Comparing Macbeth and The Crucible: Many characters in both The Crucible and Macbeth showed some admirable and less-than-admirable traits. Two major characters who show these traits are Macbeth...

Comparing Macbeth and The Crucible: Many characters in both The Crucible and Macbeth showed some admirable and less-than-admirable traits. Two major characters who show these traits are Macbeth and John Proctor: both are tragic heroes, both have good and bad moments. What are some similarities and differences between them? 

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favoritethings's profile pic

favoritethings | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Both Macbeth and John Proctor are tragic heroes; however, Macbeth begins the play as a good man, ending it badly, and Proctor begins The Crucible as a troubled sinner, ending it as a redeemed man with a renewed sense of his own integrity.  In other words, then, in some ways they seem to have opposite trajectories. 

Initially, Macbeth is described as "brave" and is granted a new title by the king as a reward for his loyalty and courage.  His wife says that he is "full o' th' milk of human kindness" and believes that he is too good a man to even consider doing something unethical.  However, as the play progresses, Macbeth becomes worse and worse: first killing his king and kinsman, Duncan (though at least he felt guilty about that one), then arranging for the murder of his best friend, Banquo, and the attempted murder of Banquo's son (for which he only regretted the endeavor's half-success), and then the murder of an innocent woman and her children (done because he regretted not having killed Macduff when he had the chance).  His morality is in tatters by the play's end, and he realizes that he's done all for naught when he claims that life is a "tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing" (5.5.29-31). 

John Proctor, on the other hand, begins the play feeling like a "fraud" because of his extramarital affair with Abigail Williams some seven months prior.  In fact, almost until the very end, he feels that he is "no good man" and that his "honesty is broke [...]."  He does not believe that he has anything good inside him until he realizes that he is unwilling to sign his name to a dishonest confession and allow it to be published to the village.  When he tears the paper, he says, "You have made your magic now, for now I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor."  He ends the play with a sense of his own goodness, having been redeemed by his inability to confess a lie.  He dies a man of integrity, unlike Macbeth, who has completely lost all goodness that was once within him.

In the end, both characters are capable of goodness; they simply make different choices -- one to cultivate goodness and the other to destroy it.

e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Each of these men is arguably involved in a process of self-questioning. The nature of identity and self-hood are both explored in these texts through these characters.

I agree with litteacher8 in that Proctor is a more noble character than Macbeth. Proctor discovers the truth of himself and finds strength. Macbeth realizes too late that he has given up his power of decision and whatever strength he has left has to be put into a losing battle. 

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I find very few redeeming qualities in Macbeth, whereas I think John Proctor is basically a good person.  He acts as he does because of the society he lives in.  Macbeth was greedy and bloodthirsty.  He did not repent either, as Proctor did.

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