Study Guide

Macbeth

by William Shakespeare

Macbeth Characters

List of Characters

Three Witches—Evil prophets that guide Macbeth’s destiny with incomplete information regarding his future

Macbeth—Thane of Glamis, later King of Scotland

Lady Macbeth—Macbeth’s wife and supporter of her husband’s quest for power

Duncan—King of Scotland

Malcolm—Duncan’s older son

Donalbain—Duncan’s younger son

Banquo—General in the Scottish Army and Macbeth’s friend

Fleance—Banquo’s son who is seen as a threat by Macbeth

Macduff—Nobleman of Scotland and rival of Macbeth

Lady Macduff—Macduff’s wife

Son—Macduff’s son

Lennox and Ross—Noblemen of Scotland that support Malcolm’s fight against Macbeth

Angus—Nobleman of Scotland and supporter against Macbeth

Menteith and Caithness—Noblemen of Scotland in Malcolm’s English Army

Porter—servant at Macbeth’s castle

Murderers—Macbeth’s hired killers

Hecate—Goddess of the Witches

Apparitions—Visions conjured up by the Witches to inform Macbeth of what he should fear for the future

Doctor and Gentlewoman—Servants that witness Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking

Seyton—An Officer in Macbeth’s Army

Siward—General in the English army fighting with Malcolm

Young Siward—Siward’s son in the English army with Malcolm

Captain—Soldier in Duncan’s military that reports on Macbeth’s success in the battle against Macdonwald

Macbeth Characters Discussed (Great Characters in Literature)

Macbeth

Macbeth (mak-BEHTH), thane of Glamis, later thane of Cawdor and king of Scotland. A brave and successful military leader, and potentially a good and great man, he wins general admiration as well as the particular gratitude of King Duncan, his kinsman. Meeting the Three Weird Sisters, he succumbs to their tempting prophecies, but he also needs the urging of his wife to become a traitor, a murderer, and a usurper. He is gifted, or cursed, with a powerful and vivid imagination and with fiery, poetic language. Gaining power, he grows more ruthless, until finally he loses even the vestiges of humanity. He dies desperately, cheated by the ambiguous prophecies, in full realization of the worthlessness of the fruits of his ambition.

Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth, the strong-willed, persuasive, and charming wife of Macbeth. Ambitious for her husband’s glory, she finds herself unable to kill King Duncan in his sleep because he resembles her father. As Macbeth becomes more inhuman, she becomes remorseful and breaks under the strain. In her sleepwalking, she relives the events of the night of the king’s murder and tries to wash her hands clean of imaginary bloodstains.

Banquo

Banquo (BAN-kwoh), Macbeth’s fellow commander. A man of noble character, seemingly unmoved by the prophecy of the Three Weird Sisters that he will beget kings, he is not completely innocent. He does not disclose his suspicions of Macbeth, and he accepts a place in Macbeth’s court. After being murdered by Macbeth’s assassins, Banquo appears at a ceremonial banquet. His blood-spattered ghost, visible only to Macbeth, unnerves the king completely. In the final vision shown to Macbeth by the Three Weird Sisters, Banquo and his line of kings appear.

The Three Weird Sisters

The Three Weird Sisters, three witches, sinister hags who seem more closely allied to the Norns or Fates than to conventional witches. They make prophetic statements to Macbeth that are true but deceptive. Their prophecy of his becoming thane of Cawdor is fulfilled immediately, tempting him to take direct action to carry out the second prophecy, that he shall be king. They lull him into false security by telling him that he has nothing to fear until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane and that he cannot be killed by any man born of woman.

Macduff

Macduff (mak-DUHF), thane of Fife. He and Lennox arrive at Macbeth’s castle just after the murder of King Duncan, and Macduff discovers the body. A brave but prudent man, he flees Scotland and offers his help to Malcolm. Underestimating the villainy of Macbeth’s character, he is thunderstruck at hearing of the atrocious murder of his wife and children. He becomes a steel-hearted avenger. Before killing Macbeth, he deprives him of his last symbol of security, for as a cesarean child he was not actually born of woman. He presents Macbeth’s head to Malcolm and proclaims the young prince king of Scotland.

Duncan

Duncan, the king of Scotland. Gentle and trusting, he shows great kindness to Macbeth. His murder by Macbeth is therefore almost incredibly fiendish.

