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In some senses, it is fair to argue that Macbeth's downfall in the play of his namesake by, William Shakespeare, occurs at the very beginning of the play. Macbeth's reaction to the prophecy given in the first scene, for example, is a powerful one. Couple that with his wife's immediate plotting against King Duncan and, you can see the chain of events that bring about Macbeth's gruesome demise. It is interesting to note how soon these events occur.
The rest of this essay shall examine four crucial moments in Macbeth's downfall.
1. Macbeth assumes the witches want to help him.
The prophecy Macbeth receives is a nice one. It is the kind of prophecy Macbeth has a strong desire for and, when parts of it come true quickly, Macbeth sees no reason not to pursue the prophecy's ends.
Macbeth doesn't even attempt to question if the prophecy might have a more sinister outcome. At the fateful moment when we discover Macduff was born by caesarean, it is too late for Macbeth, and he meets his downfall.
2. Lady Macbeth
It is impossible to ponder the demise of Macbeth without including his wife in the picture. Immediately, she begins to plot the murder of Duncan. Lady Macbeth is as ambitious for Macbeth as he is for himself (if not a little more). In assisting Macbeth in relentlessly pursuing his prophetic destiny, Lady Macbeth plays a significant part in Macbeth's downfall.
It is worth speculating about the nature of Lady Macbeth's death and whether there's implication that she's paid dues for her part in Macbeth's downfall. The implied means of death is suicide. Suicide would have placed Lady Macbeth into eternal suffering in the minds of Shakespeare's audience. A fitting punishment?
3. Macbeth's arrogance.
Macbeth is so convinced that the Witches' prophecy has a positive outcome for him that he becomes arrogant. He pushes the envelope continuously and overlooks many moments that could have turned his fate around for the better.
In act five, scene four, for example, the nobles are hiding in the woods plotting an attack on Macbeth's castle. Macbeth notices something isn't quite right; however, his arrogant assumption that he is divinely protected by prophetic insight causes him to dismiss an obvious threat.
It would be an error to neglect the role Macduff plays in the downfall of Macbeth. From his initial mistrust, through to his sworn revenge and unique birth circumstances, Macduff ultimately brings Macbeth's life to a brutal ending.
Macduff's motivated is loyalty, mistrust, and a passionate desire for vengeance after Macbeth savagely kills his family.
Ultimately, Macbeth's downfall cannot be attributed to a single incident or act; the play itself is a chronicle of the one event. The play charts the aftermath of a catastrophic misunderstanding coupled with egotism and selfish ambition. Macbeth is hindered by the supernatural and the natural alike in the form of the witches and lady Macbeth. The female influence in this play is profoundly secure and an essential factor in the downfall of Macbeth.