Temptation is defined as alluring someone to do something often regarded as wrong or immoral. During the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare temptation plays a notable role in most violent acts. One may have the self-awareness to know their action is bad, however, the temptation causes ambition that overleaps one’s true conscience. This indicates that dallying with temptation just weakens one’s resistance to it. Although William Shakespeare uses temptation in many plays of his, such as “Othello,” it is more evident in his play “Macbeth”. In “Macbeth” William Shakespeare uses imagery of violence to portray the theme of temptation in the deaths of Duncan, Banquo, and Macduff’s family.
Lady Macbeth lures Macbeth to go against his will and kill Duncan to get the crown he thinks he deserves. As Macbeth contemplates the thought of murdering Duncan he maintains awareness. Macbeth is Duncan’s “Kinsman and his subject” (I, vii, 13-14). Macbeth knows that if he murders Duncan he would murder his cousin, the king. Macbeth is also the Kings “host” (I, vii, 13-14) Macbeth would also take advantage of having the king as his guest. The act would violate all his values. Lady Macbeth resents the way Macbeth reflects about executing the murder.
She tells Macbeth that he is a “Coward” because he is indecisive in his decision considering the act is immoral (I, vii, 47). Then Lady Macbeth follows up by telling Macbeth to grow some “Courage,” fearing that Macbeth will not go through with the plan (I, vii, 70). Macbeth gives into Lady Macbeth’s pressure, and kills Duncan. His self-awareness is overcome with the thought of being “more than a man,” therefore, he “must hide what he false heart doth know” (I, vii, 95). Macbeth knows that killing Duncan is immoral, however, the temptation to be King concealed the immoral action away.
In addition to Lady Macbeth’s temptation, Macbeth entices the three murderers to kill Banquo to relieve both Macbeth’s fear. At first, Macbeth fears Banquo because he ‘Hath wisdom” (III, I, 57-59). Banquo can get so mad yet still act in “safety,” a manner that is right (III, I 57-59). Macbeth also dreads that he has opened the path to the throne for Banquo’s kids. Although Macbeth aspires to kill Banquo and Fleance, he cannot kill them himself because of “Certain friends”(III, I, 137). He then hires three murderers to assassinate Fleance and Banquo. The three murderers are “Reckless” (III, I, 123). The murderers are willing to risk their lives on any bet. Since Macbeth and the three murderers have a common enemy of Banquo, Macbeth tempts the murderers to kill Banquo and Fleance to rid them away from him forever. The deaths of Fleance and Banquo will ensure that the prophecies that Macbeth heard from the witches will not come true. Macbeth wants to take fate into his control and alter it to better himself.
Lastly, after Macbeth’s enticement on the three murderers, the three witches tempt Macbeth into killing Macduff’s family because of the prophecy given to Macbeth. The witches represent a “temptation to farther fall in a fallen world” (Coursen). They are a “distortion of normality” with the misleading prophecies to assure Macbeth’s damnation (Coursen). Macbeth believes that since the first prophecies from the three witches have come true the next prophecies must come true. The next prophecy given to Macbeth states to “Beware Macduff” (IV, i, 81-82). Again Macbeth is tempted into killing Macduff to assure to “take a bond of fate” that he will be safe (IV, I, 94-95). The witches’ tempt Macbeth to act greedier in deciding his own fate. Then, Macbeth knowing that Macduff has fled to England, he decides that he is going to act on his “very firstlings of my heart shall be the very firstlings of my hand” (IV, I, 164-166). Macbeth is livid because he waited too long to kill Macduff. He swears to act on first thought and is tempted to kill Macduff’s family at his castle before his anger subsides and realizes the act is immoral. The Three witches represent evil to tempt Macbeth into condemnation.
Looking back at the definition of temptation, which is alluring someone to do something often regarded as wrong or immoral, this theme plays a major role in the play Macbeth. The way that each violent act was due to temptation demonstrates that temptation is a perfect extenuation of one’s character. For Macbeth who was constantly tempted into doing violent acts that he knew in him were immoral. One may have the self- awareness to know that the action is wrong yet ultimately let temptation suppress one’s conscience to commit the bad deed. To linger with temptation only makes one surrender into submission.