I have to write an essay on the following topic - "The Macbeth in me." Alternatively, I need to compare Macbeth with the people of today.

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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a number of aspects regarding Macbeth's nature that you would have to focus on in order to write a successful essay. You will have to compare these with your own and those of others and determine what the similarities and contrasts there are.

Obviously, with a title such as 'The Macbeth in Me' greater focus has to be placed on the similarities between you and Macbeth.

What is Macbeth's nature?

Let us first focus on what is good about him. We learn in Act one, scene two, that he is much admired for his unstinting defence of his King, Duncan. Macbeth fearlessly goes in to battle and gives no quarter. He is courageous and battle-hardened. He is obviously also a skilled swordsman, for based on reports about his actions on the battlefield, there can be no doubt that he is well-versed in the art of war. This gives him the confidence to, undaunted, enter into the fray and do his duty for King and country, a task he clearly relishes.

We find support for this in the following quote, in which a sergeant reports glowingly on Macbeth's prowess on the battlefield:

For brave Macbeth--well he deserves that name--
Disdaining fortune, with his brandish'd steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution,
Like valour's minion carved out his passage
Till he faced the slave;
Which ne'er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,
Till he unseam'd him from the nave to the chaps,
And fix'd his head upon our battlements.

King Duncan is so impressed by Macbeth's courage and determination that he bestows upon him the title 'Thane of Cawdor'.

Unfortunately, we soon learn that Macbeth also possesses some exceedingly unsavoury qualities which negatively impact on his strengths and essentially weaken him.

Firstly, we learn that he is gullible and deeply superstitious. When he and Banquo encounter the witches, it is he who is greatly affected by their premonitions, so much so that Banquo comments that he is, 'rapt withal', completely overwhelmed by their predictions. Macbeth then seeks their guidance and advice throughout, banishing common-sense and reason. He is easily misled and deceived by the witches who use paradox and equivocation to misguide him. This leads him to his doom.

We also learn that Macbeth is overly ambitious, to such an extent that he seeks the crown of Scotland and is prepared to do anything to achieve his goal. he is not prepared to wait for succession to occur in the natural order but wants to achieve his goal by the shortest possible route. In this regard he becomes like putty in Lady Macbeth's hands who easily manipulates him into committing the ultimate crime - the murder of his King. It is then that we realise that, in the final analysis, he is also evil.

We witness Macbeth's evil as he desperately seeks out his enemies and destroys them. He is ruthless in this regard and spares no one. He plots the murder of one of his closest comrades and confidantes, Banquo, and even orders the murder of Banquo's son Fleance, who fortunately escapes. It does not stop there. He plots the annihilation of Macduff's entire family, wife, children, all. No one is spared from his malevolent and wilful desire to retain power.

Macbeth soon realizes that he is so steeped in blood, that there is no turning back - he is at least honest in this regard. He soon discovers that his remorseless quest for power has brought him nothing but the derision of his common men, who also soon turn against him. His dismay is further heightened when he eventually realizes that the witches had deceived him. In the end, both he and his wife are entirely to blame for their own destruction.

The question you obviously have to ask yourself is whether you, or any 'people nowadays' (and there are many), possess any of the characteristics mentioned above and, using the information provided, formulate a response.