What is Macbeth's role in the play Macbeth? Including themes and issues where relevant

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shaketeach eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One of the great things about this play is that it shows us about governance and power.  To state the theme quite simply, it is, Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Consider what happens.  At the beginning of the play, we meet Macbeth, the protagonist and tragic hero of the play.  He is a good man it would seem.  A valiant warrior.  A loyal Scotsman.

Is he ambitious?  Of course he is.  This was not a time in Scottish history where the son necessarily followed his father onto the throne.  With constant threats from the raiding Norsemen, a boy king would not have been a good thing.  You needed a strong and proved military leader on the throne.  Does Macbeth, at the beginning of the play fit the bill?  Yes.  Does Malcolm?  No. he has not proved himself in battle.  In fact, he had to be rescued...by Macbeth.

The prophsey that he will be king in the future seems thwarted by Duncan naming his son, Malcolm as his successor.  Does Macbeth feel cheated?  Yes.

Does Lady Macbeth feel that her husband rather than a seemly weak and untested youth (Malcolm) deserves to be king?  Yes.

The combination of Macbeth's ambition, the weird sister's prediction, and the urging of Lady Macbeth all combine to lead Macbeth from hero to tyrant.

Once he murders Duncan. he must continue to murder to cover up his actions.  We hear how Scotland has become a horrible place to live.  Fear and distrust are the norm under Macbeth.  Neighbor spys on neighbor.  People don't know who they can trust.  He does not use his power wisely or for the good of his subjects.  He uses his power to control and punish those who don't fall in line.  Look what happens to the Macduff family.

In the play The Best Man, the old and dying former president tells one of the candidates, "Power is not a toy we give to good children.  It is a weapon and the strong man takes it and he uses it."

Shakespeare shows us this terrible lesson in Macbeth.  He uses his power to beat his people over the head.  One of the great lessons of history is the corrupting nature of power.  Once Macbeth killed Duncan he was corrupted by power.

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shakespeareguru eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Macbeth is a Tragedy , and as such, requires (according to Aristotle's definition) a Tragic Hero to fall prey to his tragic flaw, which instigates the Hero's downfall, ending in his undoing.  The character of Macbeth is this...

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teachertaylor eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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mitali27 | Student

I think Macbeth's role in the play Macbeth has contemporary relevance.

Macbeth became a victim of inordinate ambition. He bartered his scrupules and conscience for his lust for power. Before killing Duncan he hesitated as his conscience pricked. Later he beacme a seasoned criminal. He felt little qualms in killing lady Macduff and her innocent children.

To consolidate his position, Macbeth sacrificed everything- his sleep and his sweet relation with his wife. In the end he became a loner. After the sudden demise of Lady Macbeth, he realised the futility of all his frenzied actons beautifully illustrated in the lines:

"Life is full of sound and fury

Signifying nothing."

In today's fast track life there is a Macbeth everywhere. Like unbridled horse people are madly running after money and power little realising their moral bankruptcy is taking them to the abyss of depravity.

In modern sense Macbeth's role is that of an eye-opener to all young aspirants. There is nothing wrong in being ambitious. But pursuing foul means to accomplish one's dream is suicidal.

So dear readers, Macbeth by his tragic fall tells us to soar high but with patience and perseverance.


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