What is a paradox that helps describe Macbeth from the play Macbeth? (Adjective/Noun. One word used in a positive sense, the other in a negative sense) 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Macbeth is a suffering villain. While he responds to his "vaulting ambition" and attains what he so desires through bloody deeds, unlike most villains, who delight in their crimes, Macbeth suffers from the pangs of his conscience, from his fears, and, most of all, from the horrors of his imagination.

Not content to wait on the witches' prediction that Macbeth will be king, Lady Macbeth scolds her husband when he has misgivings about killing his kinsman, King Duncan, in order to become king. Berating him, Lady Macbeth calls him cowardly and urges him on until he commits the crime. But, before he does, Macbeth suffers from the workings of his fears and imagination as he thinks he sees a dagger before him:

A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressèd brain?....
And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,
Which was not so before. There’s no such thing.
It is the bloody business which informs
Thus to mine eyes (2.1.39-40, 47-50)
Then, after he commits the bloody dead, the horrors of Macbeth's imagination torture him more:
Methought I heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep” (2.2.35)
Further, in Act III, Macbeth continues his bloody path since he feels that, having killed Duncan to become king, he must prevent anyone else from taking this kingship from him after he reflects,
For Banquo’s issue have I filed my mind;
For them the gracious Duncan have I murdered;
Put rancors in the vessel of my peace
Only for them; and mine eternal jewel
Given to the common enemy of man,
To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings! (3.1.68-73)
Macbeth feels that he may as well eliminate Banquo and his heirs in order to hold his kingship as long as he can since no further crime is of real consequence. Thus, he will rule by terror, and he will be "bloody, bold, and resolute." However, the horror of his imaginings prevent him from such boldness and resolution. Consequently, Macbeth becomes paranoid and suffers from hallucinations and sleeplessness. Lady Macbeth, his doppelgänger, suffers the same fate.
 
The more that Macbeth sinks his arms into blood, the more horrific his imagination becomes. In Act III, for instance, he speaks of "the affliction of these terrible dreams/That shake us nightly...(3.2.18-19). Further, he suffers emotionally as well, feeling terrible guilt when he sees Banquo's ghost, and he is burdened with deep despair after Lady Macbeth's death.
 
In contrast to many villains, Macbeth suffers because he cannot conquer the psychological consequences of his crimes; so, he is consumed with guilt and self-doubt. He also suffers because of the conflict of his ambition, which propels him to murder, with his conscience, which cannot be content with his being a murderer.
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Macbeth

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