Is Macbeth a good man turned evil or was he evil all along? Explain

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Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Concerning Macbeth's nature in Shakespeare's Macbeth, I agree with the previous editor, and this is an interesting question.  This is one of the interpretive issues that is left largely to directors, actors, and readers/viewers to draw conclusions about.

We wouldn't assume that Macbeth's actions would be unmotivated, so there has to be something dormant inside of him before the witches make their predictions.  He has to have already been somewhat ambitious.  Yet, nothing is directly revealed until he hears the predictions. 

Interestingly--and this is what I mean when I suggest that the issue is left ambiguous for directors and actors to interpret--some productions present Macbeth as sulky and discontented before he hears the predictions.  Macbeth only speaks one line before the witches appear, and he listens to just a few words from Banquo, but it is just enough time to show Macbeth as unhappy for some actors. 

That, of course, is speculation on the part of actors and directors, but that is what they do when they perform a Shakespeare play.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I will go with the idea that Macbeth was like all of us -- he was a person with good and evil inside him.  Without the witches' prophecy, the evil might not have won.  But with their prophecy and the "help" of his wife, Macbeth's evil side won.

My main piece of evidence is from the way that he feels guilty and worried about the idea of killing.  You can see this in his repeated visions -- the dagger, Banquo's ghost.  These visions show that he has a conscience and is not purely evil.