One of the many geniuses of William Shakespeare was his ability to create a real character on the stage. Macbeth’s drama, his transformation from a noble knight to a tyrant, and his end, is a perfect example of the brilliance of Shakespearean talent.
The character of Macbeth is not just a straightforward foil character; he has emotions and thoughts that are familiar to every human being. The question is, how far would an ordinary person go to pursue his or her thoughts. The internal drama seems to be the main concern of the play.
Shakespeare aids his audience by assigning to Macbeth long ‘asides’ or soliloquy, which help to understand Macbeth’s mind, and make judgements of his character.
The first insight to his personality is provided in Act I, Scene VII. Macbeth appears as a regular man, who is torn apart by the decision he just had made. The loyalty of a knighthood in Macbeth, and human compassion toward his King are in the conflict with the world of the evil. Considering the fact that the play begins with the appearance of three witches – symbols of supernatural world, it is possible to say that this soliloquy represents the clash of two worlds, irrational and human. It is as if the supernatural is trying to work its way into Macbeth’s mind. Even the language used by Macbeth changes from normal clear English into a strange, almost incomprehendable talk. For example, Macbeth says things like “If it were done when ’tis done, than ’twere well,” and “Might be the be-all and the end-all – here.” As soon as he returns to the realm of sanity and normal human emotions, his speech changes to a clear and simple language: “He’s here in double trust: First, as I am his kinsman and his subject” etc. It can be said than that it is during this first soliloquy that the change in Macbeth begins to occur.
The next time a reader has an encounter with Macbeth’s private thoughts is in Act II, Scene I. He is still able to feel pain and anxiety, but already got sucked into the irrational. He begins to see visions, talks about ghosts and horrors, and it is obvious that he is not well, or at least begins to feel weird. His consciousness reminds him what a terrible deed he has initiated. Trying to take his mind off the subject, he talks to himself. But this doesn’t work. His mind works only in one direction. Here, Macbeth has stepped into a different dimension, and is unable to turn back: he is paralyzed with fear, as if his whole body suddenly became numb. He tries to talk to himself, hence prolonging Duncan’s life, but eventually turns back to the irrational. In fact, his words remind very much of some kind of a witch spell: “Thou sure and firm-set earth, hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear thy very stones prate of my whereabout, and take the present horror from the time, which now suits with it.”
Act III, Scene I continue Macbeth’s fall. Macbeth’s isolation from others becomes more and more intense. He becomes suspicious of everything and everyone. Of course, it can be said that at this point Macbeth is really losing it, and develops some kind of phobia. But then it would be too simple for Shakespeare’s talent. It seems that Banquo possessed qualities, which Macbeth lacks. Banquo is a really good human character, who has a ‘royalty of nature.’ He also had a chance to fall under the influence of the supernatural, but resisted. Macbeth feels Banquo’s superiority and fears him: “He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valor to act in safety. There is none but he whose being I do fear: and under him my genius is rebuked” Macbeth cannot forgive Banquo his ability to resist the temptation of the supernatural, while he himself fell under its spell. But the question Shakespeare raises, is where does this evil originate? Does it exist in Macbeth’s mind from the very beginning, and later enhanced by the witches, the agents of the dark powers; or is his fall originated from purely external factors? Macbeth, somewhere in the back of his mind understands that the evil comes from inside of his soul that is why he hates Banquo, whose soul is clean.
And finally, in Act V, Scene V, Macbeth appears as fallen man. He is not human anymore, he is an irrational creature. If previously he had some traces of emotions, now they are all gone. His wife, whom he loved dearly, which can be seen from the fact that he cannot wait to see her and writes her letter, describing every occurrence, in the beginning of the play, does not mean anything to him anymore. He stepped over his loyalty when he killed the King, he betrayed his friendship, when he ordered the murder of Banquo, and finally, he cut off the last link. His wife died, and all he has to say is “She should have died hereafter.” Not a note of sadness or any kind of emotion, except maybe, annoyance that he had to be bothered by this all together. In fact, life itself does not mean anything to him. It is empty, because Macbeth is “cured” of fear and emotions. Life is not real anymore, just a period of time filled with emptiness. “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
These soliloquies show Macbeth as a real man versus a crazy notion of a human being. By thinking that he could become a part of the supernatural, he ends up being less human. What’s more important that it was his decision to make, he was not a puppet of some higher powers, rather he himself invoked these powers to come to him. That means that real drama was taking place within Macbeth, not outside. And the fact that Macbeth’s struggle is still understood today, and the play itself is still being enjoyed after hundreds of years after it was written, again just proves how talented Shakespeare really was.