Macbeth: Changes in nature and character

Essay by maheen February 2006

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Though we do not see anywhere in the play about Macbeth's physical characteristics, however, we do see a psychological progression from 'brave Macbeth' (1.1) to 'dead butcher' (5.9). This essay will look at how the character of Macbeth transforms from a "Nobel Macbeth" (act I, sc. II) to a "bloodier villain" (act V, sc VIII).

At the beginning, the play introduces the audience to a war taking place between Scotland and Norway. The play shows the audience that the Thane of Cawdor had assisted the Norwegian King, hence King Duncan pronounces "his present death" (act I sc. II). After knowing Scotland has won the battle against Norway, King Duncan orders to "greet Macbeth" with the executed Thane of Cawdor's "former title" (act I sc. II). At the beginning of scene 3, the witches are introduced to Macbeth. They hail Macbeth as "thane of Glamis" (act I, sc III) (his original title) and as "thane of Cawdor" (act I, sc III).

Macbeth is baffled by this second title, as he has not yet heard of King Duncan's decision. However, it is the last hail which intrigues Macbeth and makes him desire more information, and that is "shalt be King hereafter" (act I, sc III). After the witches disappearance Macbeth discusses with Banquo what the witches has said, but is interrupted by Rosse and Angus who inform him of the Kings decision. Now here is where the desire of the throne is shown in Macbeth. Amazed with the prophecy of the witches, Macbeth turns to Banquo and asks him if he hopes his children will be kings. Banquo replies that devils often tell half-truths in order to "win us to our harm" (act I, sc III). Macbeth ignores what Banquo says and starts speaking to himself. Macbeth can not determine...