William Shakespeare | Analysis of Macbeth: Act V.

Lady Macbeth’s behavior has been very peculiar, according to the Gentle woman, and the Doctor is summoned to witness the behavior for himself. Lady Macbeth is responding to her guilty feelings. She is trying to rid herself of her guilt, which takes the form of the blood she is unable to wash from her hands. She confesses to encouraging Macbeth to kill Duncan and refers to Banquo’s death as well. She is obsessed with the blood on her hands and she is unable to wash it off. She exclaims, “Out damn spot” as she unsuccessfully tries to remove the blood from her hands. This shows the demise of Lady Macbeth. Her actions and the actions of Macbeth have caused her to lose her mind. The guilt she feels can no longer be controlled; she has lost control of herself. Macbeth feels confident that he will be safe in battle because of the Witches’ prophecy. Macbeth is so

self-absorbed with the impending battle that when the Doctor informs him that he cannot help Lady Macbeth, Macbeth simply becomes angry and insists that the Doctor find a cure for her. He then dismisses the doctor

and dresses for battle. Macbeth is detached from reality and unaware of the severe condition of his wife. He is so consumed with rage and lust for power that his own wife is no longer important to him. The Witches are the only other source besides himself that Macbeth can trust. He must remain in control at all costs; even if he must spill more blood.

Malcolm and his men ready themselves for battle by using branches from Birnam Wood to shield themselves while approaching Dunsinane. In this way, the Witches’ prophecy is fulfilled. Macbeth is informed that Lady Macbeth is dead; he does not even ask how she died. He is only concerned about himself and guarding his power. When the Messenger informs Macbeth that trees seem to be moving toward the castle, Macbeth is angered with him. However, he soon realizes that the Witches’ prophecy is coming to pass. His response is to face the battle even if it means his death.

Macbeth has false hopes in his battle with Young Siward because he feels he cannot be harmed by any woman born of man. After Macbeth kills Young Siward, he feels even more confident that he is immortal. He feels he cannot be harmed and will remain in power because of his prophecy.

Macduff faces Macbeth filled with rage and vengeance. When he tells Macbeth that he was “untimely ripped” from his mother’s womb, Macbeth realizes that the Witches gave him information that had a double meaning. Macbeth at that moment realizes that his fate has been sealed and he is not immortal.

Macbeth and Macduff fight. They disappear offstage, then return still fighting. Macbeth is then slain and Macduff carries his body offstage. By having the fight momentarily disapear offstage, the drama builds as the audience anticipates the outcome. Since Shakespeare did not have the benefits of modern moviemaking, Macbeth’s body had to be taken offstage in order for Macduff to return with the severed head. The play concludes with Malcom being restored to his rightful place on the throne.

Macbeth is a tragic hero because he has the potential for greatness, but it is undercut by his greed and lust for power. The prophecies of the Witches provide the spark by which Macbeth’s soul is set on fire. Once he is presented with the chance to further his own ambition, he lets nothing and no one get in his way. Loyalty becomes treachery and friends become enemies. Even Lady Macbeth’s death is naught but a nuisance. Macbeth tells Seyton that she should have waited until tomorrow to die because then he could have spent time mourning for her.

Shakespeare knew how to interpret the complex forces which drive men. On one level, Macbeth is about the fight between good and evil. Yet, it is told from the perspective of one man, Macbeth. Even within his own mind, Macbeth is torn between what is right (supporting Duncan) and what is wrong (following his own ambition). Macbeth is not a one-dimensional character. He is not wholly evil, there are patches of goodness and regret within him. It is this intricate portrait of Macbeth’s personality which adds realism to a play with such supernatural overtones.

Macbeth’s road to ruin is twisted and branching. He is offered chances to reverse his course and save himself, but he sticks to the path of personal ambition. Each murderous act leads to another, more horrific than the last. The Witches are often blamed for Macbeth’s downfall because he would not have killed the King if he had not heard tales of the future. But, Macbeth does not begin to plan the murder of Duncan until after Malcolm has been named successor. Until that point, Macbeth would have been proclaimed King had Duncan died according to Scottish law. Duncan’s announcement usurps that law and Macbeth begins his bloody quest.

In the end, the play has come full circle. At the beginning, Macbeth defends the King against those who would overthrow the crown. In the end Macbeth, who has taken the crown by blood and deceit, is overthrown and rightful rule is restored.