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Macbeth: Let His Blood Leave No Stain Feraco Search for Human Potential 13 November 2013.

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1 Macbeth: Let His Blood Leave No Stain Feraco Search for Human Potential 13 November 2013

2 The action shifts to Duncan’s palace – well, his former palace – at Forres for the start of Act III. The action shifts to Duncan’s palace – well, his former palace – at Forres for the start of Act III. Macbeth and his wife, now king and queen of Scotland, intend to throw a great feast for the assorted characters we’ve met thus far – Macduff, Lennox (Macduff’s attendant), Ross, and so forth. Macbeth and his wife, now king and queen of Scotland, intend to throw a great feast for the assorted characters we’ve met thus far – Macduff, Lennox (Macduff’s attendant), Ross, and so forth. The king makes a point of inviting Banquo to his dinner publicly, but he has ulterior motives; his invitation here serves to make witnesses of his other guests, just as he used Lennox to vouch for his decision to murder Duncan’s guards. The king makes a point of inviting Banquo to his dinner publicly, but he has ulterior motives; his invitation here serves to make witnesses of his other guests, just as he used Lennox to vouch for his decision to murder Duncan’s guards.

3 Before we can examine Macbeth’s plot to slay his friend, we should note a couple of interesting tidbits Banquo drops into his mini- soliloquy. Before we can examine Macbeth’s plot to slay his friend, we should note a couple of interesting tidbits Banquo drops into his mini- soliloquy. Firstly, he now realizes what Macbeth’s done. Firstly, he now realizes what Macbeth’s done. This makes him doubly dangerous to the king: not only is he (according to the witches) destined to sire a whole line of kings (not just one), but he’s the only person who can connect Duncan’s murder back to Macbeth. This makes him doubly dangerous to the king: not only is he (according to the witches) destined to sire a whole line of kings (not just one), but he’s the only person who can connect Duncan’s murder back to Macbeth. But even as he bemoans Macbeth’s treachery, Banquo allows himself a small indulgence – a momentary willingness to contemplate that the witches’ words may have been true. But even as he bemoans Macbeth’s treachery, Banquo allows himself a small indulgence – a momentary willingness to contemplate that the witches’ words may have been true. After all, Macbeth’s become everything they said he’d become; who’s to say that Banquo’s prophecy isn’t just as accurate? After all, Macbeth’s become everything they said he’d become; who’s to say that Banquo’s prophecy isn’t just as accurate?

4 This is a particularly eerie image in light of Banquo’s earlier resistance to the temptations the Sisters’ words offered him. This is a particularly eerie image in light of Banquo’s earlier resistance to the temptations the Sisters’ words offered him. To paraphrase Chris Rock, it seems that in this universe, a man is only as good as his options. To paraphrase Chris Rock, it seems that in this universe, a man is only as good as his options. It was easy for Banquo to swear loyalty to king and God when the prophecies hadn’t been “confirmed.” It was easy for Banquo to swear loyalty to king and God when the prophecies hadn’t been “confirmed.” Now that they seem more like prescriptions, marching orders from an unknowable Fortune, even the “good angel on Macbeth’s shoulder” seems capable of sprouting horns. Now that they seem more like prescriptions, marching orders from an unknowable Fortune, even the “good angel on Macbeth’s shoulder” seems capable of sprouting horns.

5 To his credit, Banquo’s desires aren’t for his own fortunes, but for Fleance’s, and he banishes the thought as his new king approaches. To his credit, Banquo’s desires aren’t for his own fortunes, but for Fleance’s, and he banishes the thought as his new king approaches. But the implication is clear: given time and chance, even good men can be swayed. But the implication is clear: given time and chance, even good men can be swayed. The question that follows concerns whether man can be “good” by himself, or can only do so by systematically removing or avoiding any chance to do wrong. The question that follows concerns whether man can be “good” by himself, or can only do so by systematically removing or avoiding any chance to do wrong.

