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The Changing Character of Macbeth

The story of Macbeth has many Shakespearean characters that could compare to the reader. Macbeth compared the most to the reader because of his ambition to become king. In the beginning of the play, Macbeth is shown as being greatly admired and who possess a strong character (Webster 706). As the play progressed, Macbeth’s personality and actions become more devious, leading to his destruction. Macbeth’s changing character over the course of the play can be seen as him being a general, through his ambitions to be king, and as a husband towards Lady Macbeth.

The first example of the changing character of Macbeth is evident in his role as a general. As the play begins, Macbeth is a brave general, well respected by his peers. The captain returning from the battle reports, “But all’s too weak; for brave Macbeth (Shakespeare 1.2. 17-18). The people trust Macbeth s strength and depend on him. However, as the play continues, Macbeth becomes useless as a general. He becomes fearful at the sight of Banquo’s ghost. Macbeth tried to pretend to appear brave by saying, “Thou canst say I did it. Never shake thy gory locks at me ” (Shakespeare 3.4.61-62). In this quote Macbeth is showing paranoia, a truly fearless general would not have fearful visions of those they have murdered. Macbeth’s sinful deeds not only lead him to be fearful, but cornered as well.

The second example of the changing character of Macbeth is his ambition to become king. When Duncan named Malcolm the Prince of Cumberland, Macbeth decided to murder Duncan so that he could become King of Scotland. When Duncan arrived at Inverness, Macbeth controlled his ambition for the time being and did not kill him. But then Lady Macbeth called Macbeth a coward and forced him to kill Duncan.. After Macbeth finally murdered Duncan, he entered into a life of evilness. Macbeth killed Banquo because of his ambition to become king and he was in the way of this doing. Macbeth wanted to protect his ambition, therefore by killing Duncan and now Banquo, he could be ensured of becoming King of Scotland (Drabble 599). Due to the prediction of what the witches said about Banquo’s son becoming the king, Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none (Shakespeare 1.3.70). Macbeth, no longer needed any encouragement from Lady Macbeth, so he started to leave her in ignorance of his plans. Near the end of the play, Lady Macbeth sleepwalked and had a dream about the killing of Banquo, Wash your hands Banquo s buried, he cannot come out on s grave (Shakespeare 5.2.66). She died because of all this pressure and her guilt about the murder. Macbeth had turned from a good-natured person to an evil person. His ambition and strong belief in the witches brought him to a tragic end of his life, and caused many people to lose their lives as well.

Macbeth’s changing character is also seen in his role as a husband. Macbeth tells his wife everything and writes her a letter about his plans for the murderer of Duncan (Shakespeare 1.5.1-14). He shares his most intimate feelings and secret plans with Lady Macbeth. Macbeth even calls his wife “my dearest partner of greatness”. (Shakespeare 1.5.11) This proved the affection and trust he had in Lady Macbeth. When Macbeth needed someone to turn to near the end of the play, he grows distant from his soul mate, his wife. Macbeth did not continue to go to her for advice. He told the doctor to cure her of her mental illness, and made no effort himself to help cure her. When Macbeth hears the news of his wife’s death, he reacts indifferent and unemotional, She should have died hereafter. There would have been time for such a word. (Shakespeare 5.5.20-21). This portrayed the greatest character change of all. The reason is because Macbeth had grown cold hearted and did not care about the death of his own wife. At this point Macbeth is worse than a murderer or any other criminal. Macbeth had become sinister and compassionless towards everyone.

Macbeth as a general, a husband, and through his ambitions showed his changing character throughout Macbeth. The play portrays the complete evolution of Macbeth’s personality (Drabble 600). This theme followed him from being a respectable person down the shameful path he takes to self-destruction. Everything about Macbeth fell apart and he lost control. Shakespeare’s message is that nothing good comes out of destroying others on your way to the top, even if you seem to get away with it.


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