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WHY MACBETH KILLED HIS ROYAL GUEST
By Rev. Fr. Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua
 

In the Scriptural narratives, the love of money is presented as the root of evil (Ecclesiastes 5:10; 1 Timothy 6) whereas William Shakespeare in the tragedy of Macbeth presented vaulting ambition as a very a dangerous quality. Ambition is one of the principles of motivation to self-awareness and transformation but killing a human being to attain power and high positions is a tragic road to self-destruction.   Shakespeare presented Macbeth as a good and valiant man who was not prone to evil. He was a victim of ambition because his means to source for royalty contradicted his true conscience and nobility. He had the ambition to be king but he did not have the will to make it a do or die project. His political desperation was slowly ignited by the witches and his wife. When Rose and Angus gave him the news of new titles, Macbeth responded that he should not be dressed in "borrowed robes" (Act 1, scene 3.) He felt that he did not deserve the titles even though the three witches had addressed him, Thane of Cawdor, Thane of Glamis and future king (Act 1, scene 1). Macbeth was aware that someone else was already Thane of Cawdor. He did not desire a position somebody was already occupying. He shared the interpretation of Banquo who warned him that the witches who are instruments of the devil cannot give good news with the exclamation, “What! Can the devil speak true?”

Lady Macbeth trusted the witches absolutely and vowed to put pressure on Macbeth to kill the incumbent King. She wanted to be a first Lady and the only way to achieve that was to encourage her husband to kill King Duncan. She could not do it herself because women by their nature do not have the capacity to commit brutal acts of killing. She wanted to be made a man saying: “You spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me” (Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 5, 38-43). When she received the news that King Duncan of Scotland would be arriving that night to visit her family, she saw that as an opportunity to ensure that her husband kill their visitor instead of playing a good host like every normal good woman.  She imagined herself as a vessel which may be emptied out and refilled "from the crown to the toe." One thing nobody, spirit or otherwise, has ever poured into her is "the milk of human kindness" which was aborted by her over ambition. The consequences were series of deaths not only of Duncan but the guards and Banquo who was his best friend. The syndrome of political ambition does not respect relations and best friends who could be obstacles to the desired political power. When Macbeth got what he wanted, he became afraid of losing or giving up power. His downfall was assured as he turned from a noble Thane to a violent and bloody tyrant at the persuasion of his wife to use his ambition to gain and sustain power and position.

When the witches told Macbeth that he would become king, they also told Banquo that he would not be king himself, but that his descendants will. This is why Macbeth in his lust for power saw Banquo as a threat and had him murdered by two hired assassins. In the process Banquo's son, Fleance, escaped. In all these murderous venture, Lady Macbeth could not sustain the woman passion in her that made her say: “I have given suck, and know how tender it is to love the babe that milks me". The way and manner Macbeth killed Duncan in his sleep at Macbeth's castle as a royal visitor is a lesson that a person with political ambition does not have permanent friends. What William Shakespeare wrote as drama is the political history of Scotland. The real historical King Macbeth ruled Scotland from 1040 to 1057, after his forces killed King Duncan I in battle near Elgin. This tragic satire still exists in many countries in the world today. In 94 AD, King Herod killed the innocent children to sustain his power (Matthew 2).

One of the signs of over ambitious people is chronic deceit and lies. No matter how smooth they talk, there is no truth in what they say. When Macbeth murdered his guest King Duncan and took over the Scottish throne, he had to protect himself from every suspicion. He killed Duncan's guards saying that he was angry that the guards murdered his guest.  Duncan's sons were so scared that they had to run away because they too might be killed. Before killing Duncan, Lady Macbeth got the King’s guards drunk. Although Macbeth liked Duncan and did not really want to kill him, his ambition for power and obedience to his wife invaded his mind to the extent that he saw a ghostly dagger floats in front of him and points the way to King Duncan’s bedroom. After Macbeth had stabbed Duncan, he came back, covered in blood and still holding the dagger. It was his wife, Lady Macbeth who took the dagger from him and planted it on the guards who were deeply asleep. It was Macduff who found King Duncan dead in the guest room.

In Shakespeare Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony said: The evil that men do live after them (Act 3 Scene 2). Lady Macbeth became melancholic and schizophrenic to a point that she did not believe that even the Neptune’s ocean and the sea of Arabia could wash the blood from her hands (Act 2, scene 2). Macbeth was defeated by Malcolm who in  history is King Malcom III, son of Duncan I in 1057. Macbeth had believed the witches who told him that no man born of a woman could defeat him. Little did he know that Macduff was untimely ripped from his mother’s womb. Macduff was loyal to King Duncan to the end. Even after the death of King Duncan, he loved Scotland to a point of raising an army to overthrow Macbeth and his rule of tyranny. King Duncan was the father of Malcolm and Donalbain in the play. Some people are never content with power and this often leads to enmity with others who are also ambitious. Thane of Cawdor was a title given to Macbeth after the previous Thane of Cawdor was captured and executed for treason against King Duncan. The historical King Macbeth fought a Thane of Cawdor who died in battle, but he did not thereby acquire the title himself. Macbeth was Thane of Glamis and later became the Thane of Cawdor. He wanted to be king just because the witches said so.

Those who believe that they must rule the world by magic powers from the occult world need to learn from the tragedy of Macbeth and his wife (https://www.google.com/search). Women should learn to assist in taming the over ambition of their husbands. According to Donald Duke, the former governor of Cross River State, a Public office holder who is misbehaving do so probably because he does not have a good wife.  He says: “You can be referred to as Your Excellency today, but, the best, it will only last eight years. Life is a stage, a platform for services unto God. So let everyone take heed. Forgive and have regard for Human beings (https://m.facebook.com).What does it profits, if you gain the whole world and suffer the loss of your soul (Mark 8:36)? The tragedy in our world today is the greed of a few people who want more of everything. Using violence to get what you want is wrong (Qur’an, 24:22). Islam enjoins Muslims to “make allowances for others” (Qur’an, 7:199). God loves those who control their rage and pardon other people no matter their ambition (Qur’an, 3:134). As if the prophesy of John is being fulfilled, those who seek power have taken away peace from the earth (Revelation 6:4). May those whose ambition for power and ready to destroy innocent people attain the awareness that this world is not our permanent home. We are just passing through. May we work for heaven where we shall be with the king of kings forever!

(Rev. Fr. Cornelius Omonokhua is the Executive Secretary of Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) (nirec.ng@gmail.com)

 

 


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