Analytical The Examples Of Macbeth’s Character Change In William Shakespeare’s Play
Written by William Shakespeare at around 1606, ‘Macbeth’ is a play set to entertain King James At the beginning of the play Macbeth is portrayed as a tragic hero, but at the end of the play he is portrayed as a villain. A tragic hero is the protagonist of a tragedy in drama. In his Poetics, Aristotle records the descriptions of the tragic hero to the playwright and strictly defines the place that the tragic hero must play and the kind of man he must be. In this essay I will analyze the examples of how Shakespeare portrays Macbeth as a tragic hero at the beginning of the play and as a villain at the end using language, structure and form.
The introduction of ‘Macbeth’ as a warrior is crucial to the play, as a tragedy depends on our witnessing of a great man falling. Macbeth is portrayed as a hero, he is presented as “brave” with a “disdaining fortune”. The quote “disdaining fortune”, exaggerates Macbeth’s heroism and presents Macbeth as a very fortunate and lucky man, however the quote “unseemed him from the nave to the chaps” suggests that there is another face to Macbeth which is very violent and cruel making Macbeth two-faced. The phrase “For brave Macbeth- well he deserves that name” suggests that Macbeth was viewed as a hero by King Duncan and therefore King Duncan gave Macbeth the title thane of Cawdor and Glamis. ‘Chivalry’ is the code of conduct and is expected to be followed by every knight, it says that a knight should protect the people that cannot protect themselves, for example elderly, children and widows, and that they should be always loyal to the king. To become a knight, one must have an excellent reputation, as you can’t be a criminal and then try to be a knight, one must be highly skilled and disciplined, because if you aren’t faithful and disciplined then you can just betray the king and hurt or even kill him. To be a knight you must be faithful to the church and god because he is the most important person, and lastly you must be sworn by the code so you always follow and honor it.
After the interaction of the three witches Macbeth wasn’t sure if what they were saying was right about him, the three weird sisters said that he was going to be thane of Cawdor and then king. The witches also said that Banquo’s sons will be kings as well, which made both Banquo and Macbeth think. After Macbeth was introduced as thane of Cawdor he started wondering if what the witches said was true, if he was going to be king. This made Macbeth very happy but then he thought about Banquo’s sons being kings which started to make him paranoid. He wasn’t sure if he was going to be king or Banquo’s sons were going to be kings, when he was sure that the witches were telling the truth he started to think of ways to become king. When he returned from the battle, the king wanted to see, him and Malcolm which was the king’s son, to tell them something very important. At that moment, the king announced who was going to be king after him, Macbeth was expecting to be him, but the king said it was going to be Malcolm. At that moment Macbeth was thinking: “The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step on which I must fall, or else o’erleap, for in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires;
Let not light see my black and deep desires: The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be, Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see.” This suggests that Once he learns that King Duncan has named Malcolm the Prince of Cumberland and heir to the crown of Scotland, Macbeth isn’t content to wait around for ‘chance’ to intervene. He decides that he must act, or ‘o’erleap’ the obstacles in his path to the throne. Which made Macbeth very curious about the way or time he is going to become king.
After those trail of black thoughts Macbeth started thinking of very cruel ways to be king, he tells his wife, Lady Macbeth about everything. There is an argument that Macbeth’s fate is not predestined and that transgressive female characters such as Lady Macbeth push him further into ‘blood’. Declaring ‘we will proceed no further in this business’, Macbeth evidently undergoes a mental process by which he comes round to the idea of murdering Duncan. He does this as a result of his wife’s manipulation, her leverage being his manliness. She mocks him, forcing him to act to prove her wrong: “When you durst do it, then you are a man “She is unsympathetic ‘you do unbend your noble strength to think so brainsickly of things’ and even critical of her husband, despite the fact she was unable to carry out the murder of Duncan herself. “My hands are of your colour;but I shame to wear a heart so white” Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s hands are of the same colour, hat is, red from the blood of Duncan. Yet Lady Macbeth manipulates Macbeth into acting innocent, she accuses him of being weak and her words suggest that they will be found out if he cannot pull himself together and collect himself. This is consolidated by her demand that he ‘look like th’ innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t’. In such a manner, Lady Macbeth manipulates Macbeth into keeping their heinous deed a secret. She wants to be queen, even if she has to coerce her husband into murdering the king to become this. Lady Macbeth took advantage of Macbeth’s sadness and manipulated him into killing the king the knight they were going to celebrate about the victory in the battle. Lady Macbeth planned how to kill the king, she was going to poison the guards and then blame it on them, but Macbeth didn’t want to do it because was honored and appreciated by the king. Lady Macbeth tries to convince Macbeth but Macbeth says: “Prithee, peace: I dare do all that may become a man; Who dares do more is none.” This suggests that When Macbeth tries to insist that the murder plot is off, Lady Macbeth needles him and makes a few impotence jokes until he finally gives in, saying ‘I dare do all that may become a man”. Macbeth is offended and by wanting to prove that he isn’t a man he kills the king.
