Notes on Kingship, Fate, Evil, & Blood in Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Kingship in Macbeth

The play includes two characters i.e. Duncan, Edward who are kings and another two characters i.e. Macbeth and Malcolm who become kings. It means there are at least four kinds of the portrayal of kingship in the play. 

In the very beginning, Duncan is shown as a noble king whose loyal and thoughtful ruling of Scotland is obvious. We see him attending to the plights of his army sincerely. He rightfully acknowledges the achievements of his generals i.e. Macbeth and Banquo and rewards them timely.

Like a good king, he maintains the stable line of ascension and declares Malcolm as the heir to his throne. Once Macbeth comes to know the prophecies by the three witches, Duncan’s lack of judgment becomes obvious as he is unable to discern the true nature of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and he is murdered by them. 

Through the kingship of Macbeth, Shakespeare shows us the definite link between means and ends. He rises as a brave victorious general of King Duncan but the time period shown in the play used to assign the king as the God’s representative on this earth and Macbeth after his confrontation with the three witches shows no such nobility rather his dark ambitions comes out and he acts upon them most ruthlessly.

He is shown to us as “fiend of Scotland.” The power he aims for finds no capacity in him to contain it morally. His kingship evokes no love, he operates through fear as we see characters fleeing from his kingdom. 

While Malcolm and Macduff are meeting in the court of King Edward, we come to know how great and perfect he is as a king. He is also shown with healing power against the disease spreading in his kingdom. That’s when Malcolm displays his inner values which are very much needed to be a king.

As a sharp judge of character, he tests Macduff’s loyalty before trusting him. Unlike Macbeth, he promotes order over chaos and violence. He is not naively passionate; he shows practical wisdom when he leads his army against Macbeth.

He inspires loyalty in the joining army of King Edward too. In the end, we see him inviting the exiled ones back into his kingdom. His kingship stands for order and moral values. 

Fate and Free Will in Macbeth

The play begins in a supernatural setting. The three witches start hovering above it as some ultimate agency whose words seem to be predetermined the course of events. The play makes us speculate on fate when we try to understand that Macbeth’s actions determine his fate or no matter what he does, what is supposed to happen will happen.

In his own words, “if chance will have me, king, why chance may crown me. Without my stir.” Slowly we understand that maybe the three witches are in close relation to what already lies inside Macbeth. Macbeth’s disintegration is shown through his attempts to shape his destiny by his own hands.

He challenges fate when he says, “rather than so, come fate into the list, and champion me to the utterance.” Whatever danger he senses in the prophecies of the three witches, he tries to get rid of that. He kills Duncan to shortcut his access to the throne. He deceptively kills Banquo.

His fear of Macduff makes him kill his family. Yet his blind faith in the favouring parts of the prophecies made by witches regarding his invincibility draws him into a false sense of security. His selective idea of fate, his exercise of free will in relentless crimes, his vulnerability to guilt brings his tragedy.

Evil in Macbeth

The play has an intertwining of good and evil in a seamless way. The evil manifests itself on various levels. The play begins with evil in a supernatural form of the three witches. As the primary supplier of evil, functionally the three witches test the choices made my characters i.e. Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and Banquo.

The choices which they’ve are distinctively good and evil. When Macbeth chooses to take their prophecies as a confirmation of his ambition, Banquo clearly notices them as an agency of evil and discards what they try to provoke in him. 

Evil can also be seen here at a human level. After Macbeth makes his choices clearer, everything he does in his free will reveals the evil purely in him. Lady Macbeth unattended by the three witches indulges in evil for its own sake.

She asks to fill her “from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty.” Her evil is twofold because she disintegrates in guilt faster than Macbeth. Manipulation through words is her prime tool of evil. The overall theme of evil is maintained through violent and bloody images. 

Fundamentally, the play portrays evil through the evil atmosphere where the witches do their activities and reside, evil characters like Lady Macbeth who are evil by nature, evil supernatural beings which are the three witches.

Blood Theme in Macbeth

Macbeth says in Act 3, scene IV to Lady Macbeth that, “…blood will have blood.” It signals the overall tone of the play. Shakespeare uses Blood and words derived from it 48 times. In the first act, Macbeth says, “we but teach bloody instructions.” 

After this he murders Duncan and great imageries of blood begin. Shakespeare might be underlining the inevitability of blood in pursuit of power. Once Macbeth ascends to the throne and the chaos of violence and fear is set, Macduff cries, “bleed, bleed, poor country.

It seems that not only the individuals rather the whole country is dealing with the misdeeds of Macbeth. Macbeth himself at the end shouts, “make me bleed.” In a very melodramatic fashion, Shakespeare throughout the play displays the ways of blood and how it goes out of control beyond a certain point and results in the madness like that of Lady Macbeth and in the tragic fall like that of Macbeth.