In Macbeth, a good man will do the right thing, even if it kills him. How does this apply to Macbeth?I'm working on a class speech and stuck where to start... Macbeth is very complex and can be...

In Macbeth, a good man will do the right thing, even if it kills him. How does this apply to Macbeth?

I'm working on a class speech and stuck where to start... Macbeth is very complex and can be looked at in a variety of ways depending on the person's personal view.

Asked on by andrew262

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mshurn's profile pic

Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

mrsmonica, your take on Macbeth's loyalty is interesting. I always accepted the notion that he was loyal to Duncan until his fatal flaw was ignited by the witches' prophecies. Good man of high position falls--tragic hero and all that. But it also always bothered me that, as you said, the change in him is so sudden. I dismissed this as a structural problem to accomplish the tragedy in its five acts. Thinking about it, though, Macbeth never declares to Lady Macbeth his sense of loyalty to Duncan. He never says "I cannot betray my king!" He does tell her they won't go on, but that temporary change of heart isn't tied to feelings of loyalty. He does list all of Duncan's good qualities, but in terms of how Duncan's death will be taken by Scotland. So now I'm not so sure Macbeth was loyal in terms of loving Duncan. Maybe he was just really, really competitive in battle! He does seem surprised, though, to realize just how incredibly ambitious he is. You think?

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drmonica | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

Macbeth proves himself to be the antithesis of a good man. The seeds of evil must have always lain dormant in him, for them to have been so easily stirred by the witches' predictions and his wife's urging. I agree with mshurn that Macbeth has proved himself to be a capable and accomplished soldier; however, I disagree that he was loyal. His later actions underscore his extreme self-interest, which leads me to conclude that his initial bravery was exhibited not for love of his king but to support his own ambitions.

mshurn's profile pic

Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Really, considering Macbeth in relation to this idea seems surprising to me. It seems to apply more to Macduff than to Macbeth. For instance, Macduff chose to fight against Macbeth who had murdered the legitimate king and who continued to inflict suffering upon Scotland. He later swore to destroy Macbeth personally, or die trying, after Macbeth had slaughtered Macduff's entire family and household. In the context of the story, these were the right things to do, and Macduff was willing to lose his own life in order to do them. Macduff is portrayed as a good man, from the beginning of the play until its conclusion. 

But what of Macbeth? Was he a good man who tried to do the right thing? And if so, when? In the beginning of the play, Macbeth is first presented as a good man who fights with great courage in defense of his king. In fact, it is his loyalty, strength and bravery--at the risk of his own life--that earns him King Duncan's great respect and appreciation; Duncan makes him Thane of Cawdor to reward Macbeth for his behavior on the battlefield.

After his ambition is aroused, however, Macbeth quickly deteriorates into a monster, one who kills the innocent to gain power and then to keep it. It is only in the play's conclusion that we get a final glimpse of the man Macbeth had once been. He does not want to fight with Macduff, feeling that he has too much of Macduff's blood on his hands already. Then he chooses to fight to the death instead of enduring the humiliation of surrendering to Macduff. Were these the acts of a good man? Perhaps the first one reflected someone who had rediscovered his own conscience, but the second one seems to have been an act of pride. As Shakespeare's tragic hero, Macbeth can be viewed as a good man who was corrupted by his ambition and destroyed himself by violating his own conscience, choosing again and again to do the wrong thing.

 

 

andrew262's profile pic

andrew262 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

Macbeth is the most un-good person in the play. I think you mean Macduff. After his family is murdered by Macbeth, he realizes he has nothing left to fight for except for his country.

This is a good point epollock and i guess i may have interpreted the question wrong. It ask to compose a speech in close reference to the set text Macbeth with the Quote " A good man will do the right thing, even if it kills him" So i guess this totally leads towards Macduff. Any tips on how i could begin and compose a great spech about Macduff rather than Macbeth.

epollock's profile pic

epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

Macbeth is the most un-good person in the play. I think you mean Macduff. After his family is murdered by Macbeth, he realizes he has nothing left to fight for except for his country.

kc4u's profile pic

kc4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

The idea that a good man will do the right thing even if it kills him is a bit simplistic and one-directional idea that prefers to suggest that 'good' and 'evil' are mutualyy exclusive. The character of Macduff may be one such character; but Macbeth is far more complex for he shows the co-existence and conflict between the two in the same personality. Some persons are all good and some persons are all bad seems to be a black & white version of humankind. Shakespeare's Macbeth re-examines the idea in a new Renaissance light.

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