Skip Nav

Macbeth Critical Essays

Character Study of Macbeth: From "Brave Macbeth" to "Dead Butcher"

❶Macbeth offers an exception to this rule, as Macbeth and his wife are partners in the truest sense of the word.

Essay, term paper, research paper: Macbeth

How does Lady Macbeth explain Macbeth's strange behavior at the banquet?
William Shakespeare
Study Questions

Unlike many other Shakespeare plays, the eponymous hero does not make his entrance until the third scene of Act I. When the play opens, we are given only a brief sketch to whet our expectations.

The witches are the first characters we see, and if Shakespeare intended to grab our attention, this opening surely does it. They are 'real' in the sense that we can actually see them, but they are also supernatural in that we believe witches belong to the world of evil spirits and sing-song spells. In lines , they inform us that they are to meet Macbeth upon the heath - nothing else.

But we must wonder: Why on the heath? What do they want? The following scene takes us to a battlefield. King Duncan receives details of a fight between his forces and the rebels forces led by Macdonald and troops from Norway. The Captain tells the King that 'brave Macbeth' 1.

Thus our first description of Macbeth is that of a brave, loyal soldier defending his King and country from those who would take the throne and enslave the people. The King is so pleased with Macbeth's performance that he gives Macbeth the traitor's title, Thane of Cawdor, calling him 'noble Macbeth' 1.

Thus we are led to believe that Macbeth is a good man, loyal, courageous, and determined. He has proven his valour and is duly rewarded by the King. Immediately following, however, we are shown the witches for the second time in three scenes, effectively framing Macbeth the soldier with witches, which could imply that Macbeth is no ordinary warrior. When Macbeth enters, his opening lines echo those of the witches in the first scene:. Fair is foul and foul is fair … 1. So foul and fair a day I have not seen 1.

Obviously, then, there is some link between Macbeth and the witches. At this point, however, we do not know the nature of the relationship, only that the witches intend to meet Macbeth, but the implication is that this is an unholy alliance. It is not long before we witness the meeting. While Macbeth's friend, Banquo, stands near him, the witches greet Macbeth as Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor, and 'king hereafter' 1.

Macbeth is startled by what he hears. He knows he is already Thane of Glamis, but does not know, as we do, that Duncan has promoted him to Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth, and we as well, are surprised by the promise of kingship. Banquo's prophecy is even more fantastic: Yet, just like us, Macbeth wants to know more. Why did the Weird Sisters address him as Cawdor and king?

Where did they get their information? Why deliver the prophecies on the heath? We know about the heath and Cawdor, but we do not know the source of the other prophecies. Is it possible that the witches are able to tell the future? When Ross and Angus enter to proclaim Macbeth's promotion, the announcement comes as a surprise to him, and temporarily our attention is diverted since the two men merely state what we have already seen.

More subtly, however, as Macbeth believes the event to be a fulfilment of a prophecy, we note somewhere in the back of our minds that we do not have any information about Macbeth that would allow us to understand how he could become king, especially since we are unaware of any problems with the present King.

What Shakespeare is doing here with Macbeth is comparable to peeling an onion: In the next few lines it becomes apparent that Macbeth not only has thought about being king, but he also believes what the witches tell him is true:.

Shakespeare's handling of the three witches or "weird sisters" of Macbeth is in itself equivocal. He assigns them the first dozen lines of the play their proclamation that "fair is foul, and foul is fair" I, i.

When their prediction of Act I, scene iii that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor comes true almost instantaneously, the broad contours of the play's plot are set; Macbeth will become king of Scotland and this will require the elimination of Duncan and his sons.

While the witches perform seminal and salient functions in the play, their appearance on stage is nonetheless limited. Assuming that Act III, scene v.

We see very little of the witches and this, in turn, contributes to our uncertainty about who or what they are. They clearly possess supernatural powers, including the capacity to foretell the future and to read the minds of the mortals with whom they come in contact, and this suggests that they are real but supernatural.

On the other hand, even after their final manifestation at the start of Act IV, Shakespeare undercuts the reality of the witches, again raising the possibility that the weird sisters are an hallucination, an emanation from the human psyche.

