The Role of Revenge in Macbeth

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In the tragedy of Macbeth, Shakespeare puts into words the scarring and detrimental effects of human nature. William Shakespeare creates a story of betrayal, vengeance, and redemption to conceive a bitter-sweet tale. At the forefront of Macbeth is revenge. As the main character Macbeth undergoes drastic measures to ensure prominence, many fall into his path of destruction, becoming victims of instability and impulsivity. Two vital characters that experience the wake of Macbeth’s carnage are Malcolm and Macduff. Both Malcolm and Macduff are of power, with Malcolm being the son and heir to King Duncan, and Macduff is the Thane of Fife. While Macbeth is guiding himself to glory, Malcolm and Macduff suffer from the loss of loved ones at the hands of Macbeth’s greed. Throughout the plot of Macbeth, Malcolm and Macduff endure situations of which prompt retaliation, yet the men handle revenge distinctly due to the contrast of healthy and logical perspectives.

Macbeth, the main character of the play Macbeth, is known as the Thane of Glamis and considered a war hero amongst Scotland, a loyal subject to King Duncan. Once capturing defeat from enemies of Scotland, Macbeth and his companion, Banquo encounter three mysterious witches that lure the men and deliver enriching prophecies. Macbeth was advised that he would be appointed Thane of Cawdor and then he shall be king of Scotland. What is unknown is the fact that the prophecy would soon belittle Macbeth, witnessing as a once loyal and trusted man, lowers himself to such titles as a traitor and murderer. Macbeth acts on the worthless prophecy of the witches and becomes blinded by ill glory. What the prophecy provokes is evil injustice and cruelty enacted by Macbeth, which in return will cause vengeance amongst the victims of Macbeth’s immorality, Malcolm and Macduff. The reader observes the tribulations encountered by Malcolm and Macduff and how both men act out of the unfortunate circumstances.

As Macbeth seeks out the prophecy, he is soon fascinated by the idea of becoming king. What the witches create in Macbeth is an idea, and in the mind of someone like Macbeth who harbors no self-control, it allows the infestation of greedy thoughts. Once Macbeth realizes that the only way to assume title as king is through the murder of King Duncan, treasonous feelings plague his mind. Following the prophecy and Macbeth’s promotion to Thane of Cawdor, it does not take long before the murder of King Duncan transpires, and the entire kingdom is at large in search of peace. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth seek out blame from the drunken guards in charge of protecting the king, and momentarily, it works. The heir of the throne and son of Duncan, Malcolm, resorts to leaving Scotland and fleeing to England, out of fear for his life. Following Malcolm is Macduff, who heads to Scotland due to the brutal reign occurring in Scotland. While in England, Macduff creates a vulnerable situation where his family is in the path of Macbeth’s paranoia, ultimately resulting in the murder of Macduff’s family. In the wake of Macbeth’s murders, Malcolm and Macduff are both provided the means to act on vengeance; however, provided the chance, retaliation takes two different forms amongst the men.

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Revenge is the definition of inflicting harm to someone that has brought suffering to others. Macbeth aggravates hatred amongst the character of Malcolm and Macduff, as unjustly, flesh, and blood become sacrifices of Macbeth’s tyranny. The nature of which Malcolm and Macduff act out vengeance contrast in the means of aggression and provocation. When learning of the murder of his father, Malcolm retreats to England, seeing as the danger was occurring and his life may be at stake. Malcolm’s concept of revenge is simple, turning the cheek, a technique in retaliation that is healthy and logical (Berglas, 71). As Malcolm possessed inquires that lead his suspicions to Macbeth, he resorted to exiting the treasonous situation and remaining safe. Although unintentional, Malcolm’s exit from Scotland resulted in the further deterioration of Macbeth’s mind and increased paranoia. The best revenge occurs when the one that suffers tragedy achieves social and personal success significant in relation to the offense (Berglas, 71). What Malcolm presents is a logical and sound form of vengeance. By merely exiting out of Macbeth’s toxic environment, Malcolm allows Macbeth to believe that he has gotten away with murder, thus pushing Macbeth further and toward his eventual downfall. What Malcolm achieves through waiting to seek out Macbeth’s demise is the title as king, as Macbeth positions himself to his inevitable defeat, Malcolm therefore gains rightful heir as king.

Separating Malcolm from Macduff is patience and rationality. As the murders committed by Macbeth justified retaliation from both men, the way Macduff approached revenge differed from Malcolm in the aspect of lacking a healthy perspective. Macduff abandons his family to join Malcolm in England to plan the war against Macbeth, leaving the paranoia of Macbeth to commit heinous and unnecessary actions. Once learning of the bloodshed of his family, Macduff seems to disassociate from reality, and then rage ensues. What can only result from such anger is action, something of which Malcolm demands from Macduff, insisting that he act on the passion instilled in himself and kill Macbeth. The concept of revenge builds on the idea that it is connected to pain, allowing an eye-for-an-eye mindset to be unleashed (Berglas, 72). Macduff’s method of attack runs on emotion, had Malcolm been absent and unable to encourage Macduff to utilize anger and rage as ambition, Macbeth might have won. Coincidentally, Malcolm witnessing Macduff’s pain granted him the ability to relive the bitterness he felt when learning of his father’s murder. As Malcolm was unsure of who murdered his father, he never entitled himself to directed anger, seeing as Macduff undergoes a similar fate, Malcolm recognizes the pain of losing his father; something essential to rightful revenge (Berglas, 72). Without the sound perspective of Malcolm, Macduff’s lust for retaliation had the potential to overpower the means of organized rebellion, surrendering a situation to which Macbeth had a chance to defeat the sensitive and emotional Macduff.

Ultimately, Malcolm presents revenge through logic, as Macduff approaches vengeance through emotion. The role of revenge in Macbeth is crucial to Macbeth’s defeat; however, had his downfall been possible without Malcolm? Aware that Malcolm argues against rash reprisal, it is evident his perspective on vengeance is healthier and logical. What Macduff brings to the table is emotion, which is humane and understandable, yet human nature is flawed and unorganized. Instinct overrides sanity, and through patience, rationality undermines instinct. In the end, Macduff’s emotion is imperative to the battle against Macbeth; however, without the sanctity of Malcolm’s perspective, raw emotion may have converted to adverse outcomes.

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