Macbeth was a weak character, despite his noble and honourable reputation. It was this weakness that allowed him to be seduced by the witches prophecy; it was this very same weakness that resulted in his succumbing to his devious, determined and power hungry wife. And it was ultimately this weakness that resulted in Macbeths downfall. How ever, despite this flaw Macbeth was not solely to blame for his demise, the witches prophecy ignited Macbeths ambition and his wife, Lady Macbeth, was even more ambitious and more determined than her husband.
The role of the witches should not be underestimated. In fact in the opening scene Shakespeare creates a mysterious and ominous atmosphere, foreshadowing that Fair is foul and foul is fair suggesting the evil which is followed through out the play, also that nothing is as it seems to be. In act 1 scene iii the witches greet Macbeth as Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor and as King of Scotland. This prophecy leads Macbeth to genuinely think about being in control and having power. Although a modern audience would be critical about the role of the witches, Shakespearean audiences viewed them as evil, having the capability of casting terrible events. However the witches cannot force Macbeth to do anything that he does not want to do. They merely revealed the future and chose to confront Macbeth at a time when he is most vulnerable, after the battle where he is feeling very proud of his achievements. Thus, they certainly did have a role to play in Macbeths downfall, but if Macbeth had been more concerned with morality and ethics and less concerned about having power, control, and becoming king, he would have ignored the witches prophecy.
Macbeth, however, had already thought of becoming king before meeting the witches. He was highly ambitious man and a well respected soldier, described by Duncan as O valiant cousin worthy gentlemen, and was referred to as being Brave and noble. Macbeth, in the end, was a selfish character whose ambitions only benefited himself. Throughout the play Macbeth ruthlessly pursues his own interests. He may be physically strong and courageous on the battle field but is morally weak. Macbeth has a conscience, but ultimately is not strong enough to let it guide his actions. In the famous soliloquy If it were done, when tis done (Act 1 sc vii), his reasons for not killing Duncan appear to be more selfish than anything. He is principally concerned with the precedent he would establish by killing Duncan. If he kills Duncan he could also be vulnerable to assassination. The audience notes that, despite being preoccupied with his own ambitions, he has taken note of the witches prophecy regarding Banquo. He mentions it twice, your children shall be kings; Do you not hope your children shall be kings. The audience questions whether this is a sign of his jealousy that Banquo will be, according to the witches, father of many kings. Despite his attempts to hide it, Macbeth has a conscience. It does not speak through voice of reason or logic. Rather it surfaces in the form of vivid images; a bloody dagger, a voice crying sleep no more, hallucinations and other vile images. Not being able to follow the signs of his conscience, but rather be controlled by Lady Macbeth and the prophecy, is a great sign of weakness. Macbeth is unable to maintain his true essence of being a moral and upstanding citizen. Does he deserve to be king? His inability to listen to his conscience is what makes him a weak character. Just as in the beginning of the play, Fair is foul and foul is fair, nothing is as it seems, Macbeth is not as tough as he as portrayed to be.
Lady Macbeth, who really influenced and manipulated Macbeth for the worst is also another key factor in Macbeths downgrade. After Lady Macbeth read Macbeths letter about his fortune that was foretold by the 3 witches, she conducted a deadly plan to kill King Duncan. Lady Macbeth, in a soliloquy, calls on spirits to take away her womanhood and make her cruel. She eventually persuades Macbeth into following her plan so that Macbeth will become King. Macbeth fell seduced into Lady Macbeths plan because of his ambition to become King. Even though it was Macbeth who originally thought about murdering Duncan, in his soliloquy, Macbeth wrestles with his conscience and his fears of the consequences of killing Duncan. His reflections conclude with the recognition that ambition itself is not enough to drive him to murder. Lady Macbeth, firstly employs emotional blackmail; From this time, such I account thy love. Then she launches an assault on his manliness, accusing him of cowardice. It is her constant needling of Macbeth that pushes him towards the decision to kill Duncan. She is strong willed and knows her husband well enough to exploit his sensitivity about manliness. Lady Macbeth appears to be without a conscience but later on, as foreshadowed Fair is foul and foul is fair, we that she does indeed have a conscience. Macbeth is to easily persuade by his wife. If he truly was morally tough he would have acknowledged that killing your guest, especially the king, who in the medieval times was thought to be appointed by god, was wrong. But his weakness prevails once again and he goes along with Lady Macbeth.
In the end, Macbeth was a selfish, jealous and ambitious character, all signs of wickedness. The witches may have provoked his ambition, but deep down there was evil brewing with in Macbeth, as the witches acknowledged. Lady Macbeths persuading words were just enough to lead Macbeth to become king and in the end to his death and her own. How ever if it was not for Macbeths weakness and unassertiveness he would have been strong enough to say no. Ultimately each character played a significant role in Macbeths destruction including Macbeth himself.