What do we learn about Macbeth from his own words?

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sagetrieb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although he is a very complex character, Macbeth tells us much about himself by speaking to us in monologues or in speaking to others. In Act 1, Shakespeare provides Macbeth the opportunity of a monologue so that he can explain his motivation in killing Duncan: “I have no spurs / To prick the sides of my intent, but only / Vaulting ambition” (1.7. 29).  Yet, soon afterwards, we learn from his dialogue with his wife that he has grave doubts about the murder, and that perhaps without her encouragement he might not have carried through with it. When she presses him to act, he tells her “”Prithee, peace./ I dare do all that may become a man. / Who dares do more is none” (1.7.50-52). At the end of the play, when he hears of the death of his wife, he reveals another aspect of his character, at least at this moment, which is remorse about the meaninglessness of all he has done: “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow / Creeps in this petty pace from day to day” he says, concluding that life is “a tale / told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing” (5.5.22-31). Here his wife is dead and his country is hunting him down for his evil acts.  Was it all  worth it, he asks? He shows some remorse here, and sadness about the death of his wife, but also a certain deadness of spirit—although he rouses himself again to face Macduff before the play ends.