How did Macbeth change in character from act 1, scene 3 to act 3, scene 1 of Shakespeare's Macbeth?

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In act 1, scene 3, Macbeth still retains what could be described as a just and honorable world-view. He's a loyal and faithful servant of his king, Duncan, and has just acquitted himself bravely on the field of battle. Macbeth has been showered with honors for his military service...

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In act 1, scene 3, Macbeth still retains what could be described as a just and honorable world-view. He's a loyal and faithful servant of his king, Duncan, and has just acquitted himself bravely on the field of battle. Macbeth has been showered with honors for his military service and looks set to continue serving Duncan with distinction for many years to come.

But this rosy picture will start to change once he hears the witches' first prophecy, which will plant the demon seed of treachery in his mind. Macbeth knows that even contemplating the idea of murdering Duncan is wrong, yet he follows the dictates of his overweening ambition, egged on by his scheming wife.

By the time we've reached act 3, scene 1, the situation has changed completely. Macbeth is now the undisputed king of Scotland, a brutal tyrant who's shown himself more than willing to destroy anyone he perceives as a threat in order to maintain his stranglehold on power.

Yet despite this, I would argue that Macbeth's character hasn't fundamentally changed. Unlike other Shakespearean villains such as Richard III, Macbeth doesn't revel in his villainy. He knows what he's doing is wrong and hates himself for it; therein lies his tragedy.

To some extent, Macbeth is trapped by his own tyranny, unable to rule as a wise, benevolent king even if he wanted to. The kind of terror that Macbeth has unleashed upon Scotland has a dynamic of its own which simply cannot be stopped. Whether or not there really are dark, supernatural forces at work, there's no doubt that Macbeth has started something he cannot stop, and so there's nothing he can do but to ride the bloody wave of tyranny for as long as he can.

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If we compare Macbeth in these two scenes, what we find is that his character has undergone significant change. Specifically, he has lost his friendly feeling toward Banquo and developed a strong sense of paranoia.

In act I, scene III, Macbeth and Banquo are returning together from battle. We know that there is a strong feeling of friendship between them. Banquo calls Macbeth "good sir" and "worthy Macbeth," for instance. Together, they try to better understand the strange prophecies which the witches have delivered to them.

If we compare this to act III, scene I, the change in Macbeth is clear. Gone is that friendly feeling toward Banquo, replaced by an all-consuming sense of paranoia. Macbeth is terrified that he will be replaced as king by Banquo's son:

To be thus is nothing,

But to be safely thus. Our fears in Banquo

Stick deep.

When Macbeth talks about the "rancor" in his peace, he is alluding to the paranoia that he now feels toward Banquo. This leads him to hire two men to kill Banquo and Fleance—a sign that their bond is forever broken and that Macbeth is becoming an increasingly paranoid and tyrannical leader.

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In Act One, Scene 3, Macbeth is told by the Three Witches that he will become the Thane of Cawdor and rule as king one day. The thought of one day becoming king intrigues Macbeth, and he begins to contemplate the witches' prophecy. Macbeth has not thought about murdering King Duncan until this moment; before this, as far as we know, Macbeth has been a loyal subject of King Duncan and is willing to risk his life in battle for his country. 

By Act Three, Scene 1, Macbeth has not only committed regicide but begins ruling his country like a tyrant. Macbeth sends assassins to kill Banquo and his son in order to challenge fate and secure his royal legacy. Macbeth does not want Banquo's descendants ruling as kings. Macbeth's decision to murder his close friend and innocent son reveals his bloodlust and corrupt nature. In just two acts, Macbeth goes from being a loyal subject of King Duncan to a tyrannical murderer obsessed with maintaining his power at all costs. 

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The first thing worth thinking about is whether Macbeth, over the course of William Shakespeare's play Macbeth, actually does change character, or whether the monstrous character that is gradually revealed is one he possessed all along and which gradually becomes more apparent to us over the course of the play.

The key event in the play that begins the change is the encounter with the weird sisters on the blasted heath. In this scene, Macbeth evolves from merely be ambitious to be outstanding in service of his king to wanting to be king. We may regard this as a change in degree of ambition.

The next change is the murder of Duncan. He seems strongly influenced by Lady Macbeth in this. One can argue that once he has done the evil deed of killing Duncan, he loses all inhibitions that might have held his evil impulses in check, and not only becomes more violent but loses his capacity for self-restraint.

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