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Analysis Of Major Characters In William Shakespeare's Macbeth

1280 words - 5 pages

Analysis of Major Characters in William Shakespeare's Macbeth

Macbeth
=======

Because we first hear of Macbeth in the wounded captain's account of
his battlefield valor, our initial impression is of a brave and
capable warrior. This perspective is complicated, however, once we see
Macbeth interact with the three witches. We realize that his physical
courage is joined by a consuming ambition and a tendency to
self-doubt-the prediction that he will be king brings him joy, but it
also creates inner turmoil. These three attributes-bravery, ambition,
and self-doubt-struggle for mastery of Macbeth throughout the play.
Shakespeare uses Macbeth to show the terrible effects that ambition
and guilt can have on a man who lacks strength of character. We may
classify Macbeth as irrevocably evil, but his weak character separates
him from Shakespeare's great villains-Iago in Othello, Richard III in
Richard III, Edmund in King Lear-who are all strong enough to conquer
guilt and self-doubt. Macbeth, great warrior though he is, is ill
equipped for the psychic consequences of crime.

Before he kills Duncan, Macbeth is plagued by worry and almost aborts
the crime. It takes Lady Macbeth's steely sense of purpose to push him
into the deed. After the murder, however, her powerful personality
begins to disintegrate, leaving Macbeth increasingly alone. He
fluctuates between fits of fevered action, in which he plots a series
of murders to secure his throne, and moments of terrible guilt (as
when Banquo's ghost appears) and absolute pessimism (after his wife's
death, when he seems to succumb to despair). These fluctuations
reflect the tragic tension within Macbeth: he is at once too ambitious
to allow his conscience to stop him from murdering his way to the top
and too conscientious to be happy with himself as a murderer. As
things fall apart for him at the end of the play, he seems almost
relieved-with the English army at his gates, he can finally return to
life as a warrior, and he displays a kind of reckless bravado as his
enemies surround him and drag him down. In part, this stems from his
fatal confidence in the witches' prophecies, but it also seems to
derive from the fact that he has returned to the arena where he has
been most successful and where his internal turmoil need not affect
him-namely, the battlefield. Unlike many of Shakespeare's other tragic
heroes, Macbeth never seems to contemplate suicide: "Why should I play
the Roman fool," he asks, "and die / On mine own sword?" (V.x.1-2).
Instead, he goes down fighting, bringing the play full circle: it
begins with Macbeth winning on the battlefield and ends with him dying
in combat.

Lady Macbeth
============

Lady Macbeth is one of Shakespeare's most famous and frightening
female characters. When we first see her, she...

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