Is Macbeth a victim or a villain in the play Macbeth?why do you think he is either a victim or a villian and include quotes to back up your answer. you can say both ways but have reasons.

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teachertaylor's profile pic

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

Posted on

I agree with the above post.  Macbeth was certainly influenced by Lady Macbeth; however, he continued in murderous acts after she persuaded him to go through with killing King Duncan.  When Macbeth speaks with the murderers whom he has kill Banquo, he does not tell Lady Macbeth about this plan at all--he simply tells her that he needs some time alone.  Similarly, Macbeth continues his rampage by having Macduff's entire court murdered; again, Lady Macbeth is not aware of this.  In fact, when she finds out what Macbeth has done, she is driven mad by the thought that her initial influence led Macbeth to become so murderous.  She is upset that Lady Macduff and the children have been killed because they are innocent in these matters.  Lady Macbeth is surprised that her husband has done these things:  "Yet who would have though the old man to have had so much blood in him?" (V.i.37-8).  So, Macbeth is a villian because he has continued to commit horrendous acts.

shaketeach's profile pic

shaketeach | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

I agree with the above responses.  There is an old saying in parachuting.  It is,  "you pack your own chute".  If the chute fails to open, you have nobody to blame except yourself.  Why would anybody leave this life giving action to somebody else?

If we think of our lives as the parachute, it is the same thing.  People can whinge and whine about their lives but we are all ultimately responsible for our actions.  It is all too easy to blame others for bad life choices, but since we have free will, our actions define us.

Macbeth has choices.  That he makes bad ones are on his head.  He can't blame his wife.  Sure, she pushed him and used sex to get what she thinks she wants but he knows where it will all lead.  He can't blame the weird sister.  They merely made some predictions.  They didn't say that Macbeth had to kill Duncan to become king.  He makes that choice.  These factors play a part in his decision, but it is Macbeth that wields the knife that kills Duncan.

It seems once he has committed murder, he is compelled to continue killing.  He even tells his wife that he has done something she will be proud of him for doing.  (The murder of Banquo.)

The terms victim and villain are too limited for such a complex character as Shakespeare's Macbeth.  He packed his own chute.

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I have to see him as a villain.  If Macbeth gets a free pass for being a victim, man, the floodgates open wide to allow anyone in to be victimized.  I think that you can locate passages that reflect he was a willing participant, if not the primary agent of action, in his moral decline.  While he certainly was influenced by Lady Macbeth and the Witches' prophecies, his ambition and desire were his own creations.  Acting on these instincts led him to a sense of moral poverty.  These are his and his alone.  He becomes more alienated and withdrawn throughout the work, severing ties with Banquo as well as his wife, remaining only with his own subjectivity.  In my mind, this demonstrates that he bears a level of responsibility for what happened and all that follows.  I understand the role of others, but in the end, I cannot see him as a victim.

shambler92's profile pic

shambler92 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

I agree with Harold Bloom's opinion that Macbeth is NOT a villain, neither a victim. I think he is purely HUMAN. Harold Bloom says that Hamlet dies in liberty, enhancing our own freedom, but the death of Macbeth is less a liberation to us. The universal reaction towards Macbeth is that we IDENTIFY with him, or at least with his imagination. Richard III, Iago and Edmund are hero-villains; to say that Macbeth is one as well is entirely wrong. They are delighted by their own evil; Macbeth suffers intensely in knowing he does evil, and that he has to do even worst things. Shakespeares makes sure  in a scary way that we "become" Macbeth; identificating ourselves in him  is involuntary but inescapable. We all posses, in one degree or the other, a proleptic imagination; in Macbeth, it is absolute. He is barely conscious of an ambition, a desire or a yearning before he sees himself on the other side, having done the deed that fulfills his misguided ambition. Macbeth frightens us partly because that aspect of our own imagination is frightening: it seems to make murderers, and thieves and usurpers of ourselves.

Macbeth is the most HUMAN character in Shakespeare, his acts are evil but his guilt and his anguish humanize him. A villain is pure evil, Macbeth is not a villain. 

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