Macbeth: The True Nature of Man


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In the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare, the author tries to show the true nature of man by using the play’s main character, Macbeth, as an example. He is overly ambitious, courageous, and self-doubting. Throughout the play, Shakespeare displays these characteristics to the audience through Macbeth to show the true nature of man. At the end of the play, these characteristics ultimately lead to Macbeth’s downfall.

In the beginning of the play, Macbeth is described as being “valiant”. He is a skilled warrior, who is loyal to his king and his country. Almost single-handedly, he wins the war for Scotland. He defeats many of the enemy soldiers, including a traitor, all in the name of his king. But, when three witches encounter Macbeth and his friend Banquo, Macbeth’s ambition begins to grow. They tell Macbeth that he will be Thane of Cawdor and King. Soon after, Macbeth meets with King Duncan. He informs Macbeth that he is the new Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth is astonished, and from then on he is obsessed with being king. His ambition begins to become ruthless when Duncan proclaims that his son Malcolm is the Prince of Cumberland, and therefore, the heir to the throne: “The 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:/The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be/Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see.” (I,iv,48-53) At this moment, Macbeth, realizing that they stand in the way of the witches’ prophecies, decides that both Duncan and Malcolm need to die for him to be king. As soon as Macbeth kills Duncan, he enters into a world of evil. Later in the play, Macbeth’s ambition becomes increasingly ruthless. He kills his best friend Banquo, and almost kills Banquo’s son, Fleance, because he believes they would stand in the way of his reign. The witches told Banquo “Thou shall get kings, though thou be none.” (I,iii,67) This means that Banquo himself would not be a king, but that his successors would be. Macbeth tries to prevent this by killing Banquo and his son Fleance.

Even though Macbeth can be called a tyrant and a murderer, he is nonetheless, very courageous. In the beginning of the play, he fights very bravely for his king and country.

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At the end, he fights valiantly, even though he knows he is going to die. He realizes he is going to die when he learns the truth about Macduff’s birth. One of the prophecies given to Macbeth gave him a sense of security: “Be bloody, bold, and resolute! Laugh to scorn/The pow’r of man, for none of women born/Shall harm Macbeth.” (IV,i,79-81) Macbeth knows he is going to die when Macduff tells him “Macduff was from his mother’s womb/Untimely ripped.” (V,viii,15-16) Still, Macbeth continues fighting valiantly to the end. He wants to die fighting, with honor. Right before he dies, Macbeth says “I will not yield,/To kiss the ground before young Malcolm’s feet,/And to be baited with the rabble’s curse./Though Birnam Wood be come to Dunsinane,/And thou opposed, being of no woman born,/Yet I will try the last. Before my body/I throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Macduff;/And damned be him that first cries ‘Hold, enough!’” (V,viii,27-34) This scene in the play brings everything full-circle. In the beginning Macbeth fights bravely, with honor, winning on the battlefield and in the end he is again fighting bravely and with honor, this time dying in combat.

Macbeth seems to be very secure up on his high pedestal. But it is only an illusion of security. This is why he tries to kill off anybody who he believes will endanger his reign. This is why he has his best friend killed, but is so worried when his friend’s son, Fleance gets away. It is also why he trusts the three witches so much. Macbeth’s insecurity leads him to commit many horrible acts. He is never totally secure in his throne, because of how he attained it; he knows that evil begets evil or, what goes around comes around. He becomes king through evil deeds; therefore, he is always nervous about losing his position. Even in the beginning when he has to kill Duncan, he isn’t too sure about doing it. He is very worried about it and almost doesn’t go through with it. If it weren’t for Lady Macbeth, Macbeth wouldn’t have done it. After he kills Duncan, Macbeth’s conscience immediately begins to get to him. He begins to hear voices in his head saying, “Sleep no more,/Macbeth does murder sleep" (II,ii,34–35).

In conclusion, in his play Macbeth, William Shakespeare uses the main character, Macbeth, to show the true nature of man. By showing Macbeth’s personality and characteristics, the author shows how man really is: overly ambitious, courageous, and self-doubting. In the play these characteristics ultimately lead to Macbeth’s downfall.


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