Macbeth’s Mistake

“We have scorched the snake, not killed it: She’ll close, and be herself; whilst our poor malice remains in danger of her former tooth.” These words by Macbeth intimate that although Duncan is “in his grave” the soul of his adversary hasn’t been blotted out but invigorated by being partly hurt but not terminated. Remember both Duncan’s sons remain alive and neither Macbeth nor Lady Macbeth ever consider to dispose of them with the King. In Robert Greene’s “The 48 Laws of Power” the fifteenth law is to “Crush Your Enemy Totally”. He elaborates that, “A Viper crushed beneath your foot but left alive, will rear up and bite you with a double dose of venom. An enemy that is left around is like a half-dead viper that you nurse back to health. Time makes the venom grow stronger.” Time is one of the chief things that disquiet Macbeth’s mind. He confesses, “Time, thou anticipat’st my dread exploits.” If time could just stop, Macbeth would be King perpetual and the Scorpions in his mind exterminated and replaced with a “vessel of…peace.” He even touches on this idea when he says, “Better be with the dead, whom we to gain our peace, have sent to peace, than on the torture of the mind to lie in restless ecstasy.” But Macbeth can no more stop time than he could dissuade Lady Macbeth from her relentless evil persuasions and the shedding of blood continues. Malcolm and his loyal subjects become an extension of the spirit of King Duncan and as Brutus says in Julius Caesar, “In the spirit of men there is no blood.”

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