conclude, there, that all his volitions and actions are
predictable; Macbeth\'s character, like any other man\'s at a
given moment, is what is being made out of potentialities plus
environment, and no one, not even Macbeth himself, can
know all his inordinate self-love whose actions are
discovered to be-and no doubt have been for a long time-
determined mainly by an inordinate desire for some temporal
or mutable good. Macbeth is actuated in his conduct mainly
by an inordinate desire for worldly honors; his delight lies
primarily in buying golden opinions from all sorts of people.
But we must not, therefore, deny him an entirely human
complexity of motives. For example, his fighting in Duncan\'s
service is magnificent and courageous, and his evident joy in
it is traceable in art to the natural pleasure which
accompanies the explosive expenditure of prodigious
physical energy and the euphoria which follows. He also
rejoices no doubt in the success which crowns his efforts in
battle - and so on. He may even conceived of the proper
motive which should energize back of his great deed: The
service and the loyalty I owe, In doing it, pays itself. But
while he destroys the king\'s enemies, such motives work but
dimly at best and are obscured in his consciousness by more
vigorous urges. In the main, as we have said, his nature
violently demands rewards: he fights valiantly in order that he
may be reported in such terms a "valour\'s minion" and
"Bellona\'s bridegroom"\' he values success because it brings
spectacular fame and new titles and royal favor heaped upon
him in public. Now so long as these mutable goods are at all
commensurate with his inordinate desires - and such is the
case, up until he covets the kingship - Macbeth remains an
honorable gentleman. He is not a criminal; he has no criminal
tendencies. But once permit his self-love to demand a
satisfaction which cannot be honorably attained, and he is
likely to grasp any dishonorable means to that end which
may be safely employed. In other words, Macbeth has much
of natural good in him unimpaired; environment has
conspired with his nature to make him upright in all his
dealings with those about him. But moral goodness in him is
undeveloped and indeed still rudimentary, for his voluntary
acts are scarcely brought into harmony with ultimate end. As
he returns from victorious battle, puffed up with self-love
which demands ever-increasing recognition of his greatness,
the demonic forces of evil-symbolized by the Weird
Sisters-suggest to his inordinate imagination the splendid
prospect of attaining now the greatest mutable good he has
ever desired. These demons in the guise of witches cannot
read his inmost thoughts, but from observation of facial
expression and other bodily manifestations they surmise with
comparative accuracy what passions drive him and what
dark desires await their fostering. Realizing that he wishes
the kingdom, they prophesy that he shall be king. They
cannot thus compel his will to evil; but they do arouse his
passions and stir up a vehement and inordinate apprehension
of the imagination, which so perverts the judgment of reason
that it leads his will toward choosing means to the desired
temporal good. Indeed his imagination and passions are so
vivid under this evil impulse from without that "nothing is but
what is not"; and his reason is so impeded that he judges,
"These solicitings cannot be evil, cannot be good." Still, he is
provided with so much natural good that he is able to control
the apprehensions of his inordinate imagination and decides
to take no step involving crime. His autonomous decision not
to commit murder, however, is not in any sense based upon
moral grounds. No doubt he normally shrinks from the
unnaturalness of regicide; but he so far ignores ultimate ends
that, if he could perform the deed and escape its
consequences here upon this bank and shoal of time, he\'ld
jump the life to come. Without denying him still a complexity
of motives - as kinsman and subject he may possibly
experience some slight shade of unmixed loyalty to the King
under his roof-we may even say that the consequences
which he fears are not at all inward and spiritual, It is to be
doubted whether he has ever so far considered the possible
effects of crime and evil upon the human soul-his later
discovery of horrible ravages produced by evil in his own
spirit constitutes part of the tragedy. Hi is mainly concerned,
as we might expect, with consequences involving the loss of
mutable