What five words could be used to describe each of the main characters in Macbeth?

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Jay Gilbert, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I suspect this question is really trying to get you to think about the motivations and character make-up of each of the main characters in the play. Your answer might differ from the answers others give, depending on how you feel about each character.

Take Macbeth, for example: he is ambitious, certainly, but would he have done what he did without the influence of his wife? Might we also say that he is malleable or corruptible? Is his character at the beginning of the play as ruthless as it is at the end? We might also say he was mad or corrupt, but again, the loyal Macbeth of the beginning of the play is not so.

Lady Macbeth, likewise, begins by presenting herself as hard, cold, ruthless, and ambitious, but when she shrinks from killing Duncan, she is weak and is tempered by gentleness. Later, she is overcome with guilt.

These characters, then, are not fixed—they change as the play progresses.

Duncan, meanwhile, is someone about whom we learn little. He is old, wise, generous, and trusting—but is he too trusting? Might we call him unperceptive for having bestowed favor on more than one man who betrayed him?

Macduff, meanwhile is brave, loyal, resolute, and clever; he manages to outwit Macbeth, and he fulfills the Witches' prophecy. He is loving: a family man who is distressed to have lost his wife. But at the same time, we don't know as much about his internal life as we do about Macbeth's, so we cannot easily see his complexities.

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Macbeth

  1. Conflicted: Macbeth struggles with his conscience throughout the play.
  2. Guilty: After committing regicide, Macbeth is overwhelmed by guilt.
  3. Naive: Macbeth believes and trusts in the prophecies.
  4. Violent: Macbeth is a skilled warrior, who also murders King Duncan.
  5. Tyrannical: Macbeth rules as a bloodthirsty tyrant once he becomes king.

Lady Macbeth

  1. Wicked: She prays for a callous soul and the opportunity to kill King Duncan.
  2. Ambitious: She convinces her husband to murder King Duncan in order for her to become queen.
  3. Manipulative: She ridicules her husband and persuades him into killing the king.
  4. Afflicted: Following Duncan's murder, Lady Macbeth's mental health begins to decline.
  5. Overwhelmed : Lady Macbeth's guilt overwhelms her as she begins to...

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kiyani | Student

King duncan kind, lovable, nice, good ruler.Macbeth brave, ambitious, violent,power hungery, rude in the later.Lady macbeth ambitious, good in manipulating and pursuing her husband , sort of intelligent and clever in the act of mudering the king when they were making plannings.banquo timid,coward.Witches evil sisters

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