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Did Macbeth Really Commit The "Perfect Crime" In The Play "Macbeth," By Shakespeare

Updated on September 24, 2012

In the popular play Macbeth written by the 15th century playwright William Shakespeare, the story is essentially about one man’s struggle for power and acceptance. So in order to become King of Scotland, Macbeth chooses to take the crown by violent means. Thus, he elects to kill Duncan and take the crown unchallenged. At the start Macbeth and his co-conspirator and wife, Lady Macbeth assumes they have committed the “Perfect Crime.” But essentially a perfect crime is surely one where the criminals get away with it in all meanings of the word. While it is true that Macbeth plans, commits murder and then becomes King with unopposed ease. But ultimately the mental illness, suicide and the fatal death of Macbeth at the hand of Macduff shows that this is far from the perfect crime that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth strived to accomplish.

To an extent at the beginning, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth do achieve their goal of a perfect crime. They plot and connive and do succeed in executing their plan to an almost perfect conclusion. Their alibi, (which was created by Lady Macbeth) was undeniably strong. Lady Macbeth confides to Macbeth: “Will I with wine and wassail so convince, that memory, the warder of the brain, shall be a fume and the receipt of reason. She then follows with this: The unguarded Duncan? What not put upon his spongy officers, who shall bear the guilt of our great quell.” Lady Macbeth basically comes up with a cunning alibi, this involved getting the guards drunk and thus pinning the murder upon the hapless guards. “Why did you bring these daggers from the place? They must lie there: go carry them; and smear the sleepy grooms with blood.” The alibi works to great effect. And the guards are framed. No one at first suspects any involvement by Macbeth or Lady Macbeth, despite Macbeth showing little surprise about the death of Duncan. Another important detail to support the fact that perhaps it was a perfect crime was the utter ease of the way it was accomplished and the way the proceeding events were carried out. For instance, Macbeth entered Duncan’s room without raising alarm. He killed him in perfect silence, in the royal bedroom no doubt. Then, the very next day there alibi worked to perfection. Due to these circumstances, it is undoubtedly true that Macbeth, spurred on by the fact that they were never caught, wanted to continue killing. Ironically he is the one to convince Lady Macbeth that killing his close friend Banquo must be carried out, in order to keep his secrets safe. But Macduff becomes suspicious of Macbeth, unfortunately before Macduff can act upon his suspicions his entire family is slain by a sadistic and paranoid Macbeth. Macduff flees to England to escape Macbeth. Macbeth believes that with this victory he cannot be killed anyone.

However, there is more to this than first meets the eye. When Macduff flees to England, it assumed he is running for his life. In a way he was, but there he meets King Duncan’s son Malcolm. As the rightful heir to the throne, Macduff pleads for Malcolm to come back to Scotland and challenge the merciless Macbeth for the crown. To which Malcom responds: “Be comforted.Let's make us med'cines of our great revenge, to cure this deadly grief.” So with this stirring comment, they set out with their massive army on a vendetta to topple Macbeth from the throne. Macbeth and Macduff meet on the battlefield. Macbeth, a highly superstitious man believes he cannot be killed. The Witch prophesied this: “None of woman born shall harm Macbeth.” Sowith this instilled in his mind, he has no fear so to speak. Unfortunately everyone is mortal and Macbeth is slain by Macduff. Thus, he ultimately pays the price for his cold and calculated murder of King Duncan.

But more particularly, we have to look at the sheer consequences of Macbeth’s actions on that fateful night where he killed Duncan while he lay, asleep upon his bed. And also the consequential demise of Lady Macbeth as well. Almost directly after the murder, Macbeth already has regrets. He says to his wife after the murder, "I'll go no more. I am afraid to think what I have done, look on't again I dare not." This is just the start of a tyrannically demise of a once brave soldier. He becomes depressed, drowning in his own guilt. He speaks, "Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more. Macbeth shall sleep no more." These words are hauntingly truthful as the story progresses. He suffers hallucinations, he sees the people he has murdered as apparitions (ghosts) that only he alone can see. Yet this would not be the end of his punishment. His beloved wife commits suicide, at the beginning Lady Macbeth started out as a cold callous woman with no conscience but as the story progresses it is revealed that she too is suffering repercussions. She constantly washes her hands, washing off blood that she alone can see. This goes hand in hand with Macbeth and his ‘ghosts.’

So in actual fact, Macbeth never gets away with anything. In reality he already begins to ‘feel pain’ as soon as he chooses to murder Duncan. The considerable strain brought upon by the murder ultimately cripples him. It doesn’t matter if he never got caught by the law. It matters that he paid for his crime in the end. But the events leading up to his death were more agonizing than death itself.


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      Domenick Dicce 5 years ago

      Nice analysis. I never thought about the perfect crime because I was always wrapped up in his guilt and own undoing.