Character Analysis of Macbeth

In the play we can easily see that Macbeth is driven by ambition and later on in the play tortured by his regrets which manifest a great deal of inner conflicts seen in his soliloquies. Macbeth is a man dominated by a strong moral sense, a man who has a profoundly sensitive conscience and who knows at each stage the moral consequences of committing murder Macbeth at the beginning of the play is mentally stable and a good man but due to certain influences (supernatural and normal) and his own flaw being his ”vaulting ambition”.
His values and his better aspects begin to dwindle under his growing desire for power. Macbeth is an example of a normal man that has done a monstrous deed and from this deed giving rise to regret and paranoia, signalling his decline which eventually led to his tragic downfall. There are many redeeming qualities of his character and Macbeth is essentially a good man but ultimately is the architect of his undoing. At the beginning of the play he is first qualities are introduce to us by the bleeding captain explaining his heroic performance and valour shown on the battle.
He is described as ”great” and ”valour’s minion” which shows that he is very willing to serve his king and country and strives to help Scotland to the best of his abilities and all these merits gained during his battles help his ambition to grow. ‘I have no spur’ he states, ‘to prick the sides of my intention, but only vaulting ambition’ this clarifies that he is very ambitious almost to the point that it might harm his own interests in the future which inevitably happens leading to his downfall.