6 But Banquo’s momentary weakness really shouldn’t surprise us, even given his previous unease with his ambitious (and sleeping) mind’s idle thoughts. But Banquo’s momentary weakness really shouldn’t surprise us, even given his previous unease with his ambitious (and sleeping) mind’s idle thoughts. After all, Banquo’s treatment of the witches shows an inability to leave well enough alone. After all, Banquo’s treatment of the witches shows an inability to leave well enough alone. And that iconic image of all three Sisters holding their fingers to their lips, cautioning Banquo to keep silent, haunts us here. And that iconic image of all three Sisters holding their fingers to their lips, cautioning Banquo to keep silent, haunts us here.

7 When Banquo makes his request, we’re as curious as he is, and as frustrated when the witches initially keep their silence. When Banquo makes his request, we’re as curious as he is, and as frustrated when the witches initially keep their silence. It doesn’t cross our minds that Banquo’s request might be dangerous, let alone unreasonable. It doesn’t cross our minds that Banquo’s request might be dangerous, let alone unreasonable. We, like he, like Macbeth, crave some knowledge about his future, and lean forward in our chairs when the Sisters speak to him. We, like he, like Macbeth, crave some knowledge about his future, and lean forward in our chairs when the Sisters speak to him.

8 As with so much else in this play, that image of the Sisters hushing Banquo means something entirely different than it initially appears to mean – and by the time we understand its true significance, it’s already too late. As with so much else in this play, that image of the Sisters hushing Banquo means something entirely different than it initially appears to mean – and by the time we understand its true significance, it’s already too late. In this play, form follows function, and we, the audience, too often miss the serpents under the flowers even when we know we should be looking. In this play, form follows function, and we, the audience, too often miss the serpents under the flowers even when we know we should be looking. (Like I’ve told you time and time again: Shakespeare’s really good at this stuff.)

9 The tragedy of that broken silence, of Banquo’s non-recognition of their warning – they’re hushing him next to the man who will arrange his murder based on the words he’s forcing them to say! – is that Banquo, unlike Macbeth, doesn’t try to force the issue, doesn’t change his behavior in order to make their words come true. The tragedy of that broken silence, of Banquo’s non-recognition of their warning – they’re hushing him next to the man who will arrange his murder based on the words he’s forcing them to say! – is that Banquo, unlike Macbeth, doesn’t try to force the issue, doesn’t change his behavior in order to make their words come true. For all the good the Sisters’ words do him, he may as well have never found out. For all the good the Sisters’ words do him, he may as well have never found out. Instead, not only do those lines unsettle him and rob him of sleep, but they paint a giant target on his back for the murderous, insecure new king. Instead, not only do those lines unsettle him and rob him of sleep, but they paint a giant target on his back for the murderous, insecure new king. Perhaps, as Shakespeare implies, and The Monkey’s Paw openly states, there are some things that just aren’t worth knowing: “Be careful what you wish for; you may receive it.” Perhaps, as Shakespeare implies, and The Monkey’s Paw openly states, there are some things that just aren’t worth knowing: “Be careful what you wish for; you may receive it.”

10 And so we return to Act III, with Macbeth extending an invitation to a gathering he knows full well Banquo won’t attend. And so we return to Act III, with Macbeth extending an invitation to a gathering he knows full well Banquo won’t attend. What he’s really doing is simple: by offering a place at his table, he can confirm that both Fleance and Banquo will be riding together, and that their travels will last past nightfall (in the figurative sense, since Scotland is now perpetually dim if not outright dark). What he’s really doing is simple: by offering a place at his table, he can confirm that both Fleance and Banquo will be riding together, and that their travels will last past nightfall (in the figurative sense, since Scotland is now perpetually dim if not outright dark). Once he’s verified both points, he bids his friend farewell and dismisses everyone else in order to “make society the sweeter welcome” (i.e., we’ll part until dinner in order to appreciate each other’s company more). Once he’s verified both points, he bids his friend farewell and dismisses everyone else in order to “make society the sweeter welcome” (i.e., we’ll part until dinner in order to appreciate each other’s company more).

