Fighting to the Death in “Macbeth”

“[amazon_link id=”0743477103″ target=”_blank” ]The Tragedy of Macbeth[/amazon_link]” (a.k.a. The Scottish Tragedy) is a story about one man’s guilt – a story about one man’s journey into madness. The real horror is what we don’t see. Try reading Macbeth in this light and perhaps you will have a keener understanding of the real horror which ideally should be in the reader’s imagination. Macbeth is living from moment-to-moment and that in itself, should convey a sense of horror to the reader. Macbeth is just a man; yet, he thinks that he is invincible. Pay close attention to the moments in the play where Macbeth references his power over mere mortals; also carefully consider what the three witches say.

Another important element of Macbeth’s superior attitude is his stubborn refusal to admit his defeat.  In Act V, Scene III, after Seyton confirms that there are ten thousand English soldiers advancing toward the castle, Macbeth tells him: “I’ll fight till from my bones my flesh be hacked” (33).* In this passage, Macbeth is saying that he will fight to the death. This may seem simple but it is complex; Macbeth is saying that he will never stop until he reaches his goal and that he expects everyone else to do likewise. It is linked to his obsession with loyalty and his paranoia about losing his soldiers’ support.

In Act V, Scene X, Macbeth tells Malcolm: “I will not yield” (27)* just seconds before he is slain. Mel Gibson in the movie [amazon_link id=”B000W8OM5Y” target=”_blank” ]Braveheart[/amazon_link] exhibits this type of commitment with “do or die” behavior. Gibson portrays William Wallace, a Scottish warrior who gained recognition when he came to the forefront of the [amazon_link id=”1902765001″ target=”_blank” ]First War of Scottish Independence[/amazon_link] by opposing [amazon_link id=”0099481758″ target=”_blank” ]King Edward I[/amazon_link] of England. Do you see Braveheart’s qualities in Macbeth? Or, is Macbeth just a selfish, crazy, old fool?

*[amazon_link id=”0199267170″ target=”_blank” ]The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works, 2nd Edition[/amazon_link] edited by John Jowett, William Montgomery, Gary Taylor, and Stanley Wells © Oxford University Press 1986, 2005.


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English literature students most commonly use the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) style to write their papers. This citation reflects the [amazon_link id=”1603290249″ target=”_blank” ]MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th edition[/amazon_link] and/or the [amazon_link id=”0873522974″ target=”_blank” ]MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, 3rd edition[/amazon_link]. For additional information, I recommend a free online writing lab from Purdue University: “The Purdue OWL” which has current, credible information and reliable examples.

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