The key characteristic of Macbeth's witches is that while they can influence Macbeth's actions, they cannot compel him to commit the evil deeds that he undertakes in the course of the Scottish tragedy. This limitation on the power of the weird sisters, their dependency upon human will to work their black arts, is highlighted by the difference between Banquo's reaction to their initial predictions and that of Macbeth.

After their encounter with the witches in Act I, scene iii, Banquo wonders aloud about whether they were real or whether he and Macbeth are suffering from some type of hallucination: It is not Macbeth, but Banquo, who first notices the witches on the heath, asking Macbeth: Banquo then asks the witches directly whether they "live or are "aught" and Macbeth demands further, "Speak, if you can, what are you? They do not respond to these questions, but simply hail Macbeth, first as Thane of Glamis, then as Thane of Cawdor, and finally as "King hereafter.

Given the witches' prediction that he will become Scotland's king, we have ample reason to believe that Macbeth and his partner in regicide, Lady Macbeth, will succeed in their enterprise of murdering Duncan. What is most remarkable is that just fifty lines earlier, Macbeth has flatly told his wife that they shall proceed no further in the bloody business at hand; in the midst of Lady Macbeth's subsequent argument against such "unmanly" inaction, he commands her to hold her peace.

Lady Macbeth defies him, and the spurs embedded in her reply tap deeply into Macbeth's psyche. However, in truth, the difference in ways Macbeth and Lady Macbeth rationalize their actions is essential to understanding the subtle nuances of the play as a whole.

Macbeth is very rational, contemplating the consequences and implications of his actions. He recognizes the political, ethical, and religious reason why he should not commit regicide. In addition to jeopardizing his afterlife, Macbeth notes that regicide is a violation of Duncan's "double trust" that stems from Macbeth's bonds as a kinsman and as a subject.

On the other hand, Lady Macbeth has a more passionate way of examining the pros and cons of killing Duncan. She is motivated by her feelings and uses emotional arguments to persuade her husband to commit the evil act. Previous William Shakespeare Biography.

Next Major Symbols and Motifs. Removing book from your Reading List will also remove any bookmarked pages associated with this title. Are you sure you want to remove bookConfirmation and any corresponding bookmarks? Scene 1 Act I: Scene 2 Act I: Scene 3 Act I: Scene 4 Act I: Scene 5 Act I: Scene 6 Act I: Scene 7 Act II: Scene 1 Act II: Scene 2 Act II: Scene 3 Act II: Scene 4 Act III: Scene 1 Act III: Scene 2 Act III: Scene 3 Act III: Scene 5 Act III: Scene 6 Act IV: Scene 1 Act IV: Scene 2 Act IV: Scene 3 Act V: Scene 1 Act V: Scene 2 Act V: Scene 4 Act V: Scene 5 Act V: Scene 6 Act V: Scene 7 Act V: Scene 8 Act V: How does Lady Macbeth explain Macbeth's strange behavior at the banquet?

Adam Bede has been added to your Reading List!

Navigate Guide

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

Free Macbeth papers, essays, and research papers. The Negative Portrayal of Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare's Play, Macbeth - ‘Macbeth’ is a play in which a Lord and his Lady come into supreme power through acts of injustice and despicable inhumanities.

Privacy FAQs

Get free homework help on William Shakespeare's Macbeth: play summary, scene summary and analysis and original text, quotes, essays, character analysis, and filmography courtesy of CliffsNotes. In Macbeth, William Shakespeare's tragedy about power, ambition, deceit, and murder, the Three Witches foretell Macbeth's rise to King of Scotland but also prophesy that future kings will descend .

About Our Ads

Macbeth essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Essays and criticism on William Shakespeare's Macbeth - Critical Essays.

Cookie Info

“Macbeth” a tragedy written by William Shakespeare, portrays, how the main character Macbeth, transforms from a war hero, to a murdering villain. Macbeth starts out as the thane of Glamis and steadily rises to become King of Scotland. The higher Macbeth rose on his road of power the more corrupt. Free Free Essays on William Shakespeare's Macbeth papers, essays, and research papers.