Macbeth Critical Response

Hail Macbeth! Hail! The paramount warrior, the paramount ruler, and nonetheless, the paramount failure. A puppet on a lonely string, Macbeth had the freedom, the power, the glory, the kingdom, all under his command, yet all under his ultimate annihilation. Similarly, we may experience homogenous scenes in our own personal lives in the 21st century, or within our own society, as the themes, relationships, characters and messages featured in William Shakespeare’s, Macbeth, intertwine themselves in contemporary situations.

The relevance of this tragic story in modern society can be detected throughout my own scripted interpretation of Act 1, Scene 7 of Macbeth, where the themes of blind ambition, guilt and gender subversion are explored and accurately portrayed within a current setting. The crucial incidents of my scene worked cleverly alongside that of Shakespeare’s, as they compliment both storylines as a whole. My story takes place in the chilling midst of the idealogical Cold War, with tensions rising between the nuclear-equipped US and Soviet Union.

After a string of strange apparitions about a possible presidency position, US Vice President and recently named Secretary of Defence, Robert Macbeth, debates an opportunity for leadership. Following the story of Robert’s inner conflict, as well as the malicious desires of his wife, Zara, we can see that themes of both texts work together simultaneously as proof of relevance in modern society. One of the Bard’s most infamous tragic heroes, Macbeth, is renowned for his fatal flaw, which also resonates as a major theme within the play – blind ambition.

Unfortunately, ambition, when followed blindly, breeds evil, and can lead to a vicious cycle of always having to master fate to maintain your position. Macbeth, and even more so, Lady Macbeth, are willing to ignore their moral conscience to be powerful, however, this ultimately brings them to their downfall. Their shared desire of ruling is veraciously clouding the true understanding of the deed they are committing – a vision, but a lack of sight. This is evident within Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in Act 1, Scene 7, during Macbeth’s soliloquy. I have no spur/ To prick the sides of my intent, but only/ Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself/ And falls on the other. ”[1] Ambition is personified to show the eventual effects of blindness, showing Macbeth’s true flaw up against his own morals. His understanding of the deed is blanketed by the final image, which is a dangerous flaw. We must also consider Lady Macbeth’s ambition throughout the play, as her clear vision of the ending product, reign, proves to be covered by a thick layer of overconfidence and ambition. Hie thee hither/ That I may pour my spirits in thine ear/and chastise with the valor of my tongue/ All that impedes thee from the golden round. ” This idea of the harshly blurred effects of blind ambition are highlighted in the psuedoclassic setting of my interpretation through context and background. Both Robert and Zara, stimulated by the idea of a presidency, are driven to use a nuclear war to annihilate the president. Their plan seems doomed to failure by any sane person, yet they are so blindly driven by their goal that they cannot comprehend the consequences.

Society today has an aim, yet a misunderstanding of repercussions and the acquired taste of an ultimate desire cause people to act on impulse. Similar representations of this blind ambition can be found in elements of popular culture, where the dramatic technique of catharsis is used to show relevance of Shakespearean themes within today’s society. Coldplay’s 2008 song, Viva La Vida, represents the theme of blind ambition within its lyrics: “One minute I held the key, next the walls were closed on me, and I discovered that my castles stand upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand. These quotes and lyrics resonate to the audience and represent the play as a whole, highlighting the journey of rise to fall and the walk through the thematic similarities of 16th and 21st century societies. Guilt manifests itself within the play, coming through during Macbeth’s bouts of inner conflict. Macbeth is at a constant battle between his morals and his desires, as well as the pressure to be number one in the competitive society. Macbeth, a mere rebel without a cause, gives insight into his overwhelming washes of guilt via his various soliloquies. Besides, this Duncan/Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been / So clear in his great office, that his virtues / Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against / The deep damnation of his taking-off. ” Macbeth reflects on the reasons against killing Duncan, metaphorically comparing his virtuous legacy to majestic angels.

Macbeth juxtaposes the virtues of his kind hearted leader to the horrendous deed he is about to commit, overcome by guilt. On the other hand, Lady Macbeth was an instigator of another type of guilt, as she is present in her ruthless, yet admirably strong, mind frame to manipulate Macbeth’s mind into committing the deed. Was the hope drunk /Wherein you dressed yourself? / Hath it slept since? / And wakes it now, to look so green and pale / At what it did so freely? ” Lady Macbeth constantly challenges Macbeth through rhetorical questions, causing thoughts to erupt that would never have existed prior. This raises the question – who is worse? Macbeth for formulating the idea, or Lady Macbeth for propelling and exploiting his thoughts? Similarly the same question is raised within my play interpretation, with Zara comparing Robert to other leaders of his time. Have you ever heard of any great and noble leaders of war shying away from their battles, in order to get what they want? No… Daring to do something makes you a man, and taking that extra step makes you a hero. ” Robert’s earlier reflections on loyalty to the president are mixed with Zara’s inflictions on living up to society’s image of a great man, causing Robert to be stuck between an inner conflict of guilt for murdering, or guilt for innocence. We can see the similar perspectives of the two societies in regards to winning, with a mutual aim to be the best, along with the same human trait of a guilty conscience.

Macbeth’s innate and administered guilt causes an explosion of inner conflict in both stories, demonstrating the stoical existence of contrition in today’s society. Further proof can be found within the story of North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, who has been caught between the social pressures of his own destructive society, and the morals behind committing the actual nuclear deed itself. Both modern examples show how the theme of guilt still reigns within human minds and will forever. ———————–