His heart pumps with adrenaline as he slowly walks through the hallways to his
king’s room. A bright dagger suspended in mid-air leads him to his fate. Once he commits
the bloody deed, all is forever changed, as he cannot go back. To think King Duncan is
killed by his most trusted and honorable thane, who bore the titles of both Cawdor and
Glamis. The rollercoaster begins running in a downward spiral of destruction as Macbeth
becomes the King of Scotland. Three witches, the ones who prophesied Macbeth’s
becoming king, have told him of obstructions to his kingly path and, with a little shove
from his wife, Macbeth begins to do all he can, no matter how treacherous, to preserve his
title. Driven by his ambition, he destroys until he too is destroyed. But what are the
factors which moved Macbeth along that bloody path to his downfall in Shakespeare’s
Macbeth and how did they move him? The three witches, his own ambition, and his wife
are the key elements which work together and play upon each other to push Macbeth over
the cliff of demise. The most influential elements are the witches.

The three witches are the ones who get things started down a path leading to
destruction by playing upon the already ambitious Macbeth. They first attract his attention
by hailing him Thane of Cawdor, Glamis, and even “King thereafter.” Once Duncan
promotes him to Thane of Cawdor, he is pulled into the trap. He begins to believe that
perhaps the other predictions may come true after all. Unfortunately for Macbeth, he
thinks that the only way he can become king is if he murders the present king. Macbeth,
unlike his passive friend Banquo, takes destiny into his own hands early on. At this point,
Macbeth’s conscience begins to bother him that he has actually contemplated killing
Duncan. With loyalty still reigning over his actions, Macbeth alone would not be able to
do such a task- that is, until his wife steps in. Once she gets him to cross the line, evil
becomes much easier (once one achieves the unspeakable, doing it again isn’t so hard).
Later on, after three hired men murder Banquo and his son Fleance escapes, Macbeth has
hallucinations in which Banquo visits him. In this scene, Macbeth reveals some
information about Duncan’s murder. As a result, others, like Macduff, grow suspicious of
Macbeth’s unconfirmed foul play. Realizing this, Macbeth beseeches the witches so that
he might know what to do in order to retain his kingship. The witches summon three
apparitions to aid with Macbeth’s request, which warn that Macbeth should beware
Macduff, be aggressive since “none of woman born shall harm Macbeth,” and that
Macbeth will never be vanquished until the forests of Birnam Wood move to Dunsinane
Hill. Following the advice brought forth by the witches, Macbeth immediately send more
mercenaries to kill Macduff and all the inhabitants of Fife, who just miss the already
departed Macduff. As one can see, had it not been for the influence of the witches,
Macbeth most likely would never have killed either Duncan or his closest noblemen.
Another factor which helped doomed Macbeth down his path of destruction was
his own ambition. If one owns a car, a destination (the witches), working parts such as a
starter (Lady Macbeth), but no fuel (ambition), how can one get to the destination? It isn’t
until after Macbeth is enticed by what the witches first prophesied and he commits his first
act of treason as per his wife’s instructions that Macbeth’s ambition begins to get him into
trouble. Earlier, the witches had foretold that Banquo, one of Macbeth’s best friends and
noblemen, would be the father of a long line of kings, meaning that at some point in the
near future Macbeth would be overthrown. Thus, so as to avoid this possibility, Macbeth
hires three criminals to murder Fleance and Banquo. Meanwhile, the already crooked king
begins to suspect Macduff is planning something, but he isn’t sure what. When he goes to
the witches for advice as to what he should do to preserve his kingship, he learns that he
should “Beware Macduff.” Once again, his ambition pushes him to spill more blood.
Unfortunately for Macbeth, he learns that Macduff has fled to England to ask for help in
overthrowing Macbeth. Since Macduff is out of his grasp, he then attacks Macduff’s
family and servants. If it weren’t for Macbeth’s ambition to remain king for a long lifetime,
he never would have had the drive to carry out his treachery.But even the witches and
Macbeth’s own ambition wouldn’t have been enough to have overcome the strong sense of
loyalty to Duncan he possessed– only someone even more dear and convincing could
Lady Macbeth, although not the most powerful momentum, is a major factor in the
disaster Macbeth might have called “life.” Without her obstinance and initiative, Macbeth
would have never been able to overcome his conscience and kill his own king, nor anyone
else. It is ironic that in trying to help Macbeth become the epidemy of success that she
really helps destroy him and any chance he had of living a long, honorable life.

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Macbeth’s downfall, like any complex system, cannot be contributed to any one
given factor. Just as the mind, body and soul collectively create one’s existence, so did the
witches, Macbeth’s ambition, and Lady Macbeth’s initiative destroy Macbeth. Without any
one of these factors, Macbeth most likely would not followed a path of destruction.


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