Book: Moster

  • Category: Book Reports
  • Words: 1823
  • Grade: 90
MACBETH



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 goods which he already possesses and


values highly.


After the murder of Duncan, the natural good in him


compels the acknowledgment that, in committing the unnatural


act, he has filed his mind and has given his eternal jewel,


the soul, into the possession of those demonic forces which


are the enemy of mankind. He recognizes that the acts of


conscience which torture him are really expressions of that


outraged natural law, which inevitably reduced him as


individual to the essentially human. This is the inescapable


bond that keeps him pale, and this is the law of his own


natural from whose exactions of devastating penalties he


seeks release:




Come, seeling night...


And with thy bloody and invisible hand


Cancel and tear to pieces that great bond


Which keeps me pale.




He conceives that quick escape from the accusations of


conscience may possibly be effected by utter extirpation of


the precepts of natural law deposited in his nature. And he


imagines that the execution of more bloody deeds will serve


his purpose. Accordingly, then, in the interest of personal


safety and in order to destroy the essential humanity in


himself, he instigates the murder of Banquo.


But he gains no satisfying peace because hes conscience


still obliges him to recognize the negative quality of evil


and the barren results of wicked action. The individual who


once prized mutable goods in the form of respect and


admiration from those about him, now discovers that even such


evanescent satisfactions are denied him:




And that which should accompany old age,


As honor, love, obedience, troops of friends,


I must not look to have; but, in their stead,


Curses, not loud but deep, mouth-honour, breath,


Which the poor heart would fain deny, and dare not.




But the man is conscious of a profound abstraction of


something far more precious that temporal goods. His being


has shrunk to such little measure that he has lost his former


sensitiveness to good and evil; he has supped so full with


horrors and the disposition of evil is so fixed in him that


nothing can start him. His conscience is numbed so that he


escapes the domination of fears, and such a consummation may


indeed be called a sort of peace. But it is not entirely what


expected or desires. Back of his tragic volitions is the


ineradicable urge toward that supreme contentment which


accompanies and rewards fully actuated being; the peace which


he attains is psychologically a callousness to pain and


spiritually a partial insensibility to the evidences of


diminished being. His peace is the doubtful calm of utter


negativity, where nothing matters.


This spectacle of spiritual deterioration carried to the


point of imminent dissolution arouses in us, however, a


curious feeling of exaltation. For even after the external


and internal forces of evil have done their worst, Macbeth


remains essentially human and his conscience continues to


witness the diminution of his being. That is to say, there is


still left necessarily some natural good in him; sin cannot


completely deprive him of his rational nature, which is the


root of his inescapable inclination to virtue. We do not need


Hecate to tell us that he is but a wayward son, spiteful and


wrathful, who, as other do, loves for his own ends. This is


apparent throughout the drama; he never sins because, like


the Weird Sisters, he loves evil for its own sake; and


whatever he does is inevitably in pursuance of some apparent


good, even though that apparent good is only temporal of


nothing more that escape from a present evil. At the end, in


spite of shattered nerves and extreme distraction of mind,


the individual passes out still adhering admirably to his


code of personal courage, and the man's conscience still


clearly admonishes that he has done evil.


Moreover, he never quite loses completely the liberty of


free choice, which is the supreme bonum naturae of mankind.


But since a wholly free act is one in accordance with reason,


in proportion as his reason is more and more blinded by


inordinate apprehension of the imagination and passions of


the sensitive appetite, his volitions become less and less


free. And this accounts for our feeling, toward the end of


the drama, that his actions are almost entirely determined


and that some fatality is compelling him to his doom. This


compulsion is in no sense from without-though theologians may


at will interpret it so-as if some god, like Zeus in Greek


tragedy, were dealing out punishment for the breaking of


divine law. It is generated rather from within, and it is not


merely a psychological phenomenon. Precepts of the natural


law-imprints of the eternal law- deposited in his nature have


been violated, irrational acts have established habits


tending to further irrationality, and one of the penalties


exacted is dire impairment of the liberty of free choice.


Thus the Fate which broods over Macbeth may be identified


with that disposition inherent in created things, in this


case the fundamental motive principle of human action, by


which providence knits all things in their proper order.


Macbeth cannot escape entirely from his proper order; he must


inevitably remain essentially human.


The substance of Macbeth's personality is that out of


which tragic heroes are fashioned; it is endowed by the


dramatist with an astonishing abundance and variety of


potentialities. And it is upon the development of these


potentialities that the artist lavishes the full energies of


his creative powers. Under the influence of swiftly altering


environment which continually furnishes or elicts new


experiences and under the impact of passions constantly


shifting and mounting in intensity, the dramatic individual


grows, expands, developes to the point where, at the end of


the drama, he looms upon the mind as a titanic personality


infinitely richer that at the beginning. This dramatic


personality in its manifold stages of actuation in as


artistic creation. In essence Macbeth, like all other men, is


inevitably bound to his humanity; the reason of order, as we


have seen, determines his inescapable relationship to the


natural and eternal law, compels inclination toward his


proper act and end but provides him with a will capable of


free choice, and obliges his discernment of good and evil.
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