Macbeth

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In Shakespeare's tragedy, Macbeth, the characters and the roles they play are critical to its plot and theme, and therefore many of Shakespeare's characters are well developed and complex. Two of these characters are the protagonist, Macbeth, and his wife, Lady Macbeth. They play interesting roles in the tragedy, and over the course of the play, their relationship changes and their roles are essentially switched. At the beginning of the play, they treat each other as equals. They have great concern for each other, as illustrated when Macbeth races to tell Lady Macbeth the news about the witches and she immediately begins plotting how to gain for her husband his desire to be king. At this point, Lady Macbeth is the resolute, strong woman, while Macbeth is portrayed as her indecisive, cowardly husband. He does have ambition, but at this point, his conscience is stronger than that ambition. Lady Macbeth explains this characteristic of her husband in Act I, Scene v, when she says, "Yet do I fear thy nature; it is too full o' th' milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way." The next stage of change developing in the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth is in Act II. This is the act in which Macbeth kills King Duncan. Macbeth's character change is apparent because it is obvious that he has given in to his ambition and has murdered the king. He is not entirely changed, though, because he is almost delirious after he has committed the crime. He exclaims, "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No; this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red." He believes that instead of the ocean cleaning his hands, his hands would turn the ocean red. Macbeth's role has changed somewhat but not entirely, since he has committed the crime but his conscience is still apparent after the murder. Lady Macbeth's role similarly changes somewhat in Act II. The reader sees a crack in her strong character when she tells Macbeth in Scene ii of Act II that she would have murdered Duncan herself if he had not resembled her father as he slept. Her boldness is still evident, though, when she calms Macbeth after the murder and believes "a little water clears us of this deed." Unlike the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, their relationship remains unchanged from Act I to II.

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