How does Macbeth's character change throughout the course of the play?

Quick Answer

Macbeth’s character changes a great deal over the course of the play. At the beginning of the play, Macbeth is a respected Thane who has shown great loyalty to King Duncan. Soon after, Macbeth succumbs to ambition and, encouraged by a prophecy and Lady Macbeth, murders King Duncan to take his throne. This betrayal throws Macbeth into a state of guilt and fear, prompting him to murder again and again to satisfy his paranoia. By the end of the play, he has become an evil tyrant and is rightfully deposed and killed for his crimes.


Expert Answers info

William Delaney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write5,416 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

I believe that Macbeth's character change is too extreme. From being a loyal subject and essentially a good man, he becomes a terrible tyrant, and in the end he is behaving like a madman. It was not logically necessary for Macbeth to turn into such a hateful tyrant just because he committed a murder to become king. Shakespeare made him a tyrant to justify the military intervention of the English monarch. As Ross describes Scotland in Act 4, Scene 3:

Alas, poor country,
Almost afraid to know itself! It cannot
Be call'd our mother, but our grave. Where nothing,
But who knows nothing, is once seen to...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 868 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now








Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

William Delaney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write5,416 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences








Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Doug Stuva eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write1,751 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

bmadnick eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2007

write1,334 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

check Approved by eNotes Editorial


user8700393 | Student

He changes through the many ways through interactions of other characters

pinkytune123 | Student

         The changes in Macbeth's character as the play progresses: 

                    ----------------------------------------------

At the beginning of the play, Lady Macbeth seemed a stronger character than Macbeth, but as the play progressed, the two seemed to change positions. It shows that how he was influenced by others to become cold-hearted and how he later understood his flaw.

Consider the questions:

(a) How was Macbeth at the beginning of the play?

(b) What were Macbeth's thoughts after he heard the witches' prophecies?

(c) How was Macbeth convinced by Lady Macbeth to kill Duncan?

(d) Why did Macbeth killed the two guards after Duncan's death, which was not according to the plan?

(e) Why did Macbeth wanted to kill Banquo and Fleance?

(f) When Banquo's ghost appeared at the feast, how did Macbeth and Lady Macbeth each react?

(g) How was Macbeth's second meeting with the three witches different from the first time they met? What did Macbeth wanted from them? How did this show a worsening of his character.

(h) What happenned to Lady Macbeth in the end? How did Macbeth react to the news and wha does this show of him?

(i) Why was Macbeth still so confident at the last battle?

(j) When Macbeth realized that the witches had deceivedhim, how did he react to the situation? What does his end show?

footballsomil | Student

Macbeth is, of course, mistaken about the witches' prophecies, but this just that he now allows his evil nature to control his actions. By the end, Macbeth has degenerated into evil personified, totally inhumane in his actions.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial
alec12345 | Student

At the beginning of the play macbeth is a noble, respected and honest gentleman. He is a loyal follower of the king and would never disobey him. However, Lady Macbeth finds his weakness by questioning his manliness, which eventually leads him to kill the king due to the witches profesicing his acent to power  brings out his ambition to fulfill his potential for his leadership. However, he does not have trouble killing the king because it is over so quickly, although he does have trouble placing the daggers back to his bedchambers.

Further on through the play Lady Macbeth's guilt gets to her and ends up hanging herself. Macbeth, on the other hand starts to go mad with power, meanwhile he has to start killing all the people he suspects to have known about the killing of Duncan. In the end, Macbeth ends up going into a one on one with Macduff (who was not born of a womans womb) and gets killed.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial
fawad135 | Student

At the beginning of the play, Macbeth is a respected general, a devoted husband, and a loyal subject of the king. The first of the witches' prophecies bring out his ambitious nature, but he struggles with killing the king. By attacking his manhood, Lady Macbeth convinces him to committ the first of his evil deeds. Macbeth's evil deed causes him to suffer from fear and guilt, which leads to even more evil crimes. Then Macbeth becomes paranoid, suffering from hallucinations and sleeplessness. He becomes less human as he tries over and over to establish his manhood. His ruthlessness in killing Banquo and Macduff's family shows how perverted his idea of manliness really is.

Macbeth's degeneration is also seen in the collapse of his marital relationship. They are loving and have a mutual respect for one another at first. Lady Macbeth becomes more and more unimportant to her husband after killing Duncan, however. He leaves her out of the plan to kill Banquo, Fleance, and Macduff's family. Macbeth allows the witches to take the place of his wife by allowing them to boost his ego, thinking he cannot be harmed by any man. Macbeth is, of course, mistaken about the witches' prophecies, but this just that he now allows his evil nature to control his actions. By the end, Macbeth has degenerated into evil personified, totally inhumane in his actions.

SECOND PART

Concerning Macbeth's character changes in Shakespeare's Macbeth, I'll just elaborate slightly on the first answer above.  When Macbeth first receives the prophecy predicting he will be king and Banquo's heirs will be kings, he is satisfied with the idea of being king.  Banquo's heirs do not concern him at this point.  Once he assassinates Duncan and is crowned king, however, this isn't enough.  Now he wants his heirs to be king.  He asks himself, why should he have taken all this risk just to put Banquo's heirs on the throne?  Unsatisfied with just ruling himself, he plots to kill not only Banquo, but Fleance.  His ambition has grown and become even more menacing.

IHOPE THIS HHAS REALLY HELPED YOU OUT ON YOUR QUESTION.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial
ibbie12 | Student

From respected, beloved by the king to Sick minded, ego or haughty, ruthful ( kills his own best friend Banquo and Macduffs Family), Ill (hallucinates)

*These are just some of the ways he changes, others have gone into detail.

I hope you find this helpfull

check Approved by eNotes Editorial
aicha | Student

at the beginning of the play we learn macbeth through other characters he is described as noble,and worthy gentleman. we he is portrayed  as what we perceive him as. us as the audience we respond to macbeth in this way because it is what we are being told he is and we quickly respond to this and expect macbeth to carry out his title but we are quickly disappointed as he goes against what gods wants him to do. he disturbs the natural order of things  this is not the way god wants it to be.. but he has gone against his own will to cause this

check Approved by eNotes Editorial