Shakespeare said tragedy is more the result of the waste of good than the result of evil. How does this idea relate to the play?Macbeth by William Shakespeare

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shakespeare's character of Macbeth certainly illustrates the tragic waste of nobility and goodness in a character.  For, in the beginning of the play, Macbeth, Macbeth has gained recognition for himself as a warrior, and is praised by King Duncan as a "valiant cousin" and "Worthy gentleman" after the Captain describes Macbeth's deeds:

For brave Macbeth--well he deserves that name--

Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel,

Which smoked with bloody execution,

Like valor's minion carved out his passage

Till he faced the slave;

Which nev'r shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,

Till he unseamed him from the nave to th'chops,

And fixed his head upon our battlements. (1.2.18-25)

Tempted by the witches who call him his new title of Than of Cawdor, but then say he will be "King hereafter," Macbeth feels himself lured by the phantasmagoric realm. Unsettled by the temptation of power, on the visit of Duncan to his castle, Macbeth yet reminds himself of his kinship to Duncan, whose host he is; he considers the goodness and virtue of the king, who has made humble use of his power.  That he should kill this noble king for no valid reasons Macbeth himself states,

....Besides, this Duncan

Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been

So clear in his geat office, that his virtuesWill plead like angels trumpet-tongued against

The deep damnation of his taking-off;...

...I have not spur

To prick the sides of my intent, but only

Vaulting ambition...(1.7.16-27)

And, so, it is this "vaulting ambition," this cupidity of Macbeth, which causes him to abandon his noble nature and succumb to Lady Macbeth's attacks upon his manhood to make him slay King Duncan and fulfill the predictions of the preternatural three sisters, thus giving himself over to the powers of evil.