11 This is, of course, just a convenient excuse to ensure he’ll be able to hatch his murder scheme in isolation. This is, of course, just a convenient excuse to ensure he’ll be able to hatch his murder scheme in isolation. For someone who previously needed a great deal of convincing by a strident, bullying Lady Macbeth, Macbeth seems awfully comfortable with designing his own murder plans now. For someone who previously needed a great deal of convincing by a strident, bullying Lady Macbeth, Macbeth seems awfully comfortable with designing his own murder plans now. In fact, Macbeth doesn’t even confide in his wife regarding his plot to kill Banquo; he’s gone from seeming like her helpless puppet to cutting her out of his plans. In fact, Macbeth doesn’t even confide in his wife regarding his plot to kill Banquo; he’s gone from seeming like her helpless puppet to cutting her out of his plans. He is more independent now than he’s ever had to be in his life…and, as we’ll soon find out, he’s not necessarily prepared to take the consequences.

12 But that shift also speaks to a larger one in Macbeth’s behavior. But that shift also speaks to a larger one in Macbeth’s behavior. He’s gotten everything the Sisters “promised,” but he’s now in uncharted territory: his prophecy’s run out, and the only thing he “knows” about the future is that his best friend’s son will usurp him at some point. He’s gotten everything the Sisters “promised,” but he’s now in uncharted territory: his prophecy’s run out, and the only thing he “knows” about the future is that his best friend’s son will usurp him at some point. Worse still, the source of his mistrust happens to be someone he’s always relied upon in the past, and someone who he knows can be a formidable opponent. Worse still, the source of his mistrust happens to be someone he’s always relied upon in the past, and someone who he knows can be a formidable opponent. In essence, Macbeth’s only won himself less security by gaining power; as he puts it, “To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus.” In essence, Macbeth’s only won himself less security by gaining power; as he puts it, “To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus.”

13 And in a few short sentences, Macbeth reveals something else entirely: deep anger and resentment at the odd way in which Fate seems to have left him by the wayside. And in a few short sentences, Macbeth reveals something else entirely: deep anger and resentment at the odd way in which Fate seems to have left him by the wayside. After all, the entire purpose of being a king seems moot if you can’t pass the title down to a son – a son that, for whatever reason, Macbeth doesn’t seem to have. After all, the entire purpose of being a king seems moot if you can’t pass the title down to a son – a son that, for whatever reason, Macbeth doesn’t seem to have. You have to understand that this is what virtually every man in this society craved: to pass the fruits of your labors to a son didn’t just ensure that your name would outlive you, but that your choices and actions meant something. You have to understand that this is what virtually every man in this society craved: to pass the fruits of your labors to a son didn’t just ensure that your name would outlive you, but that your choices and actions meant something. A son gives meaning to a man’s life here, and nothing Lady Macbeth says can hurt Macbeth worse than the ever-present knowledge that he has, on some fundamental level, failed to be a man. A son gives meaning to a man’s life here, and nothing Lady Macbeth says can hurt Macbeth worse than the ever-present knowledge that he has, on some fundamental level, failed to be a man. Clearly, that old War quote – “We belong to them, but they never belong to us” – carries a terrible weight in Scottish society. Clearly, that old War quote – “We belong to them, but they never belong to us” – carries a terrible weight in Scottish society.

14 So Fate has given Macbeth the chance to be king. So Fate has given Macbeth the chance to be king. At the same time, by rendering him childless, it’s denied him the chance to lead a meaningful existence. At the same time, by rendering him childless, it’s denied him the chance to lead a meaningful existence. Macbeth thought he craved power, but it seems here that he craved purpose more. Macbeth thought he craved power, but it seems here that he craved purpose more. When he complains bitterly that the Sisters placed a “fruitless crown” upon his head, “and put a barren scepter in [his] grip,” Shakespeare isn’t just employing yet more phallic imagery. (I mean, he is, but that isn’t the entire point.) When he complains bitterly that the Sisters placed a “fruitless crown” upon his head, “and put a barren scepter in [his] grip,” Shakespeare isn’t just employing yet more phallic imagery. (I mean, he is, but that isn’t the entire point.) He’s capturing the unique frustration of someone who’s been given something beyond his station, yet denied the very thing that’s his “due.” He’s capturing the unique frustration of someone who’s been given something beyond his station, yet denied the very thing that’s his “due.”

