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How does Macbeth's character change throughout the course of the play?

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kristajoe | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 10, 2007 at 5:34 AM via web

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How does Macbeth's character change throughout the course of the play?

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 16, 2014 at 10:48 PM (Answer #9)

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I have read somewhere that the Spanish word desperado is derived from the idea of despair. A desperado is a man who has done something so wicked that he is doomed to hell for eternity without any hope of redemption. Since he knows he is going to hell anyway, he has no qualms about committing more sins, since his punishment in eternity could not be any worse. Macbeth seems to have become a sort of desperado with his unforgivable crime of murdering the king, his guest, his friend, his kinsman, his benefactor, his feudal lord. Macbeth himself says in a soliloquy:

For Banquo's issue have I filed my mind,
For them the gracious Duncan have I murdered,
Put rancors in the vessel of my peace
Only for them, and mine eternal jewel
Given to the common enemy of man,
To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings! (3.1)

Macbeth feels he has sold his soul to the Devil, the common enemy of man, whom he seems afraid even to name. He is doomed to hell for eternity. No crime he commits after this is of any consequence. He may as well derive what satisfaction he can get out of his kingship while he is still alive. His first step is to eliminate Banquo. He will rule by terror, since he cannot, like "the gracious Duncan," rule by love. The witches will encourage him to be "bloody, bold and resolute." Macbeth says of himself:

I am in blood
Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er.  (3.4)

Sources:

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bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted June 10, 2007 at 6:50 AM (Answer #2)

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At the beginning of the play, Macbeth is a respected general, a devoted husband, and a loyal subject of the king. The first of the witches' prophecies bring out his ambitious nature, but he struggles with killing the king. By attacking his manhood, Lady Macbeth convinces him to committ the first of his evil deeds. Macbeth's evil deed causes him to suffer from fear and guilt, which leads to even more evil crimes. Then Macbeth becomes paranoid, suffering from hallucinations and sleeplessness. He becomes less human as he tries over and over to establish his manhood. His ruthlessness in killing Banquo and Macduff's family shows how perverted his idea of manliness really is.

Macbeth's degeneration is also seen in the collapse of his marital relationship. They are loving and have a mutual respect for one another at first. Lady Macbeth becomes more and more unimportant to her husband after killing Duncan, however. He leaves her out of the plan to kill Banquo, Fleance, and Macduff's family. Macbeth allows the witches to take the place of his wife by allowing them to boost his ego, thinking he cannot be harmed by any man. Macbeth is, of course, mistaken about the witches' prophecies, but this just that he now allows his evil nature to control his actions. By the end, Macbeth has degenerated into evil personified, totally inhumane in his actions.

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aicha | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted February 2, 2010 at 5:28 AM (Answer #3)

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at the beginning of the play we learn macbeth through other characters he is described as noble,and worthy gentleman. we he is portrayed  as what we perceive him as. us as the audience we respond to macbeth in this way because it is what we are being told he is and we quickly respond to this and expect macbeth to carry out his title but we are quickly disappointed as he goes against what gods wants him to do. he disturbs the natural order of things  this is not the way god wants it to be.. but he has gone against his own will to cause this

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted February 2, 2010 at 8:57 AM (Answer #4)

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Concerning Macbeth's character changes in Shakespeare's Macbeth, I'll just elaborate slightly on the first answer above.  When Macbeth first receives the prophecy predicting he will be king and Banquo's heirs will be kings, he is satisfied with the idea of being king.  Banquo's heirs do not concern him at this point.  Once he assassinates Duncan and is crowned king, however, this isn't enough.  Now he wants his heirs to be king.  He asks himself, why should he have taken all this risk just to put Banquo's heirs on the throne?  Unsatisfied with just ruling himself, he plots to kill not only Banquo, but Fleance.  His ambition has grown and become even more menacing. 

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ibbie12 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted August 5, 2011 at 11:30 PM (Answer #5)

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From respected, beloved by the king to Sick minded, ego or haughty, ruthful ( kills his own best friend Banquo and Macduffs Family), Ill (hallucinates)

*These are just some of the ways he changes, others have gone into detail.

I hope you find this helpfull

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alec12345 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted November 14, 2011 at 4:06 AM (Answer #7)

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At the beginning of the play macbeth is a noble, respected and honest gentleman. He is a loyal follower of the king and would never disobey him. However, Lady Macbeth finds his weakness by questioning his manliness, which eventually leads him to kill the king due to the witches profesicing his acent to power  brings out his ambition to fulfill his potential for his leadership. However, he does not have trouble killing the king because it is over so quickly, although he does have trouble placing the daggers back to his bedchambers.

Further on through the play Lady Macbeth's guilt gets to her and ends up hanging herself. Macbeth, on the other hand starts to go mad with power, meanwhile he has to start killing all the people he suspects to have known about the killing of Duncan. In the end, Macbeth ends up going into a one on one with Macduff (who was not born of a womans womb) and gets killed.

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footballsomil | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted June 3, 2012 at 12:23 PM (Answer #8)

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Macbeth is, of course, mistaken about the witches' prophecies, but this just that he now allows his evil nature to control his actions. By the end, Macbeth has degenerated into evil personified, totally inhumane in his actions.

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fawad135 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted September 24, 2011 at 9:22 PM (Answer #6)

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At the beginning of the play, Macbeth is a respected general, a devoted husband, and a loyal subject of the king. The first of the witches' prophecies bring out his ambitious nature, but he struggles with killing the king. By attacking his manhood, Lady Macbeth convinces him to committ the first of his evil deeds. Macbeth's evil deed causes him to suffer from fear and guilt, which leads to even more evil crimes. Then Macbeth becomes paranoid, suffering from hallucinations and sleeplessness. He becomes less human as he tries over and over to establish his manhood. His ruthlessness in killing Banquo and Macduff's family shows how perverted his idea of manliness really is.

Macbeth's degeneration is also seen in the collapse of his marital relationship. They are loving and have a mutual respect for one another at first. Lady Macbeth becomes more and more unimportant to her husband after killing Duncan, however. He leaves her out of the plan to kill Banquo, Fleance, and Macduff's family. Macbeth allows the witches to take the place of his wife by allowing them to boost his ego, thinking he cannot be harmed by any man. Macbeth is, of course, mistaken about the witches' prophecies, but this just that he now allows his evil nature to control his actions. By the end, Macbeth has degenerated into evil personified, totally inhumane in his actions.

SECOND PART

Concerning Macbeth's character changes in Shakespeare's Macbeth, I'll just elaborate slightly on the first answer above.  When Macbeth first receives the prophecy predicting he will be king and Banquo's heirs will be kings, he is satisfied with the idea of being king.  Banquo's heirs do not concern him at this point.  Once he assassinates Duncan and is crowned king, however, this isn't enough.  Now he wants his heirs to be king.  He asks himself, why should he have taken all this risk just to put Banquo's heirs on the throne?  Unsatisfied with just ruling himself, he plots to kill not only Banquo, but Fleance.  His ambition has grown and become even more menacing.

IHOPE THIS HHAS REALLY HELPED YOU OUT ON YOUR QUESTION.

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