The witches seem to be the best manipulators around. They take a man, Macbeth, who was being rewarded by King Duncan for his loyalty and courage in defending the Scottish realm, and manage to turn him into a murdering, power-hungry evil being, simply by saying, "someday you'll be king." (One could say, though, that Macbeth had to have some ambition in him already if he could be so easily swayed, while his friend, Banquo, stayed loyal to Duncan, despite being told his descendents would someday be kings.)
Lady Macbeth is, in my opinion, an even better example of a manipulator. She is determined that her husband not become weak in fulfilling their plan to kill Duncan and take the throne for themselves. She worries that Macbeth is "too full o' the milk of human kindness" - that he is really too good inside to follow through with killing Duncan. (Ironic, then, that she is the one later who cannot make herself stab Duncan as he reminds her too much of her father.)
Check out the links below for more complete information on these fascinating characters!
Macbeth - Manipulation
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When we first hear about Macbeth from the sergeant’s report, we are led to believe that he is very much a person who does only what he believes is right. Furthermore, when he first appears in the play, his fellow nobleman, Banquo, accompanies him. Given this, we would think that he does what is right, and makes all his own decisions. However this belief is proven wrong. Although Macbeth starts off as a loyal subject of Duncan, he is ambitious and this is a weakness, which allows him to be manipulated by a few factors in the play.
From the beginning of act 1 scene 5 till the murder of Duncan in act 2 scene 2, it is evident that Lady Macbeth manipulates and convinces Macbeth into murdering Duncan. This is basically the only part of the play where Lady Macbeth has control over Macbeth. After Duncan’s murder, Macbeth is partly driven by evil powers.
Proof of Lady Macbeth understanding Macbeth’s thoughts and feelings are visible in her thoughts "Thou wouldst be great, Art not without ambition, but without the illness should attend it." (1.5.19-21). From the very same speech and small implications from the letter, we can tell that Macbeth was ambitious enough to want to be the King, but would not think of murdering Duncan. Because Lady Macbeth knew this, she also knew that she would have to push Macbeth into performing the deed and she starts by telling him "Thy letters have transported me beyond this ignorant present and I feel now the future in the present" (1.5.57-59) the moment they meet. From Macbeth’s reply "We will speak further" (1.5.69) he is obviously noncommittal, but was already thinking about it. The first step of manipulation has started.
Not much further in the play, we see that Macbeth decides not to murder Duncan but rather, carry on serving as his Thane. However, Lady Macbeth starts her persuasion again, but this time she questions his manhood, saying "When you durst do it, then you were a man: And to be more then what you were you would be so much more the man." (1.7.49-51). Had she not challenged his manhood and his love for her, he would not have usurped the throne and she would not have become a Queen. Not only did she get him to think about the murder, she even knew what to say after he had started thinking about the murder.
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Manipulation Macbeth Murder Duncan Carry Ignorant Lady Macbeth Reply Fellow Thou
The power of evil is also another force that controls Macbeth. Shakespeare mainly personifies it as the three witches and Hecate, the head witch. Despite Macbeth being ambitious, he probably never though that he would become a King as Duncan already had two sons whom he could leave his legacy to. But after Banquo and Macbeth’s first encounter with the three witches, Macbeth became hungry for the throne and couldn’t wait to be King. This is shown in his thoughts "The Prince of Cumberland: that is a step on which I must fall down, or else o’er-leap, for in my way it lies." (1.4.49-51). Had he not had his future revealed to him by the witches, he would never have thought such bad thoughts against the future King. Perhaps the very same speech "Who should against his murderer shut the door, not bear the knife myself" (1.7.15-16) should apply here as well.
Although not directly, Macbeth was also controlled by evil powers through his wife. It was assumed that in those days, women portrayed the elegant side of the human race and men could have been ruffians. Keeping this in mind, Shakespeare still portrayed Lady Macbeth as a person with a murderous heart from the speech "Had he not resembled My father as he slept, I had done’t." (2.2.13-14). From the later part of the play, we know that Lady Macbeth becomes afraid of the darkness, which almost describes a completely different person from a potential murderer. Since she had previously asked the "spirits that tend on mortal thoughts" to unsex her, it was highly probable that she was under the influence of a higher power and because it was an evil deed, it had to be an evil power.
When Macbeth hires murderers to kill Banquo and Fleance, it was all because Macbeth now believed in the witch’s power to foretell the future, and he was afraid that Fleance would become the King after him. Not only would that mean Fleance killing him, it also means that Macbeth has killed Duncan for nothing. Macbeth was behaving beyond reasoning to wish for such bad ending to a good friend of his; hence we can assume that he was being controlled by an evil power, in this case, the witches.
When the witches show Macbeth the first apparition in act 4 scene 1, it tells him "beware Macduff, Beware the Thane of Fife." (lines 87-88). In the very same scene, the first witch tells us they "know thy thoughts". More likely then not, they knew he feared Macduff and warned him about Macduff to make him attack Macduff’s castle.
Once again, in act 4, scene 1, he meets the witches and this time, he finds out that he will not be hurt unless "Birnam woods move", and "no one of woman born" meets him in battle. Upon hearing such reassuring news, he believes he leads a charmed life and is adamant even when the English army and the enraged Macduff attacks his castle.
Evidence of Macbeth being manipulated by Lady Macbeth and the power of evil is present in the play and can be found in many forms in speeches, thoughts, reasoning, and also any abnormal behaviour from many characters.