Another good example of his unstable ambition is when the three weird sisters begin to address him with title such as ”Thane of Cawdor” and tell him that he ”shall be King hereafter” following this we very quickly see his interest in these equivocal prophecies ”stay you imperfect speakers” , this conveys that maybe he thinks he could attain these titles and from this it is evident his ambition will try to do everything in its ability to strive for this greatness and promised glory even though the witches had explained nothing else making it clear that his ambition is also blind.
His ambition is so great he acts on the words of strangers that he has never met before and becomes ‘rapt’ in a world cut off from others which is evident in his soliloquies where in each he equivocates within himself about what is good and evil which both fight for mastery over him and this ‘evil’ and his ambition seem to go hand in hand throughout the play and causes him to do things he regrets which build up and becomes ‘a dagger of the mind’ and we see throughout the play the damage being dealt to his moral being.
Another example of his blind ambition would be witnessed in Act 1 scene 7 when Lady Macbeth questions his bravery and insinuates that he is a ”coward” but Macbeth is adamant that he should prove himself a man regardless of what he is actually about to do which shows he is ambitious to impress others. Another last example of his ambition his with his goal to see the whole situation through and says ”I am in blood stepped in so far that, should I wade no more” and that ”returning were as tedious as go’er . ” This shows he is eager to see through what he had started till the end.
Macbeth’s ambition has become dehumanised and will also end himself. Aside from Macbeth’s ambition we also witness in times of his self doubt when his rational mind and conscience starts to extinguish his ambition, the bad influences from many different sources seem to slowly dissolve his better qualities and set him back on the road to moral decline and his doom. Initially the witches are the first to influence him, telling him he will be promised power and glory but never say he should act on or actually do anything at all but non-the-less kick start his decline.
Later on in the play when he reencounters the witches again they show him three apparitions one of which explain that he should ”Beware Macduff” which influence him to order the killing of Macduff and his family which clearly shows how heavily influential these weird sisters are with regards to Macbeth acting on the prophecies with such unfaltering hastiness. The next influence and I think is one of the more dominant influences in the play his Lady Macbeth.
Lady Macbeth gave herself the responsibility to influence Macbeth and act when he wouldn’t (which she never appears to do), calls upon the darkness and ”spirits that tend on mortal thoughts” to instil her with masculine features as to aid Macbeth in is goal for power. The first example of her influencing Macbeth is in Act 1 Scene 5 she explains how he should ”Look like the time” and ”bear welcome” in his eyes during the banquet that the King Duncan is to at their home and to ”look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under’t” as in an effort to deceive The king to knowing where their true intention lie.
This example of her influence is much softer in contrast to Act 1 Scene 7 which is a much harsher brand of influence. During the scene Macbeth states he ”will proceed no further” in their plans and the King ”hath honoured him of late” to which Lady Macbeth snaps at him saying ”was the hope drunk wherein you dressed yourself” implying he was only brave whilst inebriated and also asks him if he would rather live like ”a coward” then to carry on with the plans he first begun.
This is a blow to Macbeth’s manhood with regards to him being a coward and says he would do anything that will prove his masculinity. These attacks on her husband manhood is the device she uses to influence him because she knows that Macbeth and most warriors of his time put most of their effort into being the greater man and such insults drive Macbeth to act without question especially when he feels his manhood is in question.
Another factor in the play that influences Macbeths which manifested from his monstrous deed is his paranoia. The first signs of this paranoia is evident in act when he states ”to be thus is nothing but to be safely thus”. This shows that he feels unsafe and that unless you are safe you are nothing and now he is influenced to destroy anything which might jeopardize his safety and the first obstacle being Banquo.
Reasons such as ”his royalty of nature reigns that which would be feared” and Macbeth states his mind is full of scorpions and his life is filled with ‘terrible dreams/That shake us nightly’, following these thoughts he quickly and subtly organises the killing of Banquo by means of hiring assassins. This action is a major step in Macbeth’s moral fibre due to the reason that Banquo was originally his most trusted friend and ally and the evidence he is beginning to use murder as a tool to solve most of his issues and concludes with himself that it is the only solution to his problems.
There are also signs of the influence of jealousy with regards to when Banquo was told during the first encounter with the witches that he would ”have kings but be none” and Macbeth realises that upon his head he now has ”a fruitless crown” and ”a barren sceptre” in his grip which angers him by the knowledge that his sons (if he ever has any) will never be air to the throne, this being another reason to murder Banquo.
With regards to the influencing factors we see that at the beginning of the play Macbeth is mainly intervened by external forces influence but as the play proceeds slowly he withdraws from his wife and friends due to again his paranoia and becomes more fuelled by his emotions, the predominant emotions being fear and jealousy. Macbeths regret in the play with regards to the murder and following murders is one of the more important issues to mention, regret being the catalyst in which his characters morality and mental stability are remoulded by traumatic experience and long term symptoms of his guilt.
The first obvious example of his regret is scene when he attempts to opt out of the plans of murder and conveys that he feels guilty for any of these nefarious plans even crossing his mind but at this moment in the play he is not tortured by his guilt or regret obviously until he actually commits the crime but until then and right up until he is about to murder the king he is more greatly affected by anxiousness to the extent that he hallucinates.
After the murder has been committed he is very obviously traumatised and is paralyzed, unable to move due to his mind being completely occupied with what has happened. The damage dealt is clear when he says that he heard a voice cry ”Macbeth hath murdered the innocent sleep” which shows the beginning of his restless nights which is the first harsh blow to his mental health.
Also in this scene Macbeth talks about the blood on his hands as if it is a metaphor for the guilt and in contrast to Lady Macbeth saying ”a little water clears us of this deed” make replies that not even all the waters of ”Neptune’s oceans” could not wash away this blood or guilt from his hands. We can see his guilt and regret build up and burst out as witnessed in the banquet scene where Banquo’s ghost appears only to him and a mental breakdown takes place with moments of Macbeth almost unconsciously confesses the details of his to murders in the presence of lords to which the pressurised Lady Macbeth desperately tries to disguise.
This ghost Macbeth is seeing in my opinion is not real but a complete manifestation of his guilt and regret and his better side subconsciously is trying to give himself up an attempt to save his ‘damned’ soul, with regards to the quote where he states he would ”jump the life to come ” meaning he is aware he will be punished in the afterlife.
In Act 5 scene 3 we see that regret and guilt has affected to the extent that he nearly loses the will to live and feels that live is void of meaning ”I have lived long enough: my way of life is fall’n into the sere, the yellow leaf” he also realises that his poor decisions have bereaved him of things that would have originally accompanied his old age such as ”honour, love, obedience” and ”troops of friends” none of which he shall have to look forward to in his future.
This indicates he is very regretful of almost everything he has done right back to the killing of Duncan. Throughout the course of the play Shakespeare weaves into the storyline small respites in which Macbeth’s slowly declining character shows moments that magnifies what is left of the qualities that redeem slightly in the audiences perspective and shows them he has not completely transformed in this remorseless ”tyrant” but is still just a man that has performed a monstrous act.
The first example of these redeeming qualities is in Act 1 scene 7 where he says he ”will proceed no further in this business” and acknowledges that king Duncan ”hath honoured” him recently for his bravery in almost single-handedly ending the battle in the opening scenes of the play. At this point we see he has a good moral sense and instilled with the highly valued qualities such as respect and honour but Lady Macbeth succeeds in convincing him otherwise diminishing and muting these values in him.
Throughout the play, we constantly see that Macbeth has a conscience towards his actions and does always have a general sense of right and wrong. . Conscience is exhibited after he kills Duncan but can’t stand to look at the body. ”I am afraid to think what I have done; look on’t again I dare not”. This lets us see that after Macbeth killed Duncan his conscience will not let him look at what he has done. He also realized what he had done could not be changed and it will affect him for the rest of his natural life.
Macbeth understands that he is marked for life and this realization in itself one of his redeeming qualities. Another minor example of a redeeming quality is that Macbeth ”is too full o’th’milk of human kindness” and that he is”art not without ambition” but has the absence of ”the illness” being ruthlessness. Back to the issue addressing his conscience with regards to it being a redeeming quality that is fighting a losing battle against the rest of the conflict within him. We witness many times his conscience trying to override his normal behaviour.
Macbeth’s conscience creates the ghost of Banquo in an attempt to make him subconsciously confess to the murders which make us realise he is very sorry for what he has done which redeems him slightly through sympathy. One last sign of redeeming qualities is neat the end of the play where he stares in the face of death. He contemplates suicide by falling on his own sword as ”Romans” used to do but even though he knows he has no one on his side he will fight to the end and die an honourable death showing his original bravery which he once used to fight for his country which reminds us that he was once a great hero.
To conclude Macbeth is a tragic hero. A man with an ambitious but a victim of temptation and the pseudo prophecies of his rise to power which seemed so close at the time was actual the beginning of Macbeth’s change from hero to tyrant. He was used as a vessel for chaos by the witches to plant their ideas of power into a fertile mind which was nurtured by his blind ambition which grew into an unstable mind tormented by regret and guilt.

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