Macbeth's Character Flaw in William Shakespeare's Play

Macbeth's Character Flaw in William Shakespeare's Play

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Macbeth's Character Flaw in William Shakespeare's Play



Macbeth, a good man with a small character flaw, represents the epitome of good vs. evil and how the revenge of one man can be his or the downfall of another.
Shakespeare's Macbeth starts off by first establishing its basis of good vs. evil by placing the three witches who are deciding what to do with Macbeth. The witches, as well as every evil entity, represent the extreme of revenge ever since God cast them out of heaven. Their only purpose is to cause harm and unrest to humans in order to keep us out of heaven.1
Macbeth is a good man who has fought bravely and will be rewarded. The witches pick out his small character flaw and slowly tweak it until they have him doing what they want for their evil plans.
As soon as Macbeth decides to believe what the witches say and starts to listen to their prophecies, he has lost the battle of good vs. evil inside himself succumbing to the dark side. He begins to feel, with a little help from Lady Macbeth, that he is entitled to be king and should do whatever it takes to become king.
This notion is rooted in the fact that the witches first predicted Macbeth would become the Thane of Caldore; their second prediction was that Macbeth would become the king. 2

1 Denis Calandra, Cliffs Notes on Shakespears' Macbeth. (Lincoln: Cliffs Notes Inc., 1979.) 5

2 Edward Dowden, Shakespear: A Critical Study of His Mind and Art. (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1873; Reprinted By Barnes & Noble, Inc., 1965.) 32

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The only problem and main difference between the two predictions is that in the first prediction Macbeth did not have to do anything following it. For the second prediction he thought he was required to kill whoever got in his way. Maybe if he had just let things run their course, he would have become king eventually or maybe not.3
His wife also symbolizes evil. She was so corrupt and immoral that she would pull the babe suckling on her breast and crush its head if it got in the way of her accomplishing her goals. Evil had apparently won her over a long time ago.4
Although her outer appearance maintains cold and monstrous throughout the play even when she goes insane at the end, she has a good side as do all humans.

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For starters Macbeth, an honorable man to begin with, had loved her so she had to be good to him.5

3 Edward Dowden, Shakespear: A Critical Study of His Mind and Art. (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1873; Reprinted By Barnes & Noble, Inc., 1965.) 32
4 Thomas M. Raysor, ED. Coleridg'e Shakespearean Criticism. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1930.) 69
5 Denis Calandra, Cliffs Notes on Shakespears' Macbeth. (Lincoln: Cliffs Notes Inc., 1979.) 32

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Also her fear of blood she shows with her sleepwalking at the end of the play demonstrates her good nature. All of these things cause her remorse for what she has done.6
Like Macbeth's beginning, Banquo is courageous. He is regarded as Macbeth's equal. Banquo begins as an equal to Macbeth; he represents what Macbeth could have been, his better half. Macbeth knows this and knows Banquo has heard the witch's predictions. So to insure his thrown he must eliminate his good half, his best friend.7 One might think that it is not only Macbeth's drive to be king that made him kill Banquo but also his jealous revenge against Banquo. Banquo had also heard the prediction but remained good and loyal to the king. Macbeth knew what he had given up, and Banquo was a constant reminder to his previous life of happiness.8
Another point is the fact that Macbeth had Macduff's wife and children killed.9

6 Denis Calandra, Cliffs Notes on Shakespears' Macbeth. (Lincoln: Cliffs Notes Inc., 1979.) 32
7 Willard Fernham, The Medieval Heritage of Elizabethan Tragedy. (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1936.) 24
8 Peter Alexander, Shakespear, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964) 43
9 Ibid 44

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Macbeth's excuse was that Macduff was a coward and a traitor, but maybe he was just jealous of Macduff's family because he knew that he himself could never have anything like that now, not with all the evil over him. Again, it was a jealous man seeking revenge on those who had bettered him just to ease his own demons.10
In the end it is Macduff's vengeance that ultimately ends Macbeth's reign of terror. Out of the love he had for his family and the desire for justice, Macduff is the only one who is able to kill Macbeth. Many others try to strike him down, but they do not possess the drive that Macduff has and end up failing.11
Perhaps Macduff's revenge represents a twisted hand of fate where the tormentor is killed by the tormented. Or maybe it was the ultimate revenge taker, God, through Macduff, speeding Macbeth along to the place where he will pay for his evil ways for all eternity. Either way in the end good has conquered evil through revenge.12

10 Peter Alexander, Shakespear, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964) 43
11 Edward Dowden, Shakespear: A Critical Study of His Mind and Art. (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1873; Reprinted By Barnes & Noble, Inc., 1965.) 52
12 Willard Fernham, The Medieval Heritage of Elizabethan Tragedy. (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1936.) 24

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Bibliography:

Alexander, Peter, Shakespear, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964
Calandra, Denis. Cliffs Notes on Shakespears' Macbeth. Lincoln: Cliffs Notes Inc., 1979.
Dowden, Edward. Shakespear: A Critical Study of His Mind and Art. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1873; Reprinted By Barnes & Noble, Inc., 1965.
Fernham, Willard. The Medieval Heritage of Elizabethan Tragedy. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1936.
Raysor, Thomas M. ED. Coleridg'e Shakespearean Criticism. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1930.
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