What is the impression of Macbeth and what do we learn about Duncan's character in Act 1, Scene 2?

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blacksheepunite | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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The scene, Act 1 Scene 2, is where we first learn about how brave and fierce Macbeth is. We first learn of him as a loyal subject, tireless in battle, courageous, and vicious (he does, after all, "unseam" a man from the navel to the "chaps"). We are told that even though the battle seemed to be lost, Macbeth never surrendered, but instead, fought harder than ever to get to the traitor and kill him. Here is the first reference to Macbeth not paying any mind to fortune or fate--it says he was "disdaining fortune". What this means is that Macbeth is already taking fate into his own hands. He is not the type of person to just give up and let life unfold whatever way it wants to.

In this scene, we learn that Duncan is a generous king who repays loyal service with honours. He is also a king who is not afraid to order a traitor put to death, so he is a capable ruler. He gives Macbeth the Cawdor's title because Macbeth has served him well and made money for his coffers in the process. Later on, we hear Duncan say something even more revealing about his character. Speaking of the first Cawdor, he says "there's no art to find the mind's construction in the face." This suggests he takes people as they appear to be on the surface. He does not know how to tell if someone is actually his ally or not. This proves to be part of the reason for his downfall.

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