Are there any sympathetic characters in Macbeth?

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huntress eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think it would be fun and interesting to argue that MacBeth is a sympathetic character, at least in the beginning. He is honorable and brave in the beginning, and even after the Weird Sisters tell him he "shall be king hereafter," he is reticent about taking Duncan's life. He is pushed to do it--or at least begin the deed--by his wife, who lacks or suppresses the very humanity that makes him balk. She challenges his manhood, and he still does not finish the deed; she has to go in and do it for him. After this, he is plagued with guilt and continues down the path he has chosen only because "I am in blood / Stepped in so far that should I wade no more, / Returning were as tedious as go o'er" (III.4.142-5). 

He is a villain, of course, because he lacks the backbone to stand up to his wife, but that does not negate his being sympathetic. 

I would argue that we are meant to sympathize with MacBeth as it helps us see how easily we ourselves might sink to the same depths of depravity. 

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ssengupta eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One opinion is that the most sympathetic character in Macbeth is the priest who prays, watching Lady Macbeth. In the "sleep walking" scene, one of the most poignant, scary, and psychologically modern scene in an Elizabethan play, the priest prays for the sinner's soul, for Lady Macbeth:

Foul whisperings are abroad,

Unnatural souls do breed unnatural troubles,

Infected minds to their deaf pillows

Discharge their secret

God, God, forgive us all!

Notice, that in these lines, there is not a word of blame; only lament for what is unnatural (In the Elizabethan world order, to go against nature was the most horrible crime -- and murder was unnatural). "Infected minds to their deaf pillows/Discharge their secrets" -- it is the priest who understands human nature,he is a psychologist before "psychology" was invented.

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William Delaney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Some of the minor characters in the play are sympathetic. The Doctor attending Lady Macbeth seems very authentic in his speech and mannerisms. We sympathize with him because he is dealing with a patient whose ailments he feels powerless to cure and also because he has to deal with the patient's husband, who is acting like a madman and expressing contempt for physicians. Lady Macduff and her...

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Queen Langosh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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theasiangangster | Student

King Duncan

He trusted and liked him.

King Duncan's Guards

They were framed.

Banquo

He was Macbeth's closest friend 

McDuff

He lost his whole family.

Macduff's wife and family

They didn't do anything wrong and the children were so young.

Young Siward

He lost his life fighting Macbeth.

NOT LADY MACBETH (SHE WAS THE MASTER MIND BEHIND THE PLOT)

diali | Student

i think King Duncan, Lady Macbeth and Macduff

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nicoledesilva | Student

Sorry, I meant Lady Macbeth and not Mecbeth.

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nicoledesilva | Student

You can also count Lady Mecbeth as a sympathetic character as afterwards she has nightmares about that night and cannot have a peaceful sleep. She is not a sympathetic character throughout the play as at the start she actually urges Macbeth to kill Duncan. It is only in the second half of the play that we can sympathise with her as her death didn't even cause any greif to Macbeth.

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