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Essay/Term paper: Macbeth-character changes

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Macbeth

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"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


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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