evilmac Protagonist Becoming Evil in Shakespeare's Macbeth

evilmac Protagonist Becoming Evil in Shakespeare's Macbeth

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Macbeth: Protagonist Becoming Evil


The story Macbeth is like no other in plot and poetry. It sets itself apart

from the rest by having a protagonist becoming evil. What makes Macbeth such a

complicated character is the way his outlook keeps on changing throughout the

play. This essay will prove that Macbeth is an evil man and was not overpowered

by ambition to get what he wanted. This essay will also determine that certain

characters like the witches did not force him to do evil; they simply triggered



In the beginning of the play, Macbeth is shown as a hero in the Scottish army,

that  is ironic because Macbeth has defeated a traitor and he will become one.

We feel that a person of his loyalty could never commit evil unless he had a

good reason or if he would be provoked.  After Macbeth's first meeting with the

witches, we learn from his aside that he has thought about killing Duncan " My

thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical" 1(Macbeth 1.3.152).  Macbeth also

says " If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me Without my stir."

2(Macbeth 1.4.157-159) which means that maybe he does not have to murder the

king to gain that title.  Luck has been very generous to him and might continue

and make him king.


Macbeth's true evil thoughts about being king are first shown when he finds out

that king Duncan has named his son Malcolm as Prince of Cumberland.  He now

shows his evil and  his true feelings.


               " Stars, hide your fires; Let not night see my black and

                 deep desires.  The  eye wink at the hand; yet let that

                 be Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see." 3

                 (Macbeth 1.4.57-60)


Macbeth is actually seeking help from the dark and supernatural.  Macbeth is

saying that he does not want to see the evil that he will commit until it is

done.  It is now known that Macbeth is capable of evil and would commit it.


Upon meeting Lady Macbeth, we can assume that any evil done by Macbeth would be

contributed by her influence.  Lady Macbeth is a very powerful women and she has

a-lot of power over Macbeth's decisions. After Lady Macbeth reads the letter

from Macbeth, she says that he is in fact too noble to kill Duncan in cold blood

but he would like to.


               " It is too full o'th'milk of human kindness To catch

                  the nearest way.  Thou wouldst be great, Art not

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                without ambition, but without The illness should

                  attend it. What thou wouldst highly, That wouldst

                 thou holily; wouldst not play false And yet wouldst

                 wrongly win." 4(Macbeth 1.5.17-23)


Lady Macbeth also talks about Macbeth's ambition and how he is not the kind of

person to let anything stand in his way if he wants it enough.  Knowing there is

evil in him, once he starts with the murder he will not let anything else stand

in his way.


Macbeth's guilt is recognized after the  killing of the king; in fact he is

filled with so much of it  that he is unable to pronounce the word AMEN.

Macbeth shows once again his guilt when he says "Will all great Neptune's ocean

wash this blood Clean from my hands?" 5(Macbeth 2.2.78-79).  At this point, we

can assume that Macbeth is in fact not an evil man instead one who was overcome

with the idea of great achievement (his becoming king of Scotland).  His

attitude is shown to have been changed as he tries to put the blame of the

murder on Duncan's children.  "We hear our bloody cousins are bestowed In

England and in Ireland." 6(Macbeth 3.1.33-34)  This shows the reader that

Macbeth is trying to cover up his cruel actions by laying the blame on someone

else.  Macbeth is trying to hide the evil that he has committed.


Macbeth's evil is now progressing. The assumption that Macbeth's wife was the

reason for the evil deed that was committed can now be no longer since he is now

planning things without her knowledge. Leary put it best when he said "Macbeth

makes the desicions to murder of his own free will, sins and falls from grace"

7(Leary,200).  He doesn't want anyone to take his hard earned title away from

him and is willing to kill everyone who he considers a threat.  Evil is

overpowering him as he decides to kill Banquo and his son Fleance.  The witches

predicted Banquo's children to be kings but not him.  Clearly Banquo was no

threat to the title of Macbeth yet Macbeth had him killed anyway. Macbeth no

longer thought of the loyalty he owed Banquo as he had done in Duncan's case.


The banquet scene is very important and symbolic.  Shakespeare shows that

Macbeth is so evil that he is in some way not human anymore.  "The table's

full." 8(Macbeth 3.4. 54) said Macbeth. The place where he was suppose to sit

was taken by the ghost of the now dead Banquo.  Macbeth now doesn't have a place

among the others.  He became enraged as he knew that that was true but later

accepted it by going to meet with his own evil kind, the witches.


The witches do play an important part in Macbeth's evil actions and his downfall

but can't be held responsible for it.  The witches told him more or less exactly

who were a threat to him.  If it were not for them Macbeth would have had to

continue on guessing and might have killed many people who pose no threat to him.



Until now, everybody that died was a threat to Macbeth in some way or another.

To a certain degree, Macbeth is considered only an evil man to who he thinks

stand in his way of greatness and happiness.  All that changes when he has

Macduff's castle attacked by a band of murderers.  The murderers killed many

people who have nothing to do with Macbeth's continuing reign over Scotland.

Macbeth's evil is now at its peak. Nobody can blame Lady Macbeth for his actions

now.  She doesn't even know what he is doing at this point.  The witches

prophecies told him that Macduff poses a challenge for him.  Still they never

mentioned his family or even anybody else.  That didn't stop Macbeth from

killing anybody and everybody at the castle.


Macbeth is in fact an evil man. Maybe at one point he could have been admired as

a soldier, a brave man who would fight willingly for his country. He had the

titles of Thane of Glamis and Thane of Cawdor but that wasn't enough for him. At

the beginning of the play he would contemplate evil actions and then he would

feel the guilt for these actions.  The play concluded with him killing at the

chance that someone was against him without giving it a second thought.  To the

very end, Macbeth proved to be a traitor and felt no longer any remorse for his

actions. The play concluded with a satisfactory ending and Macbeth wasn't known

for his great achievements and his aid to Scotland but as "this dead butcher"

9(Macbeth 5.8.82.)  Scotland had seen it's worst king and awaits its new fate.

Harold Bloom put it best when he said that " we welcome the daylight as if we

were awakening from a nightmare." 10(Bloom,131)






1. William Shakespeare, Macbeth, The Folger Shakespeare Library, New York, 1992.


2. ibid


3. ibid


4. ibid


5. ibid


6. ibid


7. Daniel Leary, Macbeth, in the original and modern english, The perfection

form company, New York, 1987.


8. William Shakespeare, Macbeth, The Folger Shakespeare Library, New York, 1992.


9. ibid


10. Harold Bloom, Major Literary Characters, Macbeth, : Oxford University Press,

Toronto, 1939.






Shakespeare, William, Macbeth, New York: The Folger Shakespeare Library, 1992.


Ribner, Irving, Patearns in Shakespearean Tragedy, London: Meutheun, 1960.


Bloom, Harold, Major Literary Characters, Macbeth, Toronto: Oxford University

Press, 1939.


Leary, Daniel, Macbeth , in the original and modren english, New York: The

perfection form company, 1987.


Harbage, Alfred, A Reader Guide to William Shakespeare, New York: The Noonday

Press, 1963.

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