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Reports & Essays: Literature - Shakespeare

"AND""OR"

MacBeth - Character Changes
"This dead butcher and his fiend like queen", is the way in which Malcolm describes Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Describe the way in which these two characters changed during the course of the play. At the beginning of the play Macbeth is seen as a courageous soldier who is loyal to the King but is corrupted from the witches prophecies and by his and Lady Macbeth's ambition. This is because of the weakness of Macbeth's character and the strong power of Lady Macbeth and how she is easily able to influence him. Her strength motivates him at the start but after he realises what he has done it is himself that continues in his murderous, bloody path. At the beginning of the play Lady Macbeth appears as a kind wife of Macbeth's but underneath lies a scheming and treacherous woman. In the beginning of the play Macbeth is a strong soldier who fights for the King without mercy but his strive for ambition and his curious nature leads him to the witches who give him a prophecy. Banquo realises that there must be a trick hidden in the witches prophecies somewhere but Macbeth refuses to accept that, and when Lady Macbeth finds out about the witches her strong desire for ambition and her cold nature leads Macbeth astray. Macbeth is a little ambitious at first, but Lady Macbeth's far exceeds his and so she is able to get Macbeth to agree with her to kill King Duncan. Macbeth still has a conscience at this stage because he is very hesitant about killing the King but his weak nature over comes him. He has a conscience throughout the entire play as this is seen by the hallucinations of the dagger and the ghost of Banquo and his vivid imagination and his constant worry also provokes him. This is also evident in his terrible dreams which gives the solid theme that he has indeed "murdered sleep". Throughout the play we see the character of Macbeth change not from just the way he thinks and what we hear from the play, but from the actions he takes in the play, from killing Banquo, then having Lady Macduff and her children murdered, shows the insecurity that was present in Macbeth. After the murder of Duncan Macbeth becomes paranoid and his first step of killing the guards is one of many that Macbeth takes to secure himself. Macbeth is also very superstitious and this is shown when he believes the prophecy the witches told him that Banquo's offspring would become Kings. Towards the end of the play when Macbeth's wife has died and the battle is drawing closer Macbeth shows some good which may have been. He wishes for a normal life for which he would have lived to an honourable age but he recognises that he has denied himself of this. Even when Macbeth hears that the prophecy has become true of Birnam Wood coming to Dunsinane, he rejects this idea and fights on until he realises that Macduff wasn't born in a natural birth but instead was "Untimely ripped" from his mother's womb. When Macbeth hears of this he realises what he has done and how he has been tricked by the witches but instead he realises that it is useless and so he fights on only to be slain. Macbeth can be summarised into a character although strong physically he is very weak mentally and it is this weakness which causes the downfall and change of Macbeth. Other factors do however also contribute to this change such as his wife whose ambition is very strong at first and is much more stronger mentally than Macbeth but it is also Macbeth's ambition and his trust in the witches which ultimately change him. Lady Macbeth seems to be almost opposite compared to that of Macbeth in physical and mental power. Lady Macbeth is the person who is able to persuade Macbeth into killing Duncan, assuring Macbeth that it will succeed, as Lady Macbeth's ambition is far greater than that of Macbeth. This change in the character of Lady Macbeth is apparent after she reads the letter from Macbeth as she goes and talks to the evil spirits to make herself evil with lines such as "Fill me from the crown to the toe-top full of direst cruelty! Make thick my blood". She goes to the extent of planning the murder of Duncan and assumes full responsibility of this. She exerts a lot of power over Macbeth in this part of the play and even calls him a "coward" and this shows just how determined she is and how much ambition she has for her husband. It is this confidence in herself plus the persuasiveness on her words that makes Macbeth act on her words without hesitating. After performing the necessary acts in preparation for the murder of Duncan she thinks of performing the act herself but shows a sign of humanity and doesn't because it resembles "My father as he slept". After the muder has been done Lady Macbeth shows just how strong a person she really is by using kind words and confidence to clam Macbeth down and prevent him going insane. Lady Macbeth however jokes with Macbeth about forgetting the incident as "These deeds must not be thought after these ways: so, it will make us mad". Afterwards she gets the daggers that Macbeth had brought with him and smeared them with blood and then told Macbeth to change into a nightgown. At this point Lady Macbeth is in complete control and has tried to make Macbeth free of guilt even though he in fact did perform the deed. Lady Macbeth is then able to exclaim in horror "What! In our House!" to the murder of Duncan but whilst in complete control, to draw away the suspicion from Macbeth. When however she finds out that Macbeth has killed the guards she faints "Help me Hence" but is this a another sign of an act to again draw away the suspicion from Macbeth or did she faint from shocked dismay. I believe she was shocked because I think that Lady Macbeth was surprised that she was able to get Macbeth to commit the murder of Duncan, but was shocked at how over one night and in fear, Macbeth could kill two more men in cold blood. Lady Macbeth is still strongly in control as the play proceeds and is able to handle crises very well which is shown at the banquet incident where Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo, but Lady Macbeth is quick to lie for Macbeth to conceal the real ideas that are happening. As Macbeth progresses with his evil acts, however, Lady Macbeth starts to go mad which is almost like what her prophecy mentioned. She also hallucinates like her husband but this time about trying to cleanse her hands of the blood that will not wash off. Even though she may be a strong character greatly supporting her husband she is reduced and battered by the deeds and her conscience which she was able to rid from Macbeth, eventually drives her insane. She then kills herself unable to remove the "damned spot". At his wife's suicide Macbeth has already thrown away his conscience, so much so, that Macbeth commits even more evil acts afterwards without even admitting her to his conscience. Over the course of the play Macbeth and Lady Macbeth greatly change with respect to their characters and their personalities. Although Macbeth was weak at first it was the strong Lady Macbeth who helped him through the first murder but in sacrifice to controlling Macbeth and his conscience she lost control of hers and in consequence turned insane and killed herself. Thus in the end it was worthy to call Macbeth and his wife "a dead butcher and his fiend like queen" but it must not be forgotten that at the beginning of the play Macbeth and his wife were ordinary nobles at the time.

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