When is Macbeth seen as a leader? When is Macbeth seen as a follower? 

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iandavidclark3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Shakespeare's Macbeth, Macbeth can be seen as both a follower and a leader. At the very beginning of the play, we see Macbeth as a great military leader, as he skillfully directs his army on the battlefield and ultimately leads them to victory over Macdonwald. It is this display of courageous leadership that prompts King Duncan to name Macbeth the Thane of Cawdor, an action that ultimately drives Macbeth to believe that he can trust the witches' prophecy and that he has the right to murder Duncan.

Surprisingly, in murdering Duncan, it's possible to see Macbeth as more of a follower than a leader. For instance, though Macbeth wants to kill Duncan and take the crown for himself, his conscience initially overrules his ambition and he hesitates to act. It's Lady Macbeth who ultimately possesses the conviction to murder Duncan, and so she plays a leading role in convincing Macbeth to carry out the deed. Thus, in this instance, we can see Lady Macbeth as the leader and Macbeth himself as a mere follower.