15 It’s a strangely poignant image: the man who’s killed his way to glory realizes he can’t kill his way to what he wants, yet decides in the same instant that the only way he can enjoy what he’s already won is to keep killing. It’s a strangely poignant image: the man who’s killed his way to glory realizes he can’t kill his way to what he wants, yet decides in the same instant that the only way he can enjoy what he’s already won is to keep killing. What Macbeth wants, more than anything, is to be able to create and perpetuate life – and in doing so, to give significance to his own. What Macbeth wants, more than anything, is to be able to create and perpetuate life – and in doing so, to give significance to his own. But he does not have – or seems to lack, at any rate – a child. But he does not have – or seems to lack, at any rate – a child. He is not Duncan with two; he is not Banquo with one. He is not Duncan with two; he is not Banquo with one. It is perhaps the play’s greatest tragedy – or irony – that Macbeth is instead reduced by his circumstances and choices to someone who can only give significance to his own life by taking away the lives of others – indeed, the lives of the people who seem to care most about him. It is perhaps the play’s greatest tragedy – or irony – that Macbeth is instead reduced by his circumstances and choices to someone who can only give significance to his own life by taking away the lives of others – indeed, the lives of the people who seem to care most about him.

16 We’ve discussed whether Macbeth’s reluctance to kill partly absolves him of his actions, or whether that same reluctance should leave him seeming more evil in our eyes. We’ve discussed whether Macbeth’s reluctance to kill partly absolves him of his actions, or whether that same reluctance should leave him seeming more evil in our eyes. But here, Macbeth raises a different point, a more tragic one: that he’s poisoned his mind, killed his king, forsaken his ability to sleep, all for the benefit of sons who aren’t his. But here, Macbeth raises a different point, a more tragic one: that he’s poisoned his mind, killed his king, forsaken his ability to sleep, all for the benefit of sons who aren’t his. His corruption benefits Fleance: in retrospect, Macbeth sees how much easier he’s made it for his “rival” to take power. His corruption benefits Fleance: in retrospect, Macbeth sees how much easier he’s made it for his “rival” to take power.

17 At the beginning of the play, Fleance lies well outside the line of succession for the throne: Duncan is young-ish for a king, certainly vigorous enough to rule for years, and he has not one but two sons waiting to succeed him. At the beginning of the play, Fleance lies well outside the line of succession for the throne: Duncan is young-ish for a king, certainly vigorous enough to rule for years, and he has not one but two sons waiting to succeed him. Then Macbeth swoops in, kills Duncan, and in doing so drives away both of the king’s sons. Then Macbeth swoops in, kills Duncan, and in doing so drives away both of the king’s sons. He’s cleared away both the fruitful, fertile leader and his royal line…and now realizes that his own barren line poses far less of an obstacle to anyone else who would want the crown for themselves – and for their sons after them. He’s cleared away both the fruitful, fertile leader and his royal line…and now realizes that his own barren line poses far less of an obstacle to anyone else who would want the crown for themselves – and for their sons after them. He’s done the hard work, and Fleance – Banquo’s son, not his own – stands to reap the benefits. He’s done the hard work, and Fleance – Banquo’s son, not his own – stands to reap the benefits.

