During what part of the play do you most feel sorry for Macbeth's character?During what part of the play do you most feel sorry for Macbeth's character?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Call me hard hearted, but I never feel sorry for Macbeth! Any misery or suffering he experienced, he brought upon himself, and in his selfish ambition, he destroyed many good lives.

I realize Macbeth is a fictional character and Shakespeare had only one act to get his drama underway, but the change in Macbeth from brave soldier to scheming traitor happens very quickly, and once his character changes, it's downhill all the way, as it usually is for Shakespeare's tragic heroes. This downfall, though, leaves no literary room to humanize Macbeth or give him any redeeming qualities at all. He is just awful in his acts! He sends murderers to kill Banquo and Fleance, ganging up on them in the dark, and he sends trained, armed soldiers to wipe out Macduff's wife, children, and servants. They never had a chance.

At the end of the play, when Macbeth delivers his famous "Tomorrow" soliloquy, he doesn't express any grief for those he has destroyed. Oh no, self-centered to the end, he mourns what his own life has become! If there's any expression of regret in there, I missed it. I don't feel sorry of Macbeth, ever. I think he feels sorry enough for himself!

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm not sure I ever feel sorry for him, either.  True, he is led into his demise by his wife who challenges him to be a man and step up to the plate by "screwing his courage to the sticking post," but he could have stood up to her and refused.  He certainly didn't have to repeat his mistake by planning Banquo's and Fleance's murders.  Furthermore, he could have stopped himself before sending murderers to the MacDuff castle to kill everyone and everything that moved.

While we're speaking of free will, Macbeth could have avoided multiple visits to the witches who were certainly not his friends. 

I hate to say it, but Macbeth brought his whole world crashing down around him,and no one is at fault but Macbeth.  Having made different choices, he would have been a happier man.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While I concur that Macbeth has become the quintessential villain, there is something poignant in his "Tomorrow" soliloquy that touches anyone who has felt the despair of realizing that one's life is of little significance to any but loved ones.  Macbeth, inured to death because of his rampant killing, now comprehends the insignificance of his life.    

So often there is a connection that Shakespeare makes with the reader through such soliloquies. Perhaps this connection is what makes readers sometimes sympathize with the character who speaks the lines, for he shows himself to yet be human.

sharrons eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I feel most sorry for Macbeth at the end of the play when he finds out that Macduff is not of woman born.  It is at this point that all hope for Macbeth is gone.  In my opinion, it is admirable that he continues to fight even though he knows that he can not win.  This is the first sign of heroism that we have seen in Macbeth since the beginning of the play.



music3872 | Student

i think macbeth deserves sympathy, because i mean who wouldn't get a little greedy when some werid looking people tell you that you're gonna be king?

he got his hopes up.

he was right.

his wife made him do it.

he felt terrible after he did.

he thought once he got it, he'd feel incredible....

...he didn't.

people hate him.

he was practically lied to.

he was killed.

 how can you not feel badly?

tcheese | Student

Macbeth, like many characters in Shakespearean or traditional tragedy, earns sympathy and empathy through his flaws and doomed perseverance I think. He is a brutal, yet contemplative and fragile war hero as the play opens. He is uncertain around Banquo and other lords; he is ponderous about his intentions and ambitions; he second guesses himself and at one point decides clearly not to kill Duncan. But, indeed, his wife is a glorious shrew and drives him to disaster by love and abuse, even calling him a pansy many times: Wouldst thou have that

Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life,/And live a coward in thine own esteem,/Letting 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would,'/Like the poor cat i' the adage? (I/iv). It is his terrible and perfect human uncertainty and fragility that makes me feel sorry for him, especially at the end when he realizes he wishes he could have told his vicious wife he loved her: She should have died hereafter;/There would have been a time for such a word (V/v). It is Macbeth’s complexity—the unnatural marriage of warrior brutality and his philosophical love and pensiveness that makes him such an enduring, universal character.  


kc4u | Student

I feel sorry for those readers who never feel sorry for Macbeth. There are many occasions in the play when Macbeth deserves sympathy. Let me quote these lines from act5 sc.3 :

" I have lived long enough: my way of life

Is fall'n into the sear, the yellow leaf;

And that which should accompany old age,

As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends,

I must not look to have; but, in their stead,

Curses, not loud but deep, mouth-honour, breath,

Which the poor heart would fain deny, and dare


epollock | Student

During the killing of Macduff's family, I feel sorry for Macbeth.