Honor and Bravery in Shakespeare's Macbeth

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Macbeth:  Honor and Bravery

A struggle is present in every tragedy, as a person tries to overcome their flaws and fit the mold of their ideal.  William Shakespeare plainly defined a good man in the play, Macbeth.  Prudence and logic, temperance and patience, as well as the vindication of honor are Shakespeare's defining characteristics of a good man. Honor and bravery are Shakespeare’s defining characteristics of a good man while illogical passion and impatience are characteristics that do not characterize a good man.

As with any tragedy, Macbeth's title character and hero had to fall from his place of greatness to see his faults and begin his agonizing climb back to his previous position.  His position, that of a good man, was one that demanded respect in the beginning of Macbeth.  The Sergeant described Macbeth's honor and bravery to King Duncan in Act I, Scene 2.

For brave Macbeth well he deserves that name/ Disdaining fortune, with his brandish'd steel/Which smoked with bloody execution/Like valour's minion carved out his passage/Till he faced the slave;


Macbeth defended his king's honor as well as his own, as Shakespeare showed a good man never backed down from a foe.

In the later acts of the play, Shakespeare furthered the definition of a good man by portraying what a bad one was not.  In Macbeth's darkest hours, he showed no sign of prudence and logic as he slayed King Duncan, and hired assassins to murder his friend Banquo.  Macbeth displayed his temerity in Act IV, Scene 1 saying, from this moment “the very firstlings of my heart shall be / The firstlings of my hand. / And even now, / To crown my thoughts with acts, be it thought and done” (Act #, Scene #, Line #). Macbeth was no longer the logical, thinking man whom many admired.  He had become reckless, acting with only his passion and not his mind.  The tragedy of the murders he brought on fair Scotland was a direct result of this violation of the criterion of a good man.

The most apparent flaws, and perhaps the most tragic in Macbeth's character, is his lack of patience and temperance.  These shortcomings haunted Macbeth, causing him to let his "overvaulting ambition" rush fate, and hasten his doom.  Macbeth could not wait for an appointment to a position of more power.  Instead, he murdered the king to take his place.  Opting not to wait to see if Banquo would be loyal to him, Macbeth had his companion murdered. His impatience led Macbeth to listen to his wife, the witches, and his darker side. He again informed people what a good man was not. 

In the end, Macbeth did regain a shred of his previous distinction when he faced his adversaries like a true warrior. Macbeth's last words are those of a good man who faces his own problems.  To Macduff he shouts his last words, "Before my body I throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Macduff, And damn'd be him that first cries, `Hold, enough!" (Act #, Scene #, Line #). Like a bear, Macbeth regains his seat of honor, and becomes in his last breath, a good man.

1.      When quoting Shakespeare, give the line #’s of the quotes as well as the Act # and the Scene #.

2.      Your thesis statement does not follow your paper.  From your thesis statement I expected the first paragraph to discuss Shakes’ prudence and logic, the next paragraph to discuss temperance and patience and the vindication of honor to be discussed in the last body paragraph.  Instead you discuss honor and bravery in the first, passion and irrationality in the second and impatience in the third.  Your thesis should reflect these points.  Honor and bravery are Shakespeare’s defining characteristics of a good man while illogical passion and impatience are characteristics that do not characterize a good man.


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