Analysis of Macbeth

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Analysis of Macbeth

Macbeth is a character of powerful contradictions. He is a man who, for the sake of his ambition, is willing to murder his king and his best friend. At the same time, he has a conscience that is so strong that just the thought of his crimes torments him. In fact, even before he commits his crimes the thought of them makes him miserable.

Is Macbeth a horrible monster or is he a sensitive man- a victim of witches and his own ambitions? Or is he both? If he is both, how can the two sides of his nature exist side by side? To answer those questions, let's first look at what he does. Then we will look at how he feels about what he does. In the play, of course, the two go together.

His actions are monstrous. If Macbeth were a criminal brought to trial, the list of the charges against him would be long:

1. He murders his king, who is also a relative. The crime is treasonous and sacrilegious, since every king is set on his throne by God. Macbeth's guilt is even blacker because the King was his guest at the time of the murder. A host has responsibility to protect his guest.

2. He hires men to kill his best friend, Banquo. He wants the men to kill Banquo's young son, Fleance, too, but Fleance escapes.

3. He sends men to kill Macduff's wife and children.

4. Having taken the crown by murder, he keeps it by deception. He plants spies in all the nobles' homes and spreads lies about Malcolm, who should rightfully inherit the throne.

5. More crimes are referred to but not specified. Macbeth rules by terror, since he does not deserve- or have- anybody's loyalty. Describing Scotland under Macbeth's rule, Macduff says, "Each new morn / New widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows / Strike heaven on the face..." (Act IV, Scene iii, lines 4-6).

So Macbeth does horrible things, but that is not the whole story. Macbeth is different from some of Shakespeare's other villains like Iago (in Othello) and Richard III. The latter enjoy doing evil; they have renounced what we think of as normal ethics and morality. Macbeth's feelings are more complicated. In the beginning of the play, at least, he appears to have a conscience that tells him what he's doing is wrong.

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