What good and bad principles, values, qualities and ideas does Macbeth himself show throughout the play?I need this for an assignment, but I can't really pick out the exact ones. They need to be...

What good and bad principles, values, qualities and ideas does Macbeth himself show throughout the play?

I need this for an assignment, but I can't really pick out the exact ones. They need to be for the character Macbeth.


Expert Answers
Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One aspect of Macbeth in Shakespeare's Macbeth that isn't often talked about is the friends that he has when the play opens. 

Banquo and Macduff are Macbeth's friends, and Duncan considers him a loyal follower. 

Banquo and Macduff are upright and noble thanes as well as friends of Macbeth's.  Banquo is traveling with Macbeth when they come across the witches, and Macduff is thought to be, or at least suspected of being (by Malcolm in Act 4.3) Macbeth's friend, because they once were.  And, again, these two nobles who once considered Macbeth a friend, appear to be absolutely noble.

The point is, then, that Macbeth must have been a noble, good man and a good friend.  He must have done all the things good friends do.  And he must have appeared to be absolutely loyal to King Duncan. 

To explain with one example, once Banquo suspects Macbeth of treachery, he goes through the motions of being polite and having a conversation with Macbeth, but he is doing exactly that--pretending (see Act 3.1).   But Banquo is not pretending in Act 1.  He considers Macbeth a friend and is concerned enough about him to warn him that sometimes evil beings ("instruments of darkness") tell people a little truth to gain their trust, for the purpose of later bringing them down.  Banquo considers Macbeth a friend at this point. 

Macbeth must have had something good in him, for he had good, noble friends.  But, as he says, "vaulting ambition," for Macbeth, comes before friends. 

Ironically, Banquo sums up the entire play when he warns Macbeth that the witches may be equivocating--telling him half-truths for the purpose of deceiving him.  Macbeth should have listened to his friend.

shakespeareguru eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is quite a large question, so I will cover one moment in the play in which Macbeth seems to be conflicted between his better and worser natures.

In Act I, Scene vii, Macbeth is alone onstage with the audience, and this is the first time that he has actually spoken about becoming King and his wife's plan to murder Duncan.

He is very aware that it will only open a new can of worms if he kills Duncan.  The people will treat Duncan as a martyr and there will be much suspicion amongst the other nobles as to who is trustworthy and who is not.  So, he shows great foresight and consideration of character here.

He also displays his natural inclination towards honorable actions:

...He's here in double trust.

First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,

Strong both against the deed; then as his host,

Who should against his murderer shut the door,

Not bear the knife myself.

And yet, through all this awareness and consideration, he still decides to commit the murder.  Why?  Probably his most glaring downfall, since it is the originator of so much violence and treachery.  Macbeth sets his course for the rest of the play, and the part of his nature that he will follow to the end with these lines:

...I have no spur

To prick the sides of my intent, but only

Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself

And falls on the other.

So, though Macbeth displays, in thought, many noble qualities, his actions bear themselves only to be motivated by his ambition, which leads to many acts of evil.

teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In addition, Macbeth shows that he feels the sense of guilt over what he has done.  His guilt is suggested several times throughout the play.  At the beginning of Act 2, Macbeth hallucinates the dagger that symbolizes his inner conflict over ambition, greed, moral responsibility, and fear.  He is not sure what to do and fears that he will make the wrong decision.  After he murders King Duncan, he runs back to Lady Macbeth and tells her that he is sure that someone has heard him commit the crime.  She tells him that he is simply afraid, but he will not shake the issue.  His guilt "speaks" to him as he tries to cover up the murder.  Finally, Banquo's ghost is another symbol of Macbeth's guilt coming to haunt him and make him face responsibility.  So, as mentioned above, Macbeth's bad decisions overshadow his noble qualities that he surely has as evidenced by the extreme guilt and fear that he feels.