Macbeth is a complicated character whose human nature means that he
possesses both good and evil traits. Macbeth's courage, conscience and
his tentative approach of moral wrongdoing are as extensive as his
evil ambition, cunning and cruelty. While his good qualities bring him
to the status he enjoys at the beginning of the play his 'vaulting
ambition' (I.vii) exemplifies his less desirable characteristics.
Macbeth cannot be discussed as either purely heroic or villainous; the
complexity of his character is illustrated by his violent inner
conflict which arises from the opposing traits he possesses and is
fuelled by his imagination.
At the beginning of the play Macbeth is introduced to the audience
through the words of other characters. The opinions expressed include
a description of Macbeth as a 'valiant cousin, worthy gentleman' by
Duncan, the king himself . In Macbeth's absence he is described as
being 'brave' having fought heroically against the rebel Macdonwald.
This is an example of Macbeth fulfilling the interpretation of a hero
as 'a person noted or admired for their courage or outstanding
achievements.' (Illustrated Oxford Dictionary, Dorling Kindersley).
Macbeth's bravery is certainly a heroic quality. We learn of his
physical prowess and bravery on the battlefield and in the same speech
the Captain directly calls him 'brave Macbeth' and personifies him as
A modern audience may be sceptical about labelling Macbeth a hero for
a killing in battle, but to a Shakespearean audience the threat of
rebellion was very real and it would indeed be a hero who pre...
... middle of paper ...
death of Macduff's family and children is Macbeth's most villainous
act because of their complete innocence.
It can be said that Macbeth is certainly more villainous than he is
heroic because of the acts of murder he undertakes. He possesses
qualities of immense guilt and the realisation of the magnitude of his
deeds, which are moral traits but are unable to redeem him. Macbeth's
inner conflict ruins him: changing him from the acclaimed 'noble' hero
he was in the beginning to the 'hell hound' and 'villain' he is
perceived as in his final days. There is indeed a hero inside Macbeth
which Shakespeare allows his audience to glimpse for example by
reference to the battle in the opening but the acts to which Macbeth
is driven by his encounter with the Witches are those of a villain and
thus Macbeth is classed as such.
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