From the beginning of the play, Macbeth undergoes a complete change in character--from a virtuous nobleman into a monster. He has a tragic weakness--ambition--which, when released, draws him into a web of evil and corruption that finally leaves him with none of the noble human qualities he possessed at the beginning of the play.
Before being transformed into a murderous monster, Macbeth is a model Scottish noble. He shows great loyalty and devotion to both King Duncan and his country in his fight against the Scottish rebels. He also fights with great courage, which he draws from knowing that he serves a good and virtuous cause. He is modest when confronted with his achievements, in contrast to the arrogance that he displays after becoming king. He loves Lady Macbeth, an emotion he will eventually lose by the end of the play. Most of all, he fears what his greed and ambition can lead him to become, and he feels dubious about acting on them.
Macbeth takes his first step toward becoming evil when he is confronted with the knowledge that he will be king. When the witches tell him "All hail, Macbeth! that shalt be king thereafter!" he makes the mistake of letting his ambition overrule his judgment. If his judgment had remained intact in the face of the witches' powerful prophecy, he certainly would have decided not to let his actions be dictated by a prophecy given to him by three strange witches who evade most of the questions he asks. With great trepidation and considerable pressure from Lady Macbeth, he commits his second mistake by proceeding to murder King Duncan. Driven by a persecution complex that starts with the knowledge that Banquo is meant to be the f...
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...vil, until it becomes too late to save his humanity.
Works Cited and Consulted:
Campbell, Lily B. "Macbeth : A Study in Fear." Readings on Macbeth. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1999. 126-35.
Gates, David. "Shakespeare: Dead White Male of the Year." Newsweek 30 Dec. 1996: 82+.
Kinney, Arthur F. ed. William Shakpespeare: the Tragedies. Boston: Hall and Company, 1985.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Macbeth. Elements of Literature. Sixth ed. Austin: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1997.
Wadsworth, Frank W. "Shakespeare, William." World Book Online American Edition. Online Edition. Online. Netzero. 26 Mar 2002.
"William Shakespeare." BBC Homepage. Online. Available <http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/culture/shakespeare.shtml>. 26 Mar. 2002.
Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1999. 30-37.
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