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Macbeth: From Hero To Villain

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Throughout Macbeth by William Shakespeare we see the transformation of the main character, Macbeth, from hero to villain. Translated, this basically means that Macbeth changes from a brave warrior to a serial killer!

The story of Macbeth takes place in Scotland in the 11th century. Shakespeare has written a tragedy about how a Scottish nobleman (Macbeth) who plots the death of the King in order to become King himself. Due to the tragedy aspect, things do not really go according to plan!

The first time we see Macbeth in the play, he is returning from the battlefield after a victory alongside the Norwegians against a rebel army. “For brave Macbeth” (I, 2, 16) is used by an army Sergeant to describe his actions in the battle. Such phrases as “worthy gentleman” (I, 2, 24) are used by the King. This shows that Macbeth really was a hero, as such a compliment from the King was considered a great honour.

The first murder Macbeth commits, is that of King Duncan. This murder, was ‘inspired’ by the witches. The witches first meet Macbeth while he and Banquo are riding by. The witches greeted him as, the thane of Glamis “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Glamis” (I, 3, 48), and then as the thane of Cawdor “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Cawdor” (I, 3, 49). At this point in the play Macbeth had just become thane of Glamis, and the thane of Cawdor is still alive and well. Next, the witches greeted

Macbeth as the King of Scotland: “All hail, Macbeth! That shalt be King hereafter” (I, 3, 50).

Shortly after the departure of the witches, Macbeth found out that he is the thane of Cawdor, as well as Glamis. If the three witches’ prediction about Macbeth becoming thane of Cawdor had been correct, did that mean that someday he would also become King? I believe that this is the point in the play where Macbeth starts to think as a villain. If the witches had never greeted him as King on Scotland, then he would probably never have contemplated killing Duncan in the first place.

When Lady Macbeth found out about the predictions, she pressurised her husband into killing Duncan. Anytime Macbeth had second thoughts, Lady Macbeth was there to spur him on – mostly by criticising him and calling him a coward! This could be another reason for Macbeth’s change of character; his wife constantly used ‘reverse psychology’ on him and even considered committing the murde...

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...robably one the most important murders in the play, despite this, it is a very short scene and Shakespeare spent very little time building up to the killing of Macbeth. This is the same when Lady Macbeth kills herself, the reader does not actually find out about it until Seyton tells Macbeth “The queen, my lord, is dead” (V, 5, 16). However, this ‘lack of detail’ was very effective in showing the reader Macbeth’s reaction to his wife’s death.

There is no doubt in my mind that Macbeth was a villain, but at which point did he truly earn this title? He was considered a hero after fighting bravely in a battle – killing more innocent people. Surely this should make him a villain and not a hero? Back in the 11th century it was quite acceptable to kill people in battles, and still be looked upon as a hero. If Macbeth had been set in modern times, he would have been a villain all long. Due to the fact that it was set hundreds of years ago, he was a considered a hero at the start of the play and only looked upon as a villain when he started to kill people for a reason. In conclusion, I believe that he was a villain all along, but it only became clear towards the end when he was found out.
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