To what extent do you agree with Malcolmâ€™s description of Macbeth as a â€œbutcherâ€?
The Oxford English Dictionary describes a butcher as a â€œperson who kills or has people killed brutally or indiscriminately.â€ Is this description, with which Malcolm condemns Macbeth, true or adequate? In this essay, I will consider whether â€œbutcherâ€ is the right term for this complex character. I will consider two different productions of Macbeth in my answer: Roman Polanskiâ€™s film of Macbeth, and a Royal Shakespeare Company production (hereafter referred to as RSC), which is a televised stage version.
When applied to Macbeth, the term â€œbutcherâ€ contains literal truth, since he brutally took the lives of many people. First, he assassinated Duncan to gain the throne. This, as Macbeth himself recognised in his soliloquy, is wrong; they are related, he should be acting as a loyal subject and it goes against the laws of hospitality:
Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,
Furthermore, Duncan has treated Macbeth well; he bestowed the title of Thane of Cawdor upon Macbeth, sent money and diamonds to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and he wished to â€œcontinue our graces.â€ Killing Duncan is treacherous when Macbeth has been accepting so much from him. The deed is additionally brutal because he is murdered in his sleep. From the text, we can see that Shakespeare wanted us to be aware of how bloody the murder was as he indicates that there is blood on both Macbeth and Lady Macbethâ€™s hands â€“ a â€œfilthy witnessâ€ to their deed.
The two productions of Macbeth vary in how they present the butchery of the murder. Polanski diverges from the stage directions and decides to have the murder on stage. Macbeth enters Duncanâ€™s chamber and watches him sleeping. Duncan looks very peaceful, making the coming violence more shocking. He wakes up a