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What extremes of good and evil do we see in Macbeth's character (William Shakespeare's...

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brandih | eNotes Employee

Posted October 2, 2013 at 5:32 PM via web

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What extremes of good and evil do we see in Macbeth's character (William Shakespeare's Macbeth)?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 2, 2013 at 6:12 PM (Answer #1)

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William Shakespeare's tragic play Macbeth contains examples of extreme goods and extreme evils. Although Macbeth is responsible for taking the lives of many people (taking Duncans' life with his own hands and ordering the death of Banquo, Macduff's wife, and Macduff's son), Macbeth does possess goodness. 

For one, Macbeth proves himself worthy of a new title (The Thane of Cawdor). Without proving himself loyal to Duncan, Macbeth would never have been given the title. Secondly, Macbeth shows concern for Macduff's life. Since having killed his family, Macbeth states "my soul is too much charged with blood of thine already." He does not want to take the life of Macduff too. 

One final example of Macbeth's goodness is spoken of by his wife. Although we, as readers, have no true proof of his goodness by this point (we can only infer based upon his promotion to Thane of Cawdor), Lady Macbeth openly speaks of Macbeth's goodness: "It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness." 

Outside of this, we, as readers, are moved by his fall (catharsis). If we did not find goodness in him, we would not find ourselves saddened by his fall. 

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