18 This bitterness, then, provides the catalyst for Macbeth’s downfall – for he declares that he’d rather fight Fate than allow things to proceed as predicted. This bitterness, then, provides the catalyst for Macbeth’s downfall – for he declares that he’d rather fight Fate than allow things to proceed as predicted. We’ve already questioned whether Macbeth can resist the prophecy that’s spelled out for him; what’s interesting here is that the “prophecy” continues altering his behavior, or at least allows him to convince himself to continue behaving differently, even after it’s been satisfied. We’ve already questioned whether Macbeth can resist the prophecy that’s spelled out for him; what’s interesting here is that the “prophecy” continues altering his behavior, or at least allows him to convince himself to continue behaving differently, even after it’s been satisfied. He resolves to kill his friend and his friend’s son to alleviate his fears and finally enjoy what’s been a deeply uneasy ruling experience, but there’s clearly more going on: Fate, not Banquo, has become his true enemy, and if his ascent to the throne was inevitable (which is really the only way he can justify killing Duncan), he seems determined to resist the equally inevitable rise of another. He resolves to kill his friend and his friend’s son to alleviate his fears and finally enjoy what’s been a deeply uneasy ruling experience, but there’s clearly more going on: Fate, not Banquo, has become his true enemy, and if his ascent to the throne was inevitable (which is really the only way he can justify killing Duncan), he seems determined to resist the equally inevitable rise of another.

19 So Macbeth meets with hired murderers, and convinces them that Banquo has caused them pain in the past – that, indeed, he’s the source of their present misery and condemnation. So Macbeth meets with hired murderers, and convinces them that Banquo has caused them pain in the past – that, indeed, he’s the source of their present misery and condemnation. When he asks whether they’re willing to kill the man who’s hurt them (and, by extension, their families), one simply responds “We are men” – as though that provides sufficient explanation and justification for what they’ll do. When he asks whether they’re willing to kill the man who’s hurt them (and, by extension, their families), one simply responds “We are men” – as though that provides sufficient explanation and justification for what they’ll do. Notice a pattern here? Notice a pattern here? Macbeth, having learned well from his wife, skillfully twists the knife by mocking their claims of manhood (taking pains to make clear along the way that Banquo’s “wrongs” and the misfortune they’ve consequently suffered are the only reason he’s able to do so). Macbeth, having learned well from his wife, skillfully twists the knife by mocking their claims of manhood (taking pains to make clear along the way that Banquo’s “wrongs” and the misfortune they’ve consequently suffered are the only reason he’s able to do so).

20 And the murderers declare that they’re willing to kill in order to escape the terrible hands Fortune’s dealt them: if killing Banquo means putting them in the good graces of the king, and therefore sparing their own lives (and the fates of their families), they’re willing to do it. And the murderers declare that they’re willing to kill in order to escape the terrible hands Fortune’s dealt them: if killing Banquo means putting them in the good graces of the king, and therefore sparing their own lives (and the fates of their families), they’re willing to do it. Thus Shakespeare drops a neat little parallel into the end of his scene. Thus Shakespeare drops a neat little parallel into the end of his scene. The murderers may be condemned, but so is Macbeth; social standing in the face of that seems irrelevant. The murderers may be condemned, but so is Macbeth; social standing in the face of that seems irrelevant. All parties are willing to kill if that’s what it takes to survive, and as men, all seem equally driven by a desire to protect “the line.” All parties are willing to kill if that’s what it takes to survive, and as men, all seem equally driven by a desire to protect “the line.”

21 The act’s second scene contains two famous passages, one apiece from Macbeth and his wife. The act’s second scene contains two famous passages, one apiece from Macbeth and his wife. In her “Nought’s had, all’s spent” speech, Lady Macbeth raises the same point her husband made one scene earlier: that nothing one’s won can be enjoyed in the face of a threat. In her “Nought’s had, all’s spent” speech, Lady Macbeth raises the same point her husband made one scene earlier: that nothing one’s won can be enjoyed in the face of a threat. But she goes further, and says something that Macbeth, in his “Better be with the dead” speech, echoes a minute later: that it’s better to have been a murder victim than to have to live on with the aftereffects of committing that murder. But she goes further, and says something that Macbeth, in his “Better be with the dead” speech, echoes a minute later: that it’s better to have been a murder victim than to have to live on with the aftereffects of committing that murder. Killing, as we’ve discussed before, brings nothing but eternal discontent and fear; the dead have nothing left to fear. Killing, as we’ve discussed before, brings nothing but eternal discontent and fear; the dead have nothing left to fear. That the Macbeths have placed themselves (through death) in circumstances where death would be preferable speaks powerfully to their desperation. That the Macbeths have placed themselves (through death) in circumstances where death would be preferable speaks powerfully to their desperation.

