An Analysis of Macbeth’s character
I would like to base my essay on the protagonist Macbeth.
Probably composed in late 1606 or early 1607, Macbeth is the last of Shakespeare’s tragedies, the others being Hamlet, King Lear and Othello.
If Hamlet is the grandest of Shakespeare’s plays, Macbeth is from a tragic standpoint the most sublime and the most impressive as an active play.
If we just consider the plot, Macbeth is a relatively simple play. In fact like Richard III and numerous pre-Shakespearean plays, it deals with a traditional form: the rise and fall of a great man.
In the first part of the play we read about Macbeth’s rise to power; then he manages to become king of Scotland. From this moment on he begins with a period of tyranny that will end with Macbeth’s death and the accession to the throne of the legitimate king.
For this reason he can be considered as the epitome of a tragic hero.
In the course of the play we notice a great development of Macbeth’s character. At the beginning he is a man much honoured by his countrymen for his leading and courageous part in defence of his good king and native land.
During many conflicts he showed his great courage and he continues showing this personal quality also when he becomes king and he has to take a lot of difficult decisions. But this first description about Macbeth’s character is not the definitive one: in fact as soon as we meet him, we find out also his negative qualities, for example that he is both ambitious and murderous.
It happens when the two Scottish generals, Macbeth and his friend Banquo, returning victorious from the great battle against a rebel army assisted by the troops of Norway, meet three witches in the middle of the road.
They begin to speak to Macbeth: the first of them greets him with the title of Thane of Glaning (so it is in the reality); the second follows by giving him the title of Thane of Cawdor, to which honour he has no pretensions; the third predicts that Macbeth will be king of Scotland. Then turning to Banquo, they prophesy that his son will be king of Scotland. So they turn into the air and vanish.
After a while Macbeth and his friend are stopped by some messengers of the king, who are empowered by him to confer upon Macbeth the dignity of Thane of Cawdor: an event so miraculously corresponding with the predictions of the witches astonishes Macbeth, who begins to think about the other and more important prophecy; particularly, to obtain the throne, he begins to think of murdering Duncan, the current king.
But probably Macbeth had these thoughts in his mind even before his meeting with the witches. This fact emerges from his strange reaction after the prophecies of the witches. We can also compare this reaction with Banquo’s one.
He, who is ambitious but perfectly honest, is hardly stricken by what the witches say and remains almost impassible; on the contrary when Macbeth hears the prophecies, he does not feel completely innocent: we find him to be quite afraid and unable to speak, he has a start of fears after the third prophecy just because ha had already conceived the murder, even if it was still something vague.
So we can say that the temptation was already in Macbeth’s mind and the prophecies of the witches reinforce this temptation.
Perhaps even Banquo understands what Macbeth is thinking about after the meeting with the witches and tries to warn his friend against these prophecies, as we can notice from his dialogue with Macbeth:
Machb: “Do you not hope your children shall be kings,
When those that gave the Thane of Cawdor to me
Promis’d no less to them?”
Ban. : “That, trusted home,
Might yet enkindle you unto the crown,
Besides the Thane of Cawdor. But ’tis strange:
And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s
In deepest consequence […].”
I, III, 118-126
But Macbeth does not pay attention to Banquo’s warning.
So the witches do not have a decisive influence towards Macbeth’s decisions. This is also demonstrated by the fact that in the course of the play he never accuses them: Macbeth curses the witches because they cheat him, but he does not consider them as the cause of his terrible decisions that will lead him to the decline and the death.
 Mariangela Tempera, Macbeth, dal testo alla scena. Bologna: Cooperativa Libraria Universitaria Editrice 1982, p. 11
 Gabriele Baldini, Manualetto Shakespeariano. Torino: Piccola Biblioteca Einaudi 1964, p. 417
 A. C. Bradley, La tragedia di Shakespeare. Milano: Casa Editrice Il Saggiatore 1964, p. 377
Ambition, Greed, Power, and Wealth in Shakespeare's Macbeth
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Greed for Power and Wealth in Macbeth
The play Macbeth, by William Shakespeare illustrates how greed for power and wealth can result in the destruction of oneself as well as others. The play's central character, Macbeth is not happy as a high-ranking thane - leading him to assassinate Duncan to become King, while unknowingly dooming himself. Throughout the play many examples are evident of Macbeth's unquenchable thirst for power.
At the beginning of the play, Macbeth was a kind and gentle person. The only time he killed is when he was in battle. Macbeth was loyal to the King (Duncan), and did as he wished. In battle, he kills a traitor to the Scotland who was a high ranking individual. For killing the traitor so bravely, Macbeth is awarded the title the Thane of Cawdor. The irony of this situation is that the title first did indeed belonged to 'a most disloyal traitor'(pg. 3, line 53). As Macbeth heads home with his new title and a lot more ambition. This is mainly because of the three witches who tell him he will be king. With this new ambition, Macbeth did not know what to think and he wrote a letter to his wife. By Macbeth writing this letter it showed at this stage he was still loyal because he still was sharing everything with his wife. Macbeth at this point still did not have a lust for power.
What drove him to become a power hungry tyrant was his wife. She put ideas in his head that changed him. A day before Macbeth would not speak of the idea of killing the king and now he was considering it. By killing the Duncan, gaining the title and king, and not being caught, Macbeth was given an enormous boost. He now felt invincible and let power finally get to him and corrupt him. With this new amount of power, Macbeth was not willing to let it slip away. To protect his power, he did whatever was necessary. Macbeth cowardly had Banquo killed, going against everything he ever believed in. Killing Banquo was not enough for Macbeth. Shakespeare shows to the audience how power can make a person go higher in the world but at the same time make them more vulnerable. Macbeth was now vulnerable, to solve this he sent the murderers to kill Macduff.
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Ambition Greed Wealth Macbeth Three Witches Traitor Play Macbeth Shakespeare Scotland Heads
Macduff had left for England to get help, so the murderers killed Lady Macduff and her child.
By Macbeth simply trying to cover the dirty footsteps left behind his quest for power he had destroyed two families and killed innocent and helpless people. Macbeth, before his power would have died fighting against this very thing. In the end, when it was time for Macbeth to lose the throne and his power, he could not accept the fact. Macbeth had become used to the power, he was killed trying to keep it. What brought Macbeth up in the world also had sent him tumbling down.
Shakespeare uses the character Macbeth to demonstrate the inevitable result of greed. The play clearly illustrates the greed driven metamorphosis of Macbeth. He begins as a kind man who kills only in battle in the most courageous situations, and ends as a fearful man who attacks the defenseless and pays professional murderers to kill for him. Macbeth vividly depicts a life foolishly lived, as Macbeth dooms himself while pursuing a hollow goal.
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Shakespeare, William. Tragedy of Macbeth . Ed. Barbara Mowat and Paul Warstine. New York: Washington Press, 1992.
Watson, Robert. Thriftless Ambition, Foolish Wishes, and the Tragedy of Macbeth . Shakespeare and the Hazards of Ambition. Cambridge: Harvard UniversityPress, 1984.