The presence of supernatural forces in William Shakespeare’s, ‘Macbeth,’; provides for much of the play’s dramatic tension and the mounting suspense. Several supernatural apparitions throughout the play profoundly affect Macbeth and the evil forces eventually claim Macbeth and destroy his morals. Macbeth’s ambition was driven by the prophecies of the three witches and unlike Banquo, he was willing to do anything to assure that they actually transpire. Macbeth is horrified at the notion of killing Duncan, his King and kinsman, but he eventually succumbs to the evil forces and this leads to his downfall. Macbeth further compromises his honor by arranging the murder of his best friend, Banquo. Banquo’s places Macbeth in a precarious situation; he is deeply entrenched in suspicion and there is no way out. Macbeth’s vision of Banquo’s ghost at a royal banquet only drives him closer to insanity.
Macbeth has changed dramatically as a character throughout the play. Macbeth was tortured with remorse after Duncan’s murder but upon hearing of Banquo’s successful assassination he is elated. His vaulting ambition was driving him to extreme measures and he could do nothing to abate it. Macbeth had risked his life to attain the throne and he had no choice but to employ Machiavellian practices to retain it. The appearance of Banquo’s ghost at the royal banquet horrifies Macbeth. Shakespeare brilliantly uses irony to make Banquo’s emergence very dramatic:
Macbeth: Fail not our feast.
Banquo: My lord, I will not.
(III, i, ll 28-29)
Banquo’s appearance provides insight into the character of Macbeth. It shows the level that Macbeth’s mind has recessed to. His morality is declining and although he is battling his conscience, the evil forces have overcome his every thought and action. Banquo’s ghost only appears to Macbeth and it represents his extreme guilt. Although he may have lost his honor he still is having trouble enjoying the crown when he attained it by such vile circumstances. ‘I have a strange infirmity, which is nothing/ To those that know me’; (III, iv, ll 86-87). Macbeth may be subconsciously referring to his conscience that has plagued him since the first appearance of the three weird sisters.
Banquo’s ghost appears during the banquet because it provides for an extremely suspenseful scene. Macbeth is pitted in an internal conflict and is so tormented by guilt that he could confess to his actions at any time. The tension only rises as Macbeth suffers a breakdown and crumbles in front of many distinguished guests, only heightening any prior suspicions they may have had. If Banquo didn’t appear during the scene, Macbeth would only remain content that his friend had been murdered knowing that the task of keeping Banquo’s children off the throne had grown much easier. Banquo’s appearance helps to portray Macbeth as a character because it shows that although he has lost most of his decency, he still is embattled and deeply affected by the appearance of his deceased friend.
Banquo’s surfacing is only an example of an important theme in ‘Macbeth,’; the supernatural. Macbeth is a powerful but flawed character and the presence of these evil forces tempt him and plant the seed that leads to his own destruction. Despite being a formidable warrior, Macbeth is not presented at first as someone with a natural disposition to commit murder. Macbeth is at first wary of the prophetic messages from the three witches but upon hearing that he will be given the title of Thane of Cawdor, he is convinced that the throne is in his future. The witches are able to pollute Macbeth’s thoughts because his morals were not strong enough to withstand the temptation. Lady Macbeth is also a vital character in that she is able to persuade Macbeth to commit such despicable crimes. ‘To beguile the time,/ Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,/ Your hand, your tongue: look the innocent flower,/ But be the serpent under’t’; (I, v, ll 61-64).
The supernatural forces in the play are much stronger than the individual characters. The witches may be evil but their prophecies convey truth. The evil forces that eventually claim him corrupt Macbeth. The witches may an example of the evil forces at work in the play, but Macbeth is the perpetrator. Macbeth is culpable for his actions and the blame lies solely on him. Throughout ‘Macbeth,’; Shakespeare shows how greatly supernatural forces can effect characters by robbing them of their humanity. Macbeth is victimized by these evil forces and is tricked into destroying himself. Shakespeare’s use of the supernatural provides for a more clear and insightful picture into the tortured mind of Macbeth.