After the abhorrent and inhumane act, Macbeth started losing his mind in remorse and fright. He started being paranoid about what else the witches said and from his paranoia he told a murderer to kill Banquo’s family and him. After the murder of Duncan, Macbeth struggles terribly with his guilt. He worries that he could not pronounce the holy word, ‘Amen,’ when one of Duncan’s chamberlains said, ‘God bless us’. Macbeth fears that this means that he is damned. Further, he hears a voice cry out that he will never be able to sleep peacefully again because he murdered Duncan while he was asleep and powerless. In fact, Macbeth is so guilt-ridden that he mistakenly brings the murder weapons with him from the room, and when Lady Macbeth orders him to return them, he cannot. He says, ‘I’ll go no more. I am afraid to think what I have done’. Macbeth feels that there is so much blood on his hands that, if he plunged them into the ocean, the blood would turn the whole sea red. Obviously, this cannot be true, but the exaggeration works in the service of another truth: Macbeth’s guilt is overwhelming him. However, Macbeth’s guilt fades away quickly. Though he’d felt a great deal of ambivalence regarding the murder of Duncan, he seems to experience no hesitation whatsoever when ordering his next murders: his former best friend, Banquo, and Banquo’s son, Fleance. Then, after Banquo’s murder, instead of guilt, Macbeth feels only anger that Fleance is still alive. No more worrying about the state of his soul; now he worries only about the security of his throne. He grows more vicious, certainly, and more ruthless. And in his desperation to maintain his power, Macbeth does become paranoid. After the dinner party at which he sees Banquo’s ghost, he tells Lady Macbeth of the lords, ‘There’s not a one of them but in his house I keep a servant fee’d’. In other words, despite their apparent loyalty to him, Macbeth pays a spy in each of the noble’s homes to report back to him. In Macbeth’s most brutal act yet, he orders the deaths of Macduff’s innocent wife, children, and even servants to punish Macduff for his disloyalty. Macbeth’s growing brutality is actually conveyed by the way the murder scenes are portrayed. Duncan’s murder takes place off stage; we only see Macbeth’s reaction to it. Macbeth becomes more ruthless, and Banquo’s murder takes place on stage, but at least his child gets away. Finally, at his most tyrannical and evil, the audience witnesses the murder of a woman and her children on the stage, preventing us from maintaining any form of sympathy with him; at this point, Macbeth is a monster.
After the killing of Banquo and his family except from Banquo’s son, Macduff unites people and makes an army to go fight Macbeth and claim the throne. The fight between Macbeth and Macduff occurs in Act 5, Scene 8. The witches said that Macbeth will be defeated only when trees move, the confrontation begins when Macduff calls to Macbeth: ‘Turn, hellhound, turn!’ Macbeth still, at least partially, believes he cannot be defeated by Macduff because, as the witches predicted, Macbeth cannot be killed by a man born of woman. I say ‘at least partially,’ because the rational side of Macbeth knows his situation is hopeless. Macbeth’s wife commits suicide in hope to help Macbeth win the battle. He feels nihilistic after his wife dies, and he feels like a baited bear, a bear chained to a tree and attacked by dogs for the enjoyment of an audience. He has also seen Birnam Wood move, this means that the soldiers used tree logs as camouflage because Macduff learnt from the witches that Macbeth will be defeated only when trees move so Macduff puts Macbeth in a bad situation thinking he won’t survive. Macbeth knows he is doomed. He begins the fight with Macduff, however, still holding on to the idea that he can’t be defeated. After all, he has just killed Young Siward with relatively little trouble. After listening to Macbeth brag of his charmed life, though, Macduff informs Macbeth that he was not born of woman. Nevertheless, Macbeth faces Macduff and fights nobly. The fight moves offstage, and the result is not known until minutes later, when Macduff enters the stage carrying Macbeth’s head. Macbeth is thus killed, and Scotland is cleansed from evil.
To conclude the essay, I believe that Macbeth’s character change is too extreme. From being a loyal subject and essentially a good man, he becomes a terrible tyrant, and in the end he is behaving like a madman. It was not logically necessary for Macbeth to turn into such a hateful tyrant just because he committed a murder to become king. Shakespeare made him a tyrant to justify the military intervention of the English monarch.
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