Macbeth’s Characterization

An Analysis of Macbeth’s Characterization in Macbeth Tragedy

Macbeth is one of the plays written by the most famous playwright in Elizabethan era, William Shakespeare. William Shakespeare portrays self ambition, power abuse and cruelty in Macbeth (U.S: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc, 1985). Macbeth is a tragedy; Macbeth also the main character in this play. The story begins when the three witches make prophecies for Macbeth and Banquo. Macbeth’s prophecies are he becomes a Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor and he shall be a king one day while Banquo’s prophecy is his children shall be kings. In the beginning, Macbeth is known for his valor, courage, nobleness, and fidelity (Harper, 2011). Because of those prophecies, Macbeth begins to think of it and tells his wife, Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth asks him to murder Duncan, the king of Scotland at the time, if he wants to fulfill the prophecies. Macbeth, followed by his ambition too, agrees with his wife to murder Duncan. After murdering Duncan, Macbeth’s characterization is changing; he becomes a ruthless and greedy king (Froud, 2011). This essay will explore the changing of Macbeth’s characterization: from brave, loyal and honored soldier to ambitious person; from humble and kind to ruthless and greedy; and from loving and caring person to unloving and uncaring person.

At first, Macbeth is brave. It is seen from Malcolm’s comment “..Hail, brave friend” (Act I, scene 2). Harper (2011) also says that Macbeth is humble. His friendship with Banquo is supporting that characterization. Their conversation about the prophecies shows that they have already known each other and stress that Macbeth is a humble person. It can be seen from this conversation.
Macbeth: “Your children shall be kings”
Banquo : “You shall be king”,
Macbeth: “And the thane of Cawdor too: went it not so?”
(Act I, scene 3)

Moreover, Froud (2011) says that the bravery and loyalty of Macbeth can seen from King Duncan’s comment “..For brave Macbeth-well he deserves that name..” (Act I, scene 2). Froud also says that King Duncan who is at the time the king of Scotland rewards him for his bravery and loyalty by giving him a new title The Thane of Cawdor. Besides, when Macbeth tells his wife, Lady Macbeth, about his experience and the prophecies through a letter, Macbeth shows that he is also loving and caring person. In addition, in The Analysis of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (2008), when Macbeth writes to his wife by using “my dearest partner of greatness” shows that Lady Macbeth is an equal in their relationship.

Macbeth’s characterization changes when his wife advises him to murder King Duncan in order to complete the prophecies. Lady Macbeth said that “ is too full o’th’ milk of human kindness..” (Act I, scene 5). Suggesting by his wife, Macbeth also thinks about the prophecies to be a king. Firstly, he has doubt to murder Duncan but because of his ambition; he did it when King Duncan comes to their house. Furthermore, Froud (2011) says that Macbeth’s characterization is change that is become ambitious. Macbeth murdered King Duncan in order to obtain the crowd and complete the prophecies. Although in the beginning he is doubt to murder the King, he still do that because the influence and support from his wife. Harper (2011) also adds that Macbeth is self-conscious about himself being ambitious, and he also prophecies his own fall,
“Prince of Cumberland! That is a step on which I must fall down or else o’erleap, for in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires! Let not light see my black and deep desires:”
(Act I, scene 4)

It can be seen that Macbeth’s characterization is changing from a brave and loyal person to ambitious person. He is blinded by power and ambition.

“I go, and it is done; the bell invites me. Hear it not Duncan; for it is a knell that summons thee to heaven or to hell” (Act II, scene 1). It means that finally, Macbeth murdered King Duncan. After murdered the King Duncan, Macbeth replaces him becomes a king of Scotland. He is controlled by his ambition and also power. He still remembers the prophecies of Banquo; that is the children of Banquo shall be kings. Because of that he murdered Banquo and also his son. In Macbeth, a Character Analysis, (2011) explores that Macbeth wrapped up his guilt in his ambitions and murderous thought. He lost his human sense, he murder his own best friend and try to murder his best friend’s son just to complete the witches prophecies. Macbeth becomes greedy and bloodthirsty (Froud, 2011). Besides, he also murdered Macduff’s son and wife in order to block Macduff to take his throne. Harper (2011) also says that in the end, Macbeth becomes gradually used to the ruthless murdering and turns into a bloodthirsty monster. Macbeth become ruthless and power hungry. His attitudes also change to his wife, Lady Macbeth. He loses his compassion and love to his wife. In The Analysis of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (2008) says that there is a dramatic change in relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. When making plan to murder Banquo and his son, Macbeth does not share it to his wife like planned to murder King Duncan. During Act IV, there is no scene of Lady Macbeth and she is not mentioned by Macbeth too. They never meet again till Lady Macbeth got sick and hallucinated about the night they murdered King Duncan. Macbeth just said to the doctor “Cure her of that”. Besides, the tragic one is when Lady Macbeth died. Macbeth just said “She should have died hereafter: There would have been time for such a word.” (Act V, scene 5). It can conclude that there is no more love to his wife. Macbeth is changing.

To sum up, there are so many characterizations changing throughout Macbeth’s play. He goes from brave, loyal and honored person to ambitious person; humble and kind to ruthless and greedy; and loving and caring person to unloving and uncaring person. The changing of Macbeth’s characterization is influenced by the three witches, his wife and himself. Macbeth was blinded by the prophecies that are to get the throne of Scotland Kingdom. Actually, Macbeth has an error of judgment. It can be said that Macbeth may do not follow the prophecies of the three witches and suggestion of his wife. Trough this plays, it can be said too that every characteristic of human is changing. They are changing maybe because of power and status. The changing may become good or bad. It depends on the person.

Durband, Alan. 1985. Shakespeare Made Easy: Macbeth. U.S: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc

Froud, Alex. 2011. Macbeth, a Character Analysis. accessed on November 12th, 2011

Harper, Ellie. 2011. Change in Macbeth. accessed on November 12th, 2011

White, David. 2011. Good and Evil Forces. accessed on November 12th, 2011

The Analysis of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth”. 2008. accessed on October 31th, 2011


2 thoughts on “Macbeth’s Characterization

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