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Macbeth By William Shakespeare: Who Is Responsible For The Downfall Of Macbeth

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Table of contents

  1. The witches and their prophecies
  2. Lady Macbeth’s influence
  3. Macbeth’s own ambitiousness
  4. Conclusion

The question I chose for this essay was “Is Macbeth powerless in meeting his downfall or are there other circumstances and outside forces that contribute to his fate?”. The author or playwright of Macbeth's play was William Shakespeare and was one of the most well-known writers of all time. The play introduces us to Macbeth, who gets told about prophecies of him being king in the future. He then becomes hungry for power and decides to let his ambition take over him. Macbeth was powerless when he met his downfall and there are reasons as to why he was such as the roles of the witches and the impact of their prophecies, Lady Macbeth’s influence over him, and his own ambitions.

The witches and their prophecies

Macbeth’s prophecy to be king wasn’t the only thing that was said by the witches. In fact, the witches also told Banquo that his son, Fleance, will also become king. This, of course, led to Macbeth’s downfall.

Macbeth: “Speak, if you can: what are you?” Witch 1: “All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis!” Witch 2: “All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!” Witch 3: “All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!”. Witch 1: “Lesser than Macbeth, and greater.” Witch 2: “Not so happy, yet much happier.” Witch 3: “Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none: So, all hail, Macbeth and Banquo!”.

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The witches explain that Macbeth would be the thane of Cawdor then afterward, king. But they also tell Banquo his prophecy, which was to be lesser than him but Greater, not so happy, but much happier, and his future sons would be kings. Banquo was told to be lesser but greater, meaning he is powerless but he would be greater in the end when he has his revenge on him. Banquo wasn’t happy when he found out Macbeth murdered to be king but was happy knowing his son would have vengeance on him and be king. This whole prophecy for Banquo was one of the most crucial parts of the story and is the reason why Macbeth failed in the end. But however, there was another influence other than the witch’s prophecy that drove him to do the bloody deeds in order to claim himself asking.

Lady Macbeth’s influence

Lady Macbeth’s influence was another reason to why Macbeth failed to dominate as a king. Lady Macbeth was portrayed as a manipulative and malicious character and was the one who came up with entire plans to make him king even when he didn’t fully commit to making the prophecies true. She was the one who made him drug the guards and murder Duncan. After that incident, her plan had worked when she went back to place the daggers on the guards to frame them for the murder, which Macbeth was too scared to do. However, her influence was more than just mere plotting. She used many methods to be able to convince him of the murders. At first, she questions his manhood and would pressure him to commit the vile acts. “When you durst do it, then you were a man”. This does work on Macbeth for a bit, but it still doesn’t fully convince him. She then uses guilt to push him into the act. She says: “How tender it is to love the babe that milks me / I would, while it was smiling in my face / I have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums / And dashed the brains out, had I sworn as you / Have done to this”. This statement basically means that if she also felt how he was feeling, then she wouldn’t try and ignore what she would tell him. This does work and it helped convince Macbeth to plot more seriously. This was why Lady Macbeth was one of the main causes for his ambitions to committing the deeds in order to become king.

Macbeth’s own ambitiousness

Macbeth’s lust for power and his ambition to be king was the main cause of his downfall. His ambitiousness continued to grow throughout the play which showed his evil side and what he was willing to do in order to become king. After hearing the witch’s prophecy, “All hail Macbeth, thou art shalt be king hereafter”, he was left to wrestle with his consciousness and that was when his ambitions started to take over. His ambitions continued to grow with the influence of Lady Macbeth. She persuades him by using guilt against him. She would also proceed to call him a coward, which further convinced him into committing the murders. His desire to remain as king brings out his evil side within him and his ambition would cause wrath to anyone who would stand in his path, including his best friend. “Come seeling night/scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day and with thy bloody and invisible hand cancel and tear to pieces the great bond which keeps me pale”, this quote signifies that Macbeth’s ambitiousness had already taken over at this point and he is wishing that the night will come for Banquo’s assassination so that his fears will be washed away and he will stay as king. Macbeth’s desire to stay king had caused him to murder his best friend. His ambition had taken over him fully by this stage and was the final factor contributing to his death.


Macbeth’s actions in the play all contributed to his tragic death at the end. There were three main reasons as to why he had failed and died towards the end of the play. The first reason was because of the prophecies told by the witches. The prophecy that was given to him which was that he will be king in the future, and the prophecy given to Banquo that his children would be future kings. This was why Macbeth failed at the end because it was told Banquo’s son would be king in the future, so Macbeth had to be killed in order for his son to take his rightful place on the throne and avenge his father’s death. The second reason was Lady Macbeth’s influence. She persuaded him to commit the crimes by using guilt and questioning his manhood by calling him a coward. As a result of this, he had failed because of her excessive persuasiveness towards him, which led to his ambition taking over him. The final reason was his own ambitiousness. His ambition started growing when the witches told him his prophecy. It didn’t fully take over until his soul mate convinced him to do the murderous acts. Afterward, he was fully taken over and would kill anyone that stood in his way, which led to his downfall. All of these reasons are why he was powerless on meeting his downfall because he let his ambition take over him and he was unable to live with the guiltiness of his own actions.

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