The character of Macbeth (in the play of the same name by Shakespeare) is a complex and dark individual. Macbeth the play is as dark as its namesake, blending magic, tremendous violence, betrayal and (most of all) revenge. While revenge is a very common theme throughout many of Shakespeare's plays, most notably in Hamlet, it plays out somewhat differently in Macbeth. Whereas Hamlet is both the main character and the individual seeking revenge, Macbeth (although the protagonist) is largely the object of revenge (because of the terrible deeds he has committed). The following looks at the reasons for revenge in Macbeth and how it was accomplished.
The character of Macbeth is essentially a knight (technically, a thane) who on the surface is loyal to Scotland's King Duncan. Certainly, at the beginning of the play Macbeth has just taken part in Duncan's efforts to defeat a band of rebels. As a token of his gratitude for this, Duncan hails Macbeth as a true and loyal hero and devolves the title of Thane of Cawdor on him. While at this point Macbeth's duplicitous behavior has yet to reveal itself, this title is ironic given that Macbeth soon turns traitor himself.
In fact, Macbeth is rather startled by this award, since he and his fellow thane, Banquo, had recently on the battlefield encountered three witches who predicted that he will be appointed thane of Cawdor and will later become king. In the same prophecy, they predict that the descendents of thane of Cawdor will also become kings. This prediction plants the seed of ambition and betrayal in the mind and soul of Macbeth, particularly since he is informed immediately afterward that he has in fact been made thane of Cawdor, confirming that part of the prediction. After this revelation, he begins to wonder what would have to happen for him to become king. Will the accomplishment of this prediction require him to take action, or can he simply sit by and wait for it to happen? It is in answering this question that Macbeth lays the groundwork for the bitter revenge that will be carried out against him.
At the same time, Macbeth is a somewhat weak willed individual, and it may be that he would never have taken the brutal steps necessary to obtain the throne had he not made the decision to inform his wife Lady Macbeth about the prediction and his subsequent appointment as thane. Lady Macbeth (as anyone who has seen the play knows) is made of much sterner stuff than her vacillating husband. While Macbeth himself might be mildly interested in the idea of becoming king, Lady Macbeth throws herself into the idea with body and (literally) soul. She summons the evil spirits to imbue her with the cruel nature necessary to take on the task of killing King Duncan. When Macbeth arrives and seems to hesitate, she denounces his cowardice and insists that she will handle the regicide herself. When King Duncan arrives, Lady Macbeth behaves graciously and puts her plans into motion, which involves getting...