What does act 1, scene 2 tell us about Macbeth?

What act 1, scene 2 tells us about Macbeth is that he's a brave and loyal warrior. Scottish forces have just defeated an invading Irish army, and Macbeth played a leading role in the Scots' victory. As well as fighting bravely, he killed the rebel leader, the treacherous Macdonwald, thus earning him the praise and gratitude of King Duncan.

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Macbeth does not appear in act 1, scene 2, but the scene is all about him. It is the dying sergeant (or captain) who tells King Duncan about Macbeth's exploits, to a rapturous reception. The impression created is one of almost superhuman courage, dynamism, and violence. The king is pleased, because Macbeth has been exercising his talents on his behalf, but the audience is left in no doubt that Macbeth would be a terrifying adversary.

In the sergeant's description of the death of the rebel Macdonwald, for instance, Macbeth is shown to be entirely reckless regarding his own safety. He cut out a passage, killing every soldier between himself and Macdonwald, until his sword was steaming with hot blood. When he came face to face with the rebel leader, he ripped the man's torso open "from the nave to the chops" and (apparently in the same movement) fixed his severed head on the battlements as a gruesome warning to other rebels.

Most people might have been rather tired after such a bloodbath, but Macbeth asked nothing more than to turn and immerse himself in another battle against the King of Norway. There is no doubt that Macbeth has courage in battle, but he seems to revel in bloodshed more than any sane man would.

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Given his devious, treacherous behavior later on in the play, it may come as something of a surprise to see Macbeth praised for his heroism and courage in act 1, scene 2.

And yet there is no doubt that Macbeth has acquitted himself magnificently on the field of battle, leading Scottish forces to victory against Irish invaders led by the renegade Macdonwald. During the battle, Macbeth killed Macdonwald in a particularly gruesome fashion, slicing him almost in half before sticking his severed head on the battlements as a warning to others.

As well as having to fight an invading force of Irishmen, Macbeth also had to contend with a Norwegian army assisted by the treacherous Thane of Cawdor. But the enemy proved no match for the Scots and were soundly beaten.

After the battle, the treacherous Thane of Cawdor was captured and executed on Duncan's orders. As a reward for his daring exploits, King Duncan awards the now vacant title of Thane of Cawdor to Macbeth as a reward for his daring exploits.

There's little doubt that the picture of Macbeth presented to us in act 1, scene 2 is a very positive one indeed. He comes across as a brave, noble warrior, prepared to do and die for his king and country. Macbeth is highly respected by other men, most notably his king, who lavishes praise and honors upon his most valiant soldier. There's certainly no sign as yet that the new Thane of Cawdor will turn out to be even more of a traitor than the last one.

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In act 1, scene 2, the Captain describes to King Duncan how Macbeth bravely fought and defeated Macdonwald and his Irish soldiers in a bloody battle. The Captain tells Duncan that Macbeth split Macdonwald from his navel to his jawbone before decapitating and sticking his enemy's head on the castle walls. King Duncan refers to Macbeth as his "valiant cousin" and a "Worthy gentleman" after listening to Macbeth's exploits on the battlefield. The Captain proceeds to elaborate on how Macbeth and Banquo courageously went on to defeat the Norwegian forces after their victory over Macdonwald. Ross then enters the scene and corroborates the Captain's story regarding Macbeth's victory over the Norwegian king. King Duncan then refers to Macbeth as a noble individual and announces that Macbeth will be given the title Thane of Cawdor. This scene portrays Macbeth in a positive light and depicts him as an accomplished, loyal soldier, who is revered and admired by King Duncan. Macbeth is a valiant soldier, who courageously challenges and defeats his enemies on the battlefield. As a tragic hero, it is important to depict Macbeth's position of nobility and greatness before illustrating how his tragic flaw leads to his demise.

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This particular scene shows us what other characters think about Macbeth at the beginning of the story. The wounded captain calls him "brave Macbeth" and details Macbeth's courageous, though brutal, behavior during the two battles in which he fights (line 18). He is relentless and swift, like "Valor's minion," or the chosen darling of valor or courage (line 21). Further, when Duncan hears the captain's report, he cries, "O valiant cousin, worthy gentleman!" This tells us Macbeth is actually related to the king and that the king thinks of him incredibly highly (line 26). In fact, Duncan thinks so well of Macbeth that he decides to give him an additional title, the Thane of Cawdor, and he tells the same men to execute the old Thane of Cawdor for treason and inform Macbeth of his new title. This scene makes it clear that everyone thinks highly of Macbeth, he is beloved by his king, and he seems to be quite loyal to the crown.

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