That's really my original title for this. How weird. This was written in my senior year of high school. It limps a bit, but makes some good points.
The plot of Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most interesting and engaging stories. One of the things that makes the plot so liked by audiences around the world is the speed at which the plot moves. Macbeth is Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy, and much of the interest towards this play may be attributed to this fact. However, Shakespeare does not depend upon the play’s brevity to hold his audience’s attention. He cleverly constructs various plot catalysts within the play to keep the action moving.
The plot is progressed through various means in the play. One of the most prominent contrivances that Shakespeare uses to advance the plot is the action of the various women in the play. The women of Macbeth, especially the Weird Sisters, Lady Macduff, and Lady Macbeth are very important to the development of the plot of the play.
The Witches, often referred to as the “Weird Sisters” have been much discussed as to their purpose in Macbeth. Their eerie presence and the apocalyptic motif “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” (I, i, 12) serves to cultivate an atmosphere of “something rotten in the state of Scotland.” Some experts believe that these characters were meant only to represent Fate’s calculating presence. Others believe that the Witches were merely an attempt at flattery of the king. The Preface states, “Since by his authorship of Demonology (1597) King James had shown that he was an authority on witches, scholars have seen in Shakespeare’s witch scenes a subtle bit of flattery of the King” (Preface, xiv). The idea that Shakespeare would create such “deliciously” creepy characters as the witches for the dramatically shallow reason of adulation does not sit well with the avid Macbethian.
However, one more option is possible. “Perhaps Shakespeare himself was not altogether certain as to the precise qualities of his witches,...” (Preface, xi). Shakespeare was “...a highly competent dramatist who understood the effectiveness of witch scenes in providing stage atmosphere” (Preface, xi). Regardless of the intention behind there presence in the play, the witches constitute an important plot element. They are the first to plant the seed of evil in Macbeth’s and, more importantly, Lady Macbeth’s brain. For the cause of some pernicious game of destruction, the witches, led by their dastardly queen Hecate, manipulate Macbeth into rupturing the “fair” nature of Scotland into a “foul” land of murder and treason. Since the ultimate aims of the witches has never been uncovered or deduced, little can be said about the causes of their actions. However, the fact remains that the witches serve to progress the plot towards an end of murder and destruction.
Lady Macduff represents the first example of Macbeth’s lunacy. The death of her and her family can be considered the first non-justifiable act of murder by the new King Macbeth. Macbeth’s issue is with Macduff, and seeks to gain nothing but Macduff’s hatred by the slaughter of his wife and children, but Macbeth has vowed to act on impulse and refuses to consider the repercussions of his insane actions. Lady Macduff serves to advance the plot of Macbeth through her death, which tells the audience in no uncertain terms that Macbeth has indeed gone insane and will continue to commit acts of madness for the remainder of the play. She also reminds us of the witches’ intonement “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” (I, i, 12) with her lines:
I have done no harm. But I remember now
I am in this earthly world; where to do harm
Is often laudable; to do good, sometime
Accounted dangerous folly:...
Her short speech foreshadows the unnatural events to come in the play. Despite her short time on stage, Lady Macduff brings Macbeth’s madness and cruelty to the forefront, as well as signaling Macbeth’s descent from cruel but awesome power to death.
The most important female catalyst to the plot of Macbeth is Lady Macbeth. When she hears of Macbeth’s encounter with the Weird Sisters, she sees her chance to become Queen of Scotland, and her lust for power urges her to take action, for the Crown of Scotland represents “...the supreme accomplishment of her hopes for him [Macbeth] and herself” (Preface, viii). Lady Macbeth’s memorable “prayer to darkness” in Act I, scene v is only the first step that she takes on her path to evil. Her role as a plot catalyst is evident in the scenes where she openly insults her husband’s courage and manhood in order to goad him into committing the murder of King Duncan. Lines like
Yet do I fear thy nature
It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness
(I, v, 15-16)
serve not to offend Macbeth, but to anger him into carrying out the act of murder that would bestow the Macbeth’s with executive power. “It is Lady Macbeth, playing the role of an evil angel, who finally pushes him [Macbeth] over the brink into the Bottomless Pit whence there is no return” (Preface, viii). However, Lady Macbeth “retains, some shreds of human feelings...She suffers remorse over her deeds, and that remorse drives her to the self-revelation of the great sleepwalking scene and eventually to her hinted suicide” (Preface, ix-x). Regardless of her moral character, Lady Macbeth remains the most important dramatic device in Macbeth. In fact, an interesting parallel can be drawn between Lady Macbeth and Hecate, the witches’ leader. These two very powerful females exert painful emotion stress upon Macbeth, much of which can be blamed for his eventual madness.
The development of the plot of Macbeth hinges greatly upon the existence and actions of the women in the play. The appeal of Macbeth lies in its storyline, which is gripping as well and fast-paced. Shakespeare employed multiple devices in Macbeth in order to achieve a fantastic result. The result is that Macbeth has become perhaps the most intricate and widely read of Shakespeare’s tragedies.