In Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth, what sentiments does Macbeth express at the end of Act 5, scene 3? What do these sentiments reveal about Macbeth's character?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Macbeth is the dominant character in Act 5, scene 3 of Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth. Macbeth speaks most of the lines in this scene, and the scene is particularly revealing about his character as the play nears its end. By this point in the drama, Macbeth, under attack from his enemies, feels

  • exasperated, as when he commands a servant, “Take thy face hence” (5.3.19)
  • depressed, as when he frankly admits, “I am sick at heart” (5.3.19)
  • ambivalent, as when he hopes that the coming battle may lead to victory but realizes that it may well lead to irrevocable defeat (5.3.20-21)
  • resigned to his fate, as when he says,

I have lived long enough. My way of life

Is fall’n into the sear [that is, is withered], the yellow leaf,

And that which should accompany old age,

[Such] As honor, love, obedience, troops of friends,

I must not look to have . . . (5.3.22-26)

  • eloquent despite his troubles, as the preceding quotation illustrates
  • inventive in his language, as when he refers to mere “mouth-honor” (5.3.27)
  • angry, as when he calls for a tardy officer by exclaiming, “Seyton!” (5.3.29)
  • abrupt, as when he quickly asks Seyton, “What news more?” (5.3.30)
  • determined, despite his troubles, as when he says, “I’ll fight, till from my bones my flesh be hacked” (5.3.32)
  • stubborn, as when he says of armor that Seyton thinks is not needed yet, “I’ll put it on” (5.3.34)
  • tyrannical, as when he orders Seyton, “Hang those that talk of fear” (5.3.36)
  • full of commands, as when he orders Seyton, “Give me mine armor” (5.3.36)
  • genuinely concerned about the health of his wife, as when he asks a physician, “How does your patient, doctor?” (5.3.37)
  • imaginative in his use of language, as when he asks the doctor,

Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,

Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,

Raze [that is, erase] out the written troubles of the brain,

And with some sweet oblivious antidote

Cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff

Which weighs upon the heart? (5.3.39-45)

  • capable of using metaphors very effectively, as in the speech just quoted
  • capable of abrupt changes of mood, as when, shortly after the speech just quoted, he exclaims, “throw physic to the dogs, I’ll none of it” (5.3.47)
  • insistent, as when he once more commands that his armor be put on (5.3.48)
  • honest and fearful, as when he confesses, “Doctor, the thanes [that is, his soldiers] fly from me” (5.3.49)
  • needy, as the preceding quotation suggests
  • capable of at least imagining that he might show gratitude, as in lines 50-54
  • still susceptible to superstition and prophecies (5.3.60)

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