Essay title: Rise and Fall of Macbeth
According to Webster’s dictionary, the archaic definition of independence is “competence” (1148). To be independent is not to be “subject to control by others” (Gove 1148). This means that independence is to be in control of ones decisions and to feel they are good decisions. Macbeth, on the other hand, feels independence is to not be subordinate to others like the king. To be independent, one must be strong. Inner strength, not physical strength, is needed.
Inner strength is only accomplished by having a high self-esteem. Macbeth does not and must use others to reach for independence. Macbeth needs this strength: It Macbeth hurls a universe against a man, and if the universe that strikes is more impressive than the man who is stricken, as great as his size and gaunt as his soul may be he will fall. (Van Doren 217) According to Macbeth’s ideas of independence and of strength, he is neither independent nor strong. He feels the need for both and thus allows nothing, including murder, to get into his way. Shakespeare opens Macbeth with the disorder being stabilized by the king and thanes. The thanes fought “rebellious arm ‘gainst arm” to curb “his lavish spirit” (I, ii, 56- 7).
Macbeth’s stature increased to fill the space in the bundle of limbs opened by the death of the Thane of Cawdor for “what he hath lost, noble Macbeth hath won” (I, ii, 67). “When we first see him Macbeth he is already invaded by those fears which are to render him vicious and which are finally to make him abominable” (Van Doren 216).At the end of Act I, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are discussing whether or not to assassinate the king (I, ii).
Macbeth has not committed himself to this sin and to independence, he has not broken the commitatus bond that exists between the king and thane. Likewise, Macbeth’s marriage is unstable as they argue, but their triangle is still together as they depend on one another. Lady Macbeth and Macbeth each experiment with external forces to gain independence from their spouse. Macbeth uses the witches, on which he becomes increasingly dependent. Lady Macbeth uses alcohol and Satan to “unsex” her and make her strong (II, ii, 1; I, v, 42). Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth deny their dependence on their aid, and still require their spouse. Their self denial of their dependence makes them weak, and the more self denial the weaker they get. As a married couple, they are splitting away from each other: they are trying to turn their triangle of dependence into a open square of independence.
The split between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth becomes apparent with the assassination of king Duncan. By the end of their arguing in the beginning of Act II, the two had not come to a final decision as to whether to kill the king or not (I, v, 72). Without the consent of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth tries to kill Duncan but fails, because she lacks strength and covers her ineptitude with the lame excuse that he “resembled my father as he slept” (II, ii, 12-3). Lady Macbeth lacks strength, because she only has conscience strength formed by extreme self denial. Unlike Lady Macbeth, Macbeth is almost strong enough to complete the task without Lady Macbeth. “He is driven to the murder of Duncan partly by the constant goading of Lady Macbeth and partly by his own will.