Shakespeare is one of the main writers in the world literature. He is the author of numerous internationally known works that raise important issues such as duty, love and hate, power struggle. Themes that preoccupied Shakespeare's contemporaries also remain relevant nowadays. One of the most important themes that had been raised by Shakespeare is the theme of murder, which is the eternal question of mortality. The way it is presented in Macbeth causes the discussion of the morality and justification of murder, concerning the attitude of the author to the issue.
The Theme of Murder and Violence in Macbeth
Violence is one of the most important themes in Macbeth; it is one of the basic expressive means Shakespeare uses to share his ideas with the reader. The scenes of violence can be seen from the beginning of the play till its end and form the core of the narration. In the very beginning of the play the scene of a battle with rebel forces is pictured, in which Macbeth associates himself with a brave and a faithful warrior.
Different forms of violence are often defined as the signs of masculinity. The play pictures characters who try to prove their “manhood” through the murder. The most outstanding of them are Macbeth himself, Macduff, and Young Siward.
The murder of King Duncan committed by Macbeth is presented as an immoral and unnatural deed. At the same time, it gives a reader the reason to speculate if there is a difference can be distinguished between killing a human in a battle and murdering for the self gain. The suggestion is made that unrestrained violence can be the reason of emotional frustration that causes inhumanity.
Examples of Honorable and Dishonorable Murders in Macbeth
The question if Shakespeare in Macbeth distinguishes between honorable and dishonorable violence preoccupied both readers and literature experts. The main reason for the murder of King Duncan was Macbeth’s greed for power. His words “we’d jump the life to come” in fact mean that Macbeth was ready to take risk of losing his life to become a king. This is his major ambition which plays a fatal role in his life.
Macbeth knows that Duncan is kind-hearted and reliable: “Here in double trust; first, as I am his kinsman and subject, strong both against deed; then, as his host, who should against his murderer shut the door, not bear the knife myself” (Shakespeare I, 7). Despite Duncan’s trust to Macbeth he was killed by him because of the Macbeth’s power ambitions.
The murder of Banquo results from the murder of Duncan. Banquo represents danger for Macbeth as he expresses suspicion that Duncan might have been killed by Macbeth. To avoid undesirable suspicions to be spread Macbeth decided to kill Banquo: “But to be safely thus. – Our fears in Banquo stick deep; and in his royalty of nature reigns that which would be fear’d” (Shakespeare III, 1).
The murder of Lady Macduff. At the scene of the Lady Macduff’s murder the tyranny of Macbeth is pictured in its most acute form. Macbeth began to feel safe and this brings him to the idea “to crown thoughts with acts”. Lady Macduff is left alone, her husband is in England. And at this moment a messenger brings news to her that “some danger does approach you nearly”(Macbeth IV, 2). At the end of the scene Lady Macduff and her child are killed. The brutality of this murder makes people rebel against Macbeth.
In spite of being full of violence, Macbeth can be also viewed as a plea for peace and harmony. At the end of his life Macbeth seems to experience serious mental problems cause of the violence made by him. His deeds turned against him most of the people, causing by them fear and loathing.The fact he dies a dishonorable death implies that he also had lived a life filled with dishonorable violence.