The Degradation of Character of Shakespeare's Macbeth

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The Degradation of Character of Macbeth The tragedy, Macbeth, was written by William Shakespeare in 1606. Over the course of the play the main character, Macbeth, undergoes a continuous degradation of moral character. This change of character from good to evil significantly impacts Macbeth's attitude towards the other characters, Duncan, Banquo, Lady Macbeth, and the witches. The first of the four characters is Duncan. Since Macbeth interacts with Duncan only a minimal amount before Duncan's death, Macbeth's attitude towards him changes very rapidly. Before Macbeth hears the witches' first prophecy, he is very loyal to Duncan, and would never even consider lifting a finger against him. When the thought of murdering Duncan occurs to Macbeth immediately after learning that he has been named Thane of Cawdor, Macbeth cannot believe he might "yield to that suggestion / Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair / And make my seated heart knock at my ribs" (I.iii.133-35). In scene 5 of act 1, however, his "vaulting ambition"(I.vii.28) is starting to take over, but partly because of his wife's influence. He agrees that they must "catch the nearest way" (I.v.17), and kill Duncan that night. On the other hand, as the time for murder draws near, he begins giving himself reasons not to murder Duncan: First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, Strong both against the deed; then, as his host, Who should against his murderer shut the door, Not bear the knife myself (I.vii.13-16). When Lady Macbeth enters, she uses her cunning rhetoric and persuasion techniques to convince Macbeth that murder is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the right thing to do. He then tells her "I am settled"(I.vii.79). He is firmly seated in his beliefs that killing Duncan is the right thing to do--until he performs the murder. He is then so horrified by the act that, for a moment, he forgets where he is or whom he is with. We learn from the murder that Macbeth truly had faith in the king and was very loyal, but under the combined forces of his wife's persuasion and his own vaulting ambition, he is put in an evil frame of mind just long enough to kill Duncan. This murder permanently alters him from his moral state of mind. Soon Macbeth lacks any remorse for murdering Duncan. The second character Macbeth's attitude changes toward is Banquo.
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