I would like this website to become a great resource for Shakespeare enthusiasts.
All responders will be credited on this web site alongside their words. Where appropriate I will add my thoughts. All answers and discussion will remain on the website - my aim is that it will grow into a very useful resource.
Do you have a question about a character's behaviour?
Is there a passage of text you would like someone else's opinion on?
Mick Friesen has asked two great questions concerning Shakespeare's Macbeth:
Question: When does Macbeth first consider killing Duncan? Before the play begins? (Mick Friesen)
"I feel he probably FIRST considered killing Duncan Only when he interpreted the witches prophecies as meaning he can kill the king and get away with it. The thought of being a king may well have crossed his mind before the play begins as a mere fancy. He is unlikely to have CONSIDERED regicide unless feeling secure enough that no negative consequences would follow – which the witches duly assured him (in his interpretation of their prophecies). I think that is the point when he first considered killing the king – even then he had doubts and wavered until Lady Macbeth Persuaded him." - Amir Minhas
"I think Macbeth started thinking of killing Duncan some time before the play started especially when he won the war and was coming back with Banquo that's why he was easily deluded by the three witches when he met them on his way back home. They were just a trigger for his inner unspoken ambition!" - Maha Hassan
"I suppose there are a number of answers to this question depending on how it is approached. Firstly I think we can infer from the evidence of the play would suggest that on receiving the ‘strange intelligence’ – that is, a factual truth - from the witches in Act 1 Scene 3 kindles the latent flame of Macbeth’s ambition. The fact that he immediately becomes secretive in the presence of his most trusted co-general, Banquo, would suggest that he is trying to hide his true feelings and the realisation that to achieve his ends the murder of Duncan is a necessary step. I think Shakespeare makes this clear in his soliloquy: ‘that suggestion/ Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair…horrible imaginings…’my thought’ .. [my] ‘surmise’. The description of these thoughts as ‘murder’ – albeit one which disingenuously he describes as ‘but fantastical’ – makes clear that as early as his first appearance he is presented to us as a man who is prepared to contemplate murder in order to achieve his ends.
The other way to approach this question is from the perspective of Shakespeare’s audience: what would they have expected? If they had, like Shakespeare, read their Hollinshead, they would have known that the historical Macbeth did indeed have a strong claim to the throne and in the warrior culture of 11th century Scotland seizing the crown by force would be the norm. Even if they did not know their Hollinshead they would have been aware from recent history that the murder of a rival – albeit a state sanctioned execution – was far from unthinkable: the execution of Lady Jane Grey, ten years before Shakespeare was born and Mary Queen of Scots when Shakespeare was a young man of twenty three. More recently the Essex rebellion of 1601 and the Gunpowder plot of 1605 – both of which ended in bloody retribution – were also reminders that regime change by violent means is what powerful men will always consider if the opportunity offers itself. And Duncan is after all, by definition, a weak king if his kingdom is in a state of rebellion (Hollinshead also makes clear what a weak king Duncan is). It is in my view therefore most likely that Macbeth had considered murder long before the play opens and was only awaiting the main chance." - Alban O'Brien
"As to Duncan being a weak king...is that claim challenged by Macbeth's own words in Act I, Scene 7 when he is contemplating why he should not kill his own king? Among several reasons, he says:
Besides, this Duncan
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off;
And pity, like a naked new-born babe,
Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubim, horsed
Upon the sightless couriers of the air,
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,
That tears shall drown the wind.
Macbeth seems certain that there would be an obvious and deep-felt grief throughout Scotland in response to Duncan's assassination. Why? Duncan has been, apparently, a good king.
Further, does it not seem possible that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have considered, even planned somewhat, to kill Duncan before page one of the play? For one, Macbeth is very quick to imagine killing Duncan in the first encounter with the witches. He goes from being told he will "be king hereafter!" to visualising Duncan's death by his own (Macbeth's) hand in under 100 lines.
Secondly, when Macbeth is expressing his doubts to Lady Macbeth he tells her that "we will proceed no further in this business." She responds by questioning the constancy of his love for her, his courage, and his masculinity. But she also says,
What beast was't, then,/That made you break this enterprise to me?
Nor time nor place
Did then adhere, and yet you would make both:
They have made themselves, and that their fitness now
Does unmake you.
So, does this mean that Macbeth approached her with this “enterprise” (the act of becoming king by assassination)? And does she mean that at the time of that conversation, the time and place were not in place/available to them but he then claimed he would manufacture the opportunity (the time and place) to kill Duncan?" - Mick Friesen
Question: What's Macbeth's fatal flaw? Isn't "ambition," even "vaulting ambition" too simplistic an answer? (Mick Friesen)