Malcolm

Malcolm (MAL-kuhm), King Duncan’s eldest son. Far more cautious and shrewd than his father, he leaves for England to escape possible assassination. He is reluctant to give his trust to Macduff but finally, realizing his loyalty, accepts his aid in taking the throne of Scotland.

Donalbain

Donalbain (DON-ahl-bahn), King Duncan’s younger son. After consulting with Malcolm, he agrees to take a separate path, going to Ireland so that the potential heirs to the throne would not be accessible to a common assassination.

Fleance

Fleance (FLEE-ahns), the son of Banquo. He escapes the murderers who kill his father and lives to haunt Macbeth with the Three Weird Sisters’ prophecy that kings will spring from Banquo’s line.

Ross

Ross, a nobleman of Scotland. He is Duncan’s messenger to Macbeth, bringing him word of his new title, thane of Cawdor. He also bears news to his kinswoman, Lady Macduff, of her husband’s departure from Scotland. His third office as messenger is to carry word to Macduff of the destruction of his entire family. He fights in Malcolm’s army against Macbeth.

Lennox

Lennox, a nobleman of Scotland. He is Macduff’s companion when the latter brings the message to King Duncan at Macbeth’s castle. He also deserts Macbeth and joins forces with Malcolm.

Lady Macduff

Lady Macduff, a victim of Macbeth’s most horrible atrocity. She is human and pathetic.

Macduff’s son

Macduff’s son, a brave and precocious child. He faces Macbeth’s hired murderers without flinching and dies calling to his mother to save herself.

Siward

Siward (SEE-wurd), the earl of Northumberland, the general of the English forces supporting Malcolm. He is the type of the noble father accepting stoically the death of a heroic son.

Young Siward

Young Siward, the general’s courageous son. He dies fighting Macbeth hand to hand.

A Scottish doctor

A Scottish doctor, called in to minister to Lady Macbeth. He witnesses her sleepwalking in which she relives the night of the murder.

A gentlewoman

A gentlewoman, an attendant to Lady Macbeth. She is with the doctor and observes Lady Macbeth during the sleepwalking scene.

A sergeant

A sergeant (also called captain in the folio text), a wounded survivor of the battle at the beginning of the play. He reports to King Duncan the heroism of Macbeth and Banquo.

A porter

A porter, a comical drunkard. Roused by the knocking on the castle door, he pretends to be the gatekeeper of Hell and imagines various candidates clamoring for admission. The audience, knowing of Duncan’s murder, can realize how ironically near the truth is the idea of the castle as Hell.

Hecate

Hecate (HEHK-eh-tee), the patroness of the Witches. It is generally accepted among Shakespearean scholars that Hecate is an addition to the play by another author, perhaps Thomas Middleton.

A messenger

A messenger, who brings word that Birnam Wood apparently is moving. His message destroys one of Macbeth’s illusions of safety.

Seyton

Seyton, an officer attending Macbeth. He brings word of Lady Macbeth’s death.

Menteith

Menteith,

Angus

Angus, and

Caithness

Caithness, Scottish noblemen who join Malcolm against Macbeth.

Macbeth Character Analysis

Banquo (Character Analysis)

Banquo is a Scottish general in the king's army and Macbeth's friend. With Macbeth, Banquo helps Duncan's forces claim victory over the king...

(The entire section is 354 words.)

Macbeth (Character Analysis)

Macbeth is nobleman and a Scottish general in the king's army. At the beginning of the play, he has gained recognition for himself through...

(The entire section is 1301 words.)

Lady Macbeth (Character Analysis)

Lady Macbeth is Macbeth's wife. When the audience first sees her in I.v, she is reading a letter from Macbeth about his encounter with the...

(The entire section is 628 words.)

Macduff (Character Analysis)

Macduff, the thane of Fife, is a Scottish nobleman. He travels with Duncan to Macbeth's castle, and with Lennox, arrives the morning after...

(The entire section is 537 words.)

Malcolm (Character Analysis)

Malcolm is one of King Duncan's sons, the other being Donalbain. In the early part of the play, he is scarcely present, but overall he has...

(The entire section is 323 words.)

Three Witches, The Weird Sisters (Character Analysis)

The witches in Macbeth are present in only four scenes in the play, but Macbeth's fascination with them motivates much of the play's...

(The entire section is 340 words.)

Other Characters (Descriptions)

Angus
Angus is a Scottish nobleman. He travels with Rosse to bring King Duncan news of the battle and to bestow upon Macbeth the...

(The entire section is 2095 words.)