Macbeth Character changes

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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.

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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


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.

Short Summary

Act 1 The play takes place in Scotland. Duncan, the king of Scotland, is at war with the king of Norway, and as the play opens, he learns of Macbeths bravery in battle against a Scot who sided with Norway. At the same time, he hears of the treachery of the Thane of Cawdor, who was arrested. Duncan decides to give the title of Thane of Cawdor to Macbeth.

Macbeth and Banquo, traveling home from the battle, meet three witches, who predict that Macbeth will be Thane of Cawdor and king of Scotland, and that Banquo will be the father of kings. The witches disappear, and Macbeth and Banquo meet up with two nobles who inform them of Macbeths new title. Hearing this, Macbeth begins to contemplate murdering Duncan in order to realize the witches second prophecy.

Macbeth and Banquo meet up with Duncan, who tells them he is going to pay Macbeth a visit at his home at Inverness. Macbeth rides ahead to prepare his household. Meanwhile, Lady Macbeth receives a letter from Macbeth informing her of the witches prophesy and Macbeths subsequent new title. A servant appears and tells her of Duncans approach. Energized, she invokes supernatural powers to strip her of her feminine softness and prepare her to murder Duncan. When Macbeth arrives at Inverness, Lady Macbeth tells him that she will take care of all the details of Duncans murder.

Duncan arrives at Inverness, and Lady Macbeth greets him. Macbeth fails to appear, and Lady Macbeth goes to find him. He is in his room, contemplating the weighty and evil step of killing Duncan. Lady Macbeth taunts him, telling him he will only be a man when he kills Duncan, and that she herself has less softness in her character than he does. She then tells him her plan for the murder, and Macbeth accepts it they will kill him while his drunken bodyguards sleep, then plant incriminating evidence on the bodyguards.

Act Macbeth has a vision of a bloody dagger floating before him and leading him to Duncans room. When he hears Lady Macbeth ring the bell to signal the completion of her preparations, Macbeth follows through with his part of the plan and leaves for Duncans room.

Lady Macbeth waits for Macbeth to finish killing Duncan. Macbeth enters, still carrying the bloody daggers. Lady Macbeth again chastises him for his weak-mindedness and plants them on the bodyguards herself. As she does so, Macbeth imagines that he hears a voice saying Macbeth will sleep no more. Lady Macbeth returns and assures Macbeth that a little water clears us of this deed.

At the gate the porter pretends that he is guarding the door to hell. The thanes knock at the gate, and Macduff discovers Duncans body when he goes in to wake him up. Macbeth kills the two bodyguards, supposedly in a fit of grief and rage, when they are discovered with the bloody daggers. Duncans sons Malcolm and Donalbain, fearing that their lives are in danger, flee to England and Ireland; their flight brings them under suspicion of conspiring in Duncans death, and Macbeth is crowned king of Scotland.

Act Macbeth hires two murderers to kill Banquo and his son Fleance in an attempt to thwart the witches prophesy that Banquo will father kings. Lady Macbeth does not know of his plans, and he will not tell her. A third murderer joins the other two on the heath, and the three men kill Banquo. Fleance, however, escapes.

Macbeth throws a feast on the same night that Banquo is murdered, and Banquos ghost appears to him, sending him into a frenzy of terror. Lady Macbeth attempts to cover up for his odd behavior, but the party ends up dissolving as the thanes begin to question Macbeths sanity. Macbeth decides that he must revisit the witches to hear more of the future.

Meanwhile, Macbeths thanes begin to turn from him, and Macduff meets Malcolm in England to prepare an army to march on Scotland.

Act 4 The witches show Macbeth three apparitions that tell Macbeth to fear no man born of woman, and warn him that he will only fall when Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane castle. Macbeth takes this as a prophecy that he is infallible. When he asks the witches if their prophesy about Banquo will come true, they show him a procession of eight kings, all of whom look like Banquo, the last holding a mirror to signify the reign of James I, the Stuart king for whom Shakespeare wrote this play.

Malcolm tests Macduffs loyalty by confessing to multiple sins and ambitions. When Macduff proves loyal to him, the two plan the strategy they will use in attacking Macbeth. Meanwhile, Macbeth murders Macduffs wife, whom he has deserted, along with all his children.

Act 5 Lady Macbeth sleepwalks and reveals her guilt to a watching doctor as she dreams that she cannot wash the stain of blood from her hands. Macbeth is too preoccupied with battle preparations to pay much attention to her dreams, and is angry when the doctor says he cannot cure her. As the castle is attacked, Lady Macbeth dies (perhaps by her own hand). When Macbeth hears of her death, he comments that she should have died at a different time, and muses on the meaninglessness of life. However, he reassures himself by remembering the witches predictions that he will only fall when two seemingly impossible things occur.

Meanwhile, the English army has reached Birnam Wood, and in order to disguise their numbers, Malcolm instructs each man to cut a branch from a tree and hold it in front of him as they march on Dunsinane. Witnessing this, Macbeths servant reports that he has seen something impossible Birnam Wood seems to be moving toward the castle. Macbeth is shaken but goes out to fight nonetheless. During the battle outside the castle walls, Macbeth kills Young Siward, the English generals brave son. Macduff then challenges Macbeth. As they fight, Macduff reveals that he was not born of woman but was untimely ripped from his mothers womb. Macbeth is stunned but refuses to yield to Macduff. Macduff kills him and cuts off his head. Malcolm is proclaimed the new king of Scotland.

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