Macbeth: a Dead Butcher
Parker Durham Far From a Dead Butcher “Producing forth the cruel ministers of this dead butcher and his fiend-like queen…” Malcolm spoke these words in the closing lines of the play shortly after Macbeth was killed by Macduff. While it is true that Macbeth could be characterized as a “dead butcher,” I do not believe those two words do justice in describing the person Macbeth truly is. While Macbeth commits atrocious acts of violence and murder, he did not do so without feeling regret and remorse.
In Act II, Scene II, we see how Macbeth regrets slaying his king almost immediately after he pulls his dagger from Duncan’s body. Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth that so great was his guilt that he could not utter “amen” when he heard “God bless us” come from a nearby room. As humans, we all make mistakes. Usually, a single or even multiple mistakes do not define our lives. However, in Macbeth’s case, his mistake was so severe that it would ultimately lead to the loss of everything he loved.
Killing Duncan would nullify all the good things Macbeth accomplished in his lifetime. Instead of being remembered as the valiant leader he was, he was remembered as a murderous fiend. One committing an act as foul as Macbeth’s would make one’s peers quickly forget about all of that person’s previous accomplishments and honors. In the beginning of the play, Macbeth is respected and revered by his fellow officers and countrymen.
So great were his accomplishments in the Scottish war against Norway that King Duncan awarded Macbeth the title of the Thane of Cawdor (Act I Scene II). After this appointment, Macbeth held the titles of both Thane of Cawdor and Thane of Glamis. He was the most noble of all the noble, so much that the king himself visited his home. He forfeited all of this due to his moral ambivalence and greed. Ambition is a good character trait to possess. However, Macbeth’s ambition was so unbridled that it caused him to lose his peace of mind, his friends, and his honor.
Macbeth had everything men envy and was far from a “dead butcher,” but due to one decision, his whole reputation and character were tarnished. Macbeth himself said it best in Act V, Scene III, when he said, “Is fall’n into the sear, the yellow leaf; and that which should accompany old age, as honour, love, obedience, troops of friends, I must not look to have; but, in their stead, curses, not loud but deep, mouth-honour, breath, which the poor hear would fain deny, and dare not. ”