Who is the real villain in Macbeth?

The protagonist, Macbeth, is the real villain of Macbeth. He begins the play as a loyal and valiant servant of the king, but when he hears the witches' prophecy, he abandons his morality and goodness to seize the throne through murder. Although he is manipulated by others, it is ultimately Macbeth who is responsible for his transformation into a tyrannical and bloodthirsty king.

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Although some would argue that Lady Macbeth or even the witches are the real villains of Macbeth, the most obvious villain in the play is Macbeth himself.

It is true that the witches seem to manipulate Macbeth for the fun of it, and they are certainly malicious and vindictive...

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Although some would argue that Lady Macbeth or even the witches are the real villains of Macbeth, the most obvious villain in the play is Macbeth himself.

It is true that the witches seem to manipulate Macbeth for the fun of it, and they are certainly malicious and vindictive creatures whose evilness provides motive enough for their misdeeds. Whatever the witches' motives, however, it's undeniable that they find a receptive audience in Macbeth. It is telling that Banquo, too, is offered a prophecy by the witches. Unlike Macbeth, though, Banquo recognizes the obvious evil of the witches and pays them little attention. The consideration Macbeth gives the witches—as well as the speed with which he begins to contemplate murdering Duncan—suggests that his moral corruption has already begun, perhaps even before he encountered the witches. It is also important to note that though the witches' offer Macbeth prophecies, they never instruct him to act. It is he who interprets (or misinterprets) their words, and it is he who chooses the manner in which he will fulfill the prophecies.

It is true that Lady Macbeth, too, manipulates her husband, urging him to murder the king, their guest and friend, against his own conscience. She even insults his masculinity and suggests that he is not really a man if he will not pursue the goal of becoming king. However, even though his wife may have goaded him into killing the king, Macbeth himself is the one who wields the knife. Macbeth knows that Duncan is his guest, his king, and a compassionate person and good ruler to boot, and yet he still decides to go ahead with this heinous and bloody crime. He could have stuck to his principles and told his wife that he was no longer willing to proceed with their plan. He could have been satisfied with his two titles—Thane of Glamis and Thane of Cawdor—and retained his loyalty and honor, but instead, he chooses to follow his ambition.

Even as his wife is slowly driven mad by the weight of her guilt, Macbeth seems to lose his sense of guilt entirely, committing one murder and then another and another, each more heartless than the last. By the end of the play, Macbeth is no sympathetic figure but a wicked, tyrannical villain, and it is ultimately his death that restores justice and order to Scotland.

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