Social Conformity And Imoral Action In William Shakespeare's Macbeth

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Albert Einstein once said: “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.” Einstein’s words accurately describe the bystander phenomenon in psychology. The bystander effect is a pattern which has been discovered to show that people are inclined to take no action when a victim is present. But why? It is believed that bystanders take no action due to the pressure of social conformity. People are afraid to be different from their surroundings and to not conform to social norms. Does being a bystander make one immune to blame? Does conforming to social norms justify immoral actions? How does society determine responsibility for immoral actions committed …show more content…
William Shakespeare wittily guises social influence of destiny by including the witches’ prophecy in the play. For now, it is prophesied that Macbeth will soon rise to become king. It is emphasized that Macbeth will gain power only due to destiny and not his own actions (Mac.1.3). By laying down this important foundation at the beginning of the play, Shakespeare conditions the audience to accept the idea that there is a higher power that compels one to act. Additionally, Destiny allows for the justification of immoral acts such as murder. Macbeth addresses how obviously wrong this murder would be, “But in these cases, We still have judgement here, that we but teach bloody instructions, which, being taught, return, to plague th’inventor: this even handed justice, Commends the ingredients of our poisoned chalice, To our own lips” (Mac.1.7.7-12). Macbeth addresses his worries and hesitation about the act of murdering another human. Clearly, he is fully aware of the negative consequences that will come if he murders another individual. However, Macbeth begins to justify the act of murder by remembering the witches’ prophecies. He uses the concept of destiny as an excuse to follow through with immoral acts and eliminates any doubt in his mind. Essentially, Macbeth allows for the Id to take control and begins to act with no rationale. Macbeth’s inclination to …show more content…
The effect of social values on Macbeth was not forcing him into the act of murder, but rather offering it as an option. It is Macbeth’s active decision to accept the witches’ prophecy and fulfill his destiny accordingly. There are many other alternatives as to how Macbeth could have succeeded the throne. King Duncan could have passed from old age, illness or even in a future battle. Macbeth is the one who concluded that he must commit treason and assassinate the king in cold blood. Macbeth’s corrupt moral compass and clouded judgment further develop the underlying tone of insanity, which he displays at the conclusion of the play. Macbeth’s ambition is the greatest cause for his actions, similar to Claudio’s naivety is the root for his own transgressions. Human nature tends over generalize circumstances and misinterpret external cues when trust is present. The role of the external cues is to remind the actor not to engage in habitual behavior. This mismatch of information tricks one to act inappropriately in a specific environment (Burgess 3). Claudio demonstrates this observation as he ignores the constant reminders and mistakenly chooses to believe Don John, who has been identified as a negative influence in the backstory of Much Ado About Nothing. Social pressures on Claudio influenced him to react and refute

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