22 All of which is to say that the decision to murder Banquo isn’t an easy one, nor an arbitrary one. All of which is to say that the decision to murder Banquo isn’t an easy one, nor an arbitrary one. It’s a maneuver meant to stave off a worse fate, one they realize now they’ve brought upon themselves. It’s a maneuver meant to stave off a worse fate, one they realize now they’ve brought upon themselves. And while similar criminals could beg forgiveness or seek mercy, the Macbeths have nobody left to appeal to: they’re the highest authorities in all the land, which makes their impotence on the cosmic scale all the more ironic. And while similar criminals could beg forgiveness or seek mercy, the Macbeths have nobody left to appeal to: they’re the highest authorities in all the land, which makes their impotence on the cosmic scale all the more ironic.

23 Lady Macbeth, seeing her husband’s agitation, swallows her own fears and pretends that nothing is wrong, that they should be enjoying the spoils of their victory. Lady Macbeth, seeing her husband’s agitation, swallows her own fears and pretends that nothing is wrong, that they should be enjoying the spoils of their victory. When he resists, growing more agitated still, she continues trying to calm him down. When he resists, growing more agitated still, she continues trying to calm him down. But where Shakespeare once provided her with long speeches and passages of her own, here it’s Macbeth who drives the conversation, Macbeth who dominates the dialogue: Lady Macbeth’s reduced to single- sentence responses and questions, as though the universe has returned her to a submissive role now that the foulest deed’s been done. But where Shakespeare once provided her with long speeches and passages of her own, here it’s Macbeth who drives the conversation, Macbeth who dominates the dialogue: Lady Macbeth’s reduced to single- sentence responses and questions, as though the universe has returned her to a submissive role now that the foulest deed’s been done. It’s here where we get our first hints that Lady Macbeth isn’t happy with their actions, or, more specifically, their actions’ consequences; when she ultimately and inevitably breaks down near the play’s end, we can trace her troubles back to this scene. It’s here where we get our first hints that Lady Macbeth isn’t happy with their actions, or, more specifically, their actions’ consequences; when she ultimately and inevitably breaks down near the play’s end, we can trace her troubles back to this scene.

24 When the murderers go to kill Banquo (there’s three of them now, paralleling the three Weïrd Sisters), they strike the torch that lights the scene and kill by darkness. When the murderers go to kill Banquo (there’s three of them now, paralleling the three Weïrd Sisters), they strike the torch that lights the scene and kill by darkness. Not only does this track with the earlier killings (Macdonwald, Cawdor, and Duncan were all killed offstage and thus out of sight), but the blackness that settles on the stage does two things. Not only does this track with the earlier killings (Macdonwald, Cawdor, and Duncan were all killed offstage and thus out of sight), but the blackness that settles on the stage does two things.

25 Firstly, it’s an easy demonstration of the moral darkness that’s settled over the play: permanent nightfall in a land ruled by corruption, with the darkest actions done out of Fate’s sight (although Fate, it seems, sees all). Firstly, it’s an easy demonstration of the moral darkness that’s settled over the play: permanent nightfall in a land ruled by corruption, with the darkest actions done out of Fate’s sight (although Fate, it seems, sees all). From a plot perspective, however, it’s this darkness that allows Fleance to escape; the murderers are so focused on Banquo that he’s able to warn his son with his dying breath, and they can’t see Fleance in time to stop him. From a plot perspective, however, it’s this darkness that allows Fleance to escape; the murderers are so focused on Banquo that he’s able to warn his son with his dying breath, and they can’t see Fleance in time to stop him. The darkness, in short, blinds them and causes them to overstep their means – something Macbeth will suffer himself as the play progresses. The darkness, in short, blinds them and causes them to overstep their means – something Macbeth will suffer himself as the play progresses.

