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
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
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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