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Are there any sympathetic characters in Macbeth?

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jothepro222 | Student, College Freshman | eNoter

Posted June 4, 2012 at 5:12 PM via web

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Are there any sympathetic characters in Macbeth?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 4, 2012 at 5:36 PM (Answer #1)

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There are a number of sympathetic characters in Macbeth. Duncan, for example, is portrayed from the beginning of the play as trusting, and seems to be universally respected by the characters, including Macbeth, as a strong, decent leader. It is significant that Macbeth evinces so much guilt for killing him.

Macduff, on the other hand, can be interpreted as being responsible for his family's murder, but he expresses extreme remorse for leaving them, and is ultimately the man who does the most to return legitimate rule to Scotland. He is the character who brings about something approximating justice, both for the slain Duncan and Banquo and for his family, in this otherwise startlingly bleak play.

Malcolm is also a sympathetic character, though some of the characters briefly suspect that he has something to do with his father's murder when he flees to England. He emerges, however, as a strong and wise leader, using a clever ruse to determine whether Macduff is sincere in his claims to support him:

The king-becoming graces, 
As justice, verity, temperance, stableness, 
Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness 
Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude, 
I have no relish of them...

Malcolm's trick, which is to claim to be a lecherous coward, so distresses Macduff that Malcolm knows he is sincere and that he has Scotland's best interests at heart. In this way, two of the play's most sympathetic figures reveal their true character.

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ssengupta | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

Posted November 4, 2012 at 2:30 AM (Answer #2)

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One opinion is that the most sympathetic character in Macbeth is the priest who prays, watching Lady Macbeth. In the "sleep walking" scene, one of the most poignant, scary, and psychologically modern scene in an Elizabethan play, the priest prays for the sinner's soul, for Lady Macbeth:

Foul whisperings are abroad,

Unnatural souls do breed unnatural troubles,

Infected minds to their deaf pillows

Discharge their secret

God, God, forgive us all!

Notice, that in these lines, there is not a word of blame; only lament for what is unnatural (In the Elizabethan world order, to go against nature was the most horrible crime -- and murder was unnatural). "Infected minds to their deaf pillows/Discharge their secrets" -- it is the priest who understands human nature,he is a psychologist before "psychology" was invented.

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nicoledesilva | Student, Grade 9 | Salutatorian

Posted August 19, 2012 at 8:38 AM (Answer #3)

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Sorry, I meant Lady Macbeth and not Mecbeth.

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 4, 2012 at 10:56 PM (Answer #4)

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Some of the minor characters in the play are sympathetic. The Doctor attending Lady Macbeth seems very authentic in his speech and mannerisms. We sympathize with him because he is dealing with a patient whose ailments he feels powerless to cure and also because he has to deal with the patient's husband, who is acting like a madman and expressing contempt for physicians. Lady Macduff and her young son both seem like sympathetic characters, although they only appear in one scene. We admire the courage of the boy when confronted by a terrible murderer, and we feel pity for his mother who is alone and defenseless. Lennox, who is just a young lad, is sympathetic because he is dragged through all kinds of harrowing scenes. One might describe the Porter as a sympathetic character because he is funny and harmless.

Banquo is a major character who seems entirely sympathetic. He keeps his poise and dignity throughout. We feel some pity for him when he is ruthlessly murdered and while the murderers are trying to capture his son Fleance. Malcolm also seems like a sympathetic character, as noted in the first answer above. Duncan, too, is a sympathetic character.

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nicoledesilva | Student, Grade 9 | Salutatorian

Posted August 19, 2012 at 8:38 AM (Answer #5)

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You can also count Lady Mecbeth as a sympathetic character as afterwards she has nightmares about that night and cannot have a peaceful sleep. She is not a sympathetic character throughout the play as at the start she actually urges Macbeth to kill Duncan. It is only in the second half of the play that we can sympathise with her as her death didn't even cause any greif to Macbeth.

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diali | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted September 29, 2012 at 10:58 AM (Answer #6)

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i think King Duncan, Lady Macbeth and Macduff

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