26 And when the murderers report back to Macbeth that Fleance has escaped – followed quickly by Banquo’s bloody ghost drifting into his dining hall – the king falls apart. And when the murderers report back to Macbeth that Fleance has escaped – followed quickly by Banquo’s bloody ghost drifting into his dining hall – the king falls apart. Lady Macbeth tries to hide his madness as well as she can – she’s consistently her husband’s chief distraction – by interrupting his very public (and very incriminating) ranting, pulling him aside to have a quiet husband/wife chat (which she initiates, of course, by asking whether he’s a man). Lady Macbeth tries to hide his madness as well as she can – she’s consistently her husband’s chief distraction – by interrupting his very public (and very incriminating) ranting, pulling him aside to have a quiet husband/wife chat (which she initiates, of course, by asking whether he’s a man). But things have spiraled beyond her control, let alone her husband’s. But things have spiraled beyond her control, let alone her husband’s.

27 No amount of cajoling or convincing can move him back to reason: she can speak of apparitions all she wants, but the bloody reality of Banquo’s ghost seems to sit there in front of him, the specter haunting him in death just as the possibility of his descendants’ rule haunted Macbeth earlier. No amount of cajoling or convincing can move him back to reason: she can speak of apparitions all she wants, but the bloody reality of Banquo’s ghost seems to sit there in front of him, the specter haunting him in death just as the possibility of his descendants’ rule haunted Macbeth earlier. Fair is foul, foul is fair, and the dead walk the earth and stalk the air. Fair is foul, foul is fair, and the dead walk the earth and stalk the air. Nothing makes sense anymore, and as Macbeth continues trying to return order and certainty to his world, we can’t help but see him as a desperate, drowning figure, flailing about as he desperately fights his impending doom. Nothing makes sense anymore, and as Macbeth continues trying to return order and certainty to his world, we can’t help but see him as a desperate, drowning figure, flailing about as he desperately fights his impending doom.

28 A cascade effect takes hold as the play moves into Acts Four and Five: everything Macbeth tries worsens his situation rather than improving it, and he’s driven more and more mad by each successive failure – for every failure silently speaks to the irresistibility of a Fate he’s convinced is real. A cascade effect takes hold as the play moves into Acts Four and Five: everything Macbeth tries worsens his situation rather than improving it, and he’s driven more and more mad by each successive failure – for every failure silently speaks to the irresistibility of a Fate he’s convinced is real. And as the act hurtles to a conclusion, with Shakespeare dropping little tidbits into mundane conversations – Lady Macbeth notes that Macduff has mysteriously spurned their dinner invitation, Lennox states that many now suspect Macbeth of treachery, and we learn that Macduff has gone to England to join forces with Malcolm, who’s been amassing an army offstage (the true threat to Macbeth, who obsesses instead over killing a friend) – it’s difficult to see a way out for him. And as the act hurtles to a conclusion, with Shakespeare dropping little tidbits into mundane conversations – Lady Macbeth notes that Macduff has mysteriously spurned their dinner invitation, Lennox states that many now suspect Macbeth of treachery, and we learn that Macduff has gone to England to join forces with Malcolm, who’s been amassing an army offstage (the true threat to Macbeth, who obsesses instead over killing a friend) – it’s difficult to see a way out for him.

29 But if it seems that we’ve got nothing left to do than watching Fate’s gears grind, we must remember that Shakespeare has a few more cards left up his sleeve. But if it seems that we’ve got nothing left to do than watching Fate’s gears grind, we must remember that Shakespeare has a few more cards left up his sleeve. For the Sisters are still out there, and Macbeth will soon aim to find them – and to make them speak once more. For the Sisters are still out there, and Macbeth will soon aim to find them – and to make them speak once more.


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