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William Shakespeare




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?” (5.10.1–2). 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.

Test Your Understanding with the Macbeth Quiz



What kind of warrior does Macbeth sound like as described by the wounded captain at the beginning of the play?
Treacherous and cowardly
Strong, but not particularly intelligent
Test Your Understanding with the Macbeth Quiz

Macbeth QUIZ

Test Your Understanding with the Macbeth Quiz
Relation between Macbeth and his Supernaturalistic World,including its Impacts.

by Shehanaz, May 21, 2013

By Shehanaz

“Man is not the creature of circumstances

Circumstances are the creatures of man.”

Macbeth, throughout the play, is presented as one much above the ordinary beings, and, as such, he fulfils the basic -requirements of being a tragic hero. Shakespeare, introduces him as a brave general, a bold, resolute man of action who through as also referred to “Valor’s minion”, “Bellona’s bridegroom’’, the king’s ‘’valiant cousin’’, a very “eagle’’ among ?... Read more


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Shakespeare Blog

by DanMitchell23, June 07, 2013

How powerful are the women in Macbeth? Come and check out what I have to say...


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A Request-

by Shehanaz, June 18, 2013

It is requested to the readers who are disliking my any of submissions,pls also make it a remind to me what things I left or need to amend in an answer. this will much be helpful in correcting myself.

If any further suggestion the readers want to provide, certainly it is requested to help me more..

Thank you.


10 out of 16 people found this helpful

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