A person could make a dramatic change of character when they go from a heart of good to a heart of evil. Macbeth is motivated to kill Duncan by Lady Macbeth, but Macbeth is then motivated by fate, and finally motivated by impulse to carry out his next succession of crimes. Macbeth had a hand, or was involved in 3 murders in the story. The first murder was of King Duncan at the beginning of the story with the aid and instructions of Lady Macbeth. The second murder was of Macbeth’s best friend Banquo, which Macbeth used the service of three murders to accomplish. It was fate for Macbeth to eliminate Banquo because Banquo was to be the father of kings while Macbeth would not. Finally, the third murder was of Macduff’s wife and children. One murderer does the job this time and Macbeth decides from this murder on to act on impulse and not think or feel remorse for any action he does from there on. All these murders indicate that Macbeth doesn’t know how to make things right after he has done something wrong, so he does the only thing he thinks is right, and that is to be more violent with each act he commits.
When Macbeth is first introduced, the first impression that we have of him is that he was an incredible and worthy fighter and the King speaks very highly of him. An example of this is “O valiant cousin, worthy gentleman!” The phrase shows that Duncan is very proud of Macbeth, his soldier, and his cousin. In the witches prophecies, Macbeth was told he would be Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor and then eventually become King. He was already Thane of Glamis and he becomes Thane of Cawdor shortly after the execution of the previous Thane, but one prophecy sticks in his mind. He is to become King. Macbeth had the thoughts of becoming King but there was no way he would ever think of murdering his King. He had neither the heart nor determination to do such a violent act. He expresses his discomfort with this in a soliloquy. “That tears shall down the wind. I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself, and falls on the other.” Macbeth mentions he has no motive to do the deed.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet – Indecision within Hamlet
The Hesitation/ Indecision within Hamlet
Hamlet, the hero in Shakespeare’s dramatic tragedy of the same name, goes to great lengths to establish the absolute guilt of King Claudius – and then appears to blow it all. He hesitates at the prayer scene when the king could easily be dispatched. Let’s discuss this problem of hesitation or indecision on the part of the protagonist.
In “Acts III and IV: Problems of Text and Staging” Ruth Nevo explains how the protagonist is “confounded” in both the prayer scene and the closet scene:
In the prayer scene and the closet scene his [Hamlet’s] devices are overthrown. His mastery is confounded by the inherent liability of human reason to jump to conclusions, to fail to distinguish seeming from being. He, of all people, is trapped in the fatal deceptive maze of appearances that is the phenomenal world. Never perhaps has the mind’s finitude been better dramatized than in the prayer scene and in the closet scene. Another motto of the Player King is marvelously fulfilled in the nexus of ironies which constitutes the plays peripateia: “Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own.” In the sequence of events following Hamlet’s elation at the success of the Mousetrap, and culminating in the death of Polonius, all things are the opposite of what they seem, and action achieves the reverse of what was intended. Here in the play’s peripeteia is enacted Hamlet’s fatal error, his fatal misjudgment, which constitutes the crisis of the action, and is the directly precipitating cause of his own death, seven other deaths, and Ophelia’s madness. (52)
David Bevington, in the Introduction to Twentieth Century Interpretations of Hamlet, eliminates some possible reasons …
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…ilm, Television and Audio Performance. Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. P., 1988.
Levin, Harry. General Introduction. The Riverside Shakespeare. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1974.
Nevo, Ruth. “Acts III and IV: Problems of Text and Staging.” Modern Critical Interpretations: Hamlet. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. Rpt. from Tragic Form in Shakespeare. N.p.: Princeton University Press, 1972.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. http://www.chemicool.com/Shakespeare/hamlet/full.html
West, Rebecca. “A Court and World Infected by the Disease of Corruption.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Court and the Castle. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1957.