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
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...
(The entire section is 210 words.)
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
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, 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 (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...
(The entire section is 1036 words.)
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 of Norway and the thane of Cawdor. Following the battle, Banquo and Macbeth encounter the witches, who make several prophesies about Macbeth. They then speak to Banquo about his own future, saying that Banquo's descendants will be kings. Unlike Macbeth, who appears to be fascinated by the weird sisters, Banquo expresses doubts about the witches and their prophesies. He comments to Macbeth, for example, that ''oftentimes, to win us to our harm, / The instruments of darkness tell us truths, / Win us with honest trifles, to betray [us]" (I.iii.123-25).
This unwillingness to subscribe wholeheartedly to the visions of the witches, in addition to Banquo's demonstrated valor in battle, contribute to the view that Banquo is a virtuous man. Yet Banquo's virtue is an area of some controversy. A common view is that Shakespeare intended Banquo to be seen as a virtuous character who was not responsible in any way for Macbeth's murderous actions, despite the fact that the source material from which Shakespeare drew depicts Banquo as a co-conspirator in Duncan's death. This line of thinking is supported by the popular belief that Macbeth was performed (perhaps even written) for King James I in 1606. Historically, Banquo was an ancestor of King James, and some critics argue that because of this, Shakespeare would not portray...
(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 his defeat of the king of Norway and the rebellious Macdonwald. Shortly after the battle, Macbeth and another of the king's general's, Banquo, encounter three witches (or weird sisters) who greet Macbeth as thane of Glamis, thane of Cawdor, and future king. Macbeth, unaware that King Duncan has bestowed upon him the title thane of Cawdor, appears to be startled by these prophesies. As soon as the witches finish addressing Macbeth, Banquo asks him, "why do you start, and seem to fear / Things that do sound so fair?" (I.iii.51-52). The witches vanish after telling Banquo that he will father kings. Shortly thereafter, Rosse and Angus arrive to tell Macbeth that the title of thane of Cawdor has been transferred to him. Upon hearing this, he says to himself that the greatest title, that of king, is yet to come. When Duncan announces that his son Malcolm will be next in line for the throne, Macbeth acknowledges the prince as an obstacle which will either trip him up or one which he must overcome.
After Macbeth sends words to his wife about the witches prophesies, Lady Macbeth hears that the king will be coming to stay at the castle. She then decides that the king will die there. When Macbeth arrives at Inverness, Lady Macbeth discusses with her husband her intentions. Soon after, he reviews in his own mind the reasons for...
(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 weird sisters and about his new title. Lady Macbeth promises to provide Macbeth with the courage he needs to make the prophecy come true, fearing that his nature is too soft to take the direct route to the throne.
There is some controversy over the role Lady Macbeth plays in the murders that follow. Some critics maintain that responsibility for the deaths of Duncan and Banquo rests solely with Macbeth, whose own ambition and nature are the cause of his deeds. Others cite Macbeth's reluctance prior to Duncan's murder and argue that Lady Macbeth goads her husband into the action. Lady Macbeth does, however, set the time and the place of Duncan's murder, claims that she would kill a baby at her breast to honor a vow, and argues that when Macbeth first conceived of killing Duncan, then he was a man.
In contrast to Lady Macbeth's forceful disposition on the first three acts of the play, her actions in the last two acts are much less confident or ambitious. Lady Macbeth in the sleepwalking scene appears to be tormented by her knowledge of Macbeth's actions. In V.i, Lady Macbeth reviews the various crimes her husband has committed and appears to be attempting to wash blood from her hands. This scene contains Lady Macbeth's famous "Out damn'd spot!" (V.i.35) speech. The doctor diagnoses her mind as "infected"...
(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 king has been murdered to awaken Duncan, but instead finds him dead. Macduff announces to the gathered nobleman, including the king's sons, that Duncan has been killed.
