In William Shakespeare's play "Macbeth", how does Macbeth's personality change over the course of the play? What were some of the traits he possessed in Act 1? How did he change?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Act 1 of William Shakespeare's play "Macbeth", the eponymous protagonist Macbeth initially appears as a deservedly admired character. The Sergeant calls him "brave Macbeth" and describes how he slew the treacherous Macdonwald. King Duncan contrasts Macbeth's loyalty with the treachery of Macdonwald, and appoints him the new Thane of Cawdor. 

Macbeth's initial reaction of fear and discomfort towards the witches also suggests a character that does not want to be associated with evil. In a short aside, he debates with himself over the witches' nature and prophecy: 

If good, why do I yield to that suggestion

Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair

And make my seated heart knock at my ribs,  ...

His uncertainty in Act I, and doubts about the witches, show that he still has a conscience. As he commits increasing evil deeds over the course of the play, he becomes increasingly comfortable with evil acts, and as he gains power and security in that power, increasingly tyrannical, following the witches' recommendation that he become "bloody, bold and resolute."

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kayla1996's profile pic

kayla1996 | Student, College Freshman | (Level 2) Honors

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In Act 1, Macbeth is portrayed as a courageous hero after defeating the traitorous Macdonwald. His undying loyalty to the King and his wife is also revealed in the first act. However, once the witches approach him divulging that he will be King one day, his ambition is exposed along with his compulsion for power. Macbeth may be physically strong, but he is mentally weak and easily influenced by his wife to commit evil deeds. An evil side of Macbeth is revealed as he and his wife plot these evil deeds to ensure he becomes King, yet he still has a conscious as he is hesitant to murder the King. As guilt and self-doubt begin to consume him, Macbeth slowly becomes more and more evil. In the end after all the evil he committed, Macbeth symbolizes evil personified.

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