In Shakespeare's play, Macbeth, what quotations show Macbeth is a hero and what quotes show him to be a villain?

Expert Answers info

booboosmoosh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2003

write4,119 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

In Shakespeare's Macbeth, Macbeth is at first perceived as a hero, but as time goes on and he is tempted by the witches' prophecies and his wife's ambitious nagging, he turns his back on his morals and sense of loyalty, and becomes a villain.

The first quote that shows Macbeth a hero is from Ross, who is reporting Duncan, the King of Scotland's reaction to Macbeth's valiant fighting on the battle field:

The king hath happily recieved, Macbeth, / The news of thy success...He finds thee in the stout Norweyan ranks, / Nothing afeared of what thyself didn't make / Strange images of death. As thick as hail / Came post with post, and every one did bear / Thy praises in his kingdom's great defence / And poured them down before him.  (I, iii, 89-90, 95-99)

In this passage, Ross is explaining that Duncan has been happy to hear reports of Macbeth's performance in the midst of battle. It seems that Macbeth was surrounded by a great number of soldiers of the Norwegian army. Macbeth seemed not at all concerned. Over and over, the enemy attacked, but Macbeth continued to battle, undeterred, for the glory of his king, killing all who came near him.

There are  many quotations that illustrate that Macbeth is a villain. The following is Ross's report to Macduff that Macbeth has had Macduff's family killed:


Your castle is surprised; your wife and babes / Savagely slaughtered: to relate the manner, / Were, on the quarry of these murdered deer, / To add the death of you. (IV, iii, 204-207)


[Macbeth] has no children. All my pretty ones?...Bring though this fiend of Scotland and myself; / Within my sword's length set him; if he 'scape, / Heaven forgive him too!   (IV, iii, 216, 233-235)

In this passage, Macduff not only learns that his family has been destroyed completely, but that Macbeth had hoped to find him home as well, and have him killed. (Macbeth sent assassins.) Macduff prays that providence will bring Macbeth within sword's reach so that Macduff can exact his revenge.

The character of Macbeth shows how a good man can turn his back on what he knows is right and good, and become a vile black-heart.


check Approved by eNotes Editorial
Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write8,981 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

At the beginning of the play, Macbeth is depicted as a valiant warrior and hero of Duncan's army. Macbeth courageously led Duncan's soldiers against Macdonwald's army before defeating the Norwegian forces. Macbeth is awarded for his accomplishments and is given the title Thane of Cawdor by the king. When Duncan meets with Macbeth following the victories, Duncan tells Macbeth,

"O worthiest cousin, / The sin of my ingratitude even now / Was heavy on me. Thou art so far before / That swiftest wing of recompense is slow / To overtake thee. Would thou hadst less deserved, / That the proportion both of thanks and payment / Might have been mine! Only I have left to say, / More is thy due than more than all can pay" (Shakespeare, 1.4.15-23).

King Duncan's praises illustrate that Macbeth is indeed a heroic warrior who is worthy of being recognized and awarded for his impressive accomplishments.

By the end of the play, Macbeth's mental state has declined as a result of his unrestrained ambition, guilt, and hubris. Macbeth lords over Scotland as a bloodthirsty tyrant by executing his potential enemies and forcing citizens to fight in his army. In Act Four, Scene 3, Malcolm tells Macduff,

"This tyrant [Macbeth], whose sole name blisters our tongues, / Was once thought honest" (Shakespeare, 4.3.12-13).

Later on in the scene, Macduff laments the decline of Scotland by saying,

"O nation miserable, / With an untitled tyrant bloody-sceptered / When shalt thou see thy wholesome days again . . ." (Shakespeare, 4.3.105-107).

Further Reading:
check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Unlock This Answer Now