Macduff's words in the next scene are considered significant by some observers who argue that Macduff is the first character to suggest his suspicion regarding Macbeth's ascension to the throne. Macduff tells Rosse that he will not be attending Macbeth's coronation but will instead be returning home to Fife. After Rosse states that he will be going to the coronation, Macduff replies: "Well, may you see things well done there: adieu, / Lest our old robes dit easier than our new" (II.iv.37-8). Additionally, Macduff is not present at the banquet during which Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost. This absence is noted by Macbeth directly after the banquet, at which time Macbeth vows to see the weird sisters again. When he does, the apparition they conjure tells him to beware the thane of Fife; and just after the witches vanish, Lennox approaches with the news that Macduff has fled to England. Macbeth then vows to have Macduff's family killed.
Meanwhile, Macduff has met with Malcolm in England. The two return to Scotland, having gathered an army with which to challenge Macbeth. At this time, Macduff learns of his family's death. Although many readers...
(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 one of the three main speaking parts, the other two being Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Early in the play, Malcolm introduces to King Duncan the sergeant who saved Malcolm from capture. When the king's assassination is discovered, Malcolm agrees with his brother's suggestion to flee for their lives, and he goes to England, where he is later said to be living at the court of King Edward the Confessor, an English king noted for his holiness. The sudden departure of the king's sons casts some suspicion on their complicity in his murder.
In IV.iii, Macduff goes to England to seek Malcolm's help in restoring rightful rule in Scotland. In the interview that then takes place, Malcolm acknowledges his doubts about Macduff's motives quite directly to Macduff. He wonders whether Macduff is a paid agent of Macbeth, and he also questions why Macduff suddenly left his family unprotected to come to England. In order to test his suspicions about Macduff, Malcolm tells Macduff that he himself loves women, land and jewels, and discord among people. In sum, he accuses himself of lacking all kingly graces. When Macduff responds with a cry of hopelessness and despair for his country, Malcolm reveals that this is the first lie he has ever told. Later, Malcolm encourages Macduff to use the sudden news of his family's slaughter as a motive to...
(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 action. When they meet with Banquo and Macbeth, they address Macbeth with three titles: thane of Glamis, thane of Cawdor, and king hereafter. Next, they predict that Banquo will father kings, though he will not be king himself. Refusing to answer questions, they vanish.
Later in III.v, Hecat lectures the witches for talking to Macbeth without involving her. In IV.i, when Macbeth pays another visit to the witches, Hecat has briefly appeared to the witches but leaves before Macbeth's arrival. Though the Riverside edition has her accompanied by three other witches, most editions do not. In this scene, the witches make a thick gruel in a cauldron, using animal and human body parts. Many of the animals are reptilian or associated with night. The human body parts come from people who were considered outsiders to the Christian world of the English Renaissance: Jews, Turks, Tartars. The witches refer to their activity as a "deed without a name" (IV.i.49). They sense that Macbeth is coming; one says she can tell "By the pricking of my thumbs, / Something wicked this way comes" (IV.i.44-45). This time, the witches submit to some of Macbeth's questions. They pour in sow's blood and a murderer's blood into the cauldron, and produce apparitions. When Macbeth has seen the apparitions (see Apparitions) and heard their messages, he...
(The entire section is 340 words.)
Other Characters (Descriptions)
Angus is a Scottish nobleman. He travels with Rosse to bring King Duncan news of the battle and to bestow upon Macbeth the title thane of Cawdor. Angus also accompanies Duncan on the journey to Macbeth's castle. Finally, he appears in Act V with the Scottish rebels.
In IV.i, three apparitions come from the witches' cauldron after animal and human blood is poured in on top of a variety of other ingredients. The first apparition, described in the stage directions as "an armed head," tells Macbeth to beware the thane of Fife (Macduff). The second apparition is a bloody child who tells Macbeth that "none of woman born" (IV.ii.80) can harm Macbeth. The third apparition is a child wearing a crown and carrying a tree in his hand. He tells Macbeth that he will not be vanquished until "Great Birnan wood to high Dunsinane hill" rise against him (IV.i.93-4).
The king is surrounded by attendants who can carry out such tasks as helping the bleeding sergeant to find surgeons. They travel with the king. His personal attendants are supposed to guard him in his sleep. Macbeth stabs them in the confused moments following the discovery of the murdered king. Macbeth has his own attendants. They help with Macbeth's banquet and are with him in the castle in the last act of the play.
Macduff's son is a young boy. When the murderers sent by Macbeth arrive at the Macduff...
(The entire section is 2095 words.)