Why do we sympathize with Macbeth?Please include some quotes.

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Do we?  Ok, I guess Shakespeare does do a very complete job in order to create some sympathy for Macbeth.  To start, Macbeth himself knows that his murderous intentions are not correct.  He asks the universe to cover up his desire for the crown:

Stars, hide your fires;
Let not light see my black and deep desires:... (I.iv)

He wrestles with the decision after Lady Macbeth has pushed him to do it, listing Duncan's virtues:

Besides, this Duncan
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off;... (I.vii)

And by admitting that it his own ambition that is leading him to do this:

I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition,... (I.vii)

Then we see Macbeth taken in by Lady Macbeth's very convincing arguments.  Shakespeare shows that Macbeth doesn't decide to kill the king, but only gives in to her demands. 

The Shakespeare shows Macbeth's remorse after Duncan has been murdered:

I'll go no more:
I am afraid to think what I have done;
Look on't again I dare not. ((II.ii)

And again after the killing of Banquo, when he is so troubled by the sight of Banquo's ghost:

Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves
Shall never tremble: or be alive again,
And dare me to the desert with thy sword; (III.iv)

And finally at the end, Macbeth tells us that his actions were not worth it:

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. ...
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: (V.v)


sagetrieb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If we did not feel some sympathy for Macbeth the play would not succeed as a tragedy, for a tragedy depends upon that engagement of the audience with the hero. He is so courageous at the beginning, yet becomes so fearful at the end. I think Shakespeare manipulates our feelings for Macbeth by depicting women as part of the source of his downfall: the witches on the one hand and his wife on the other. I consider this "manipulation" because it builds upon the stereotype of powerful women as evil women, notwithstanding the fact that the witches are not typical women at all. Macbeth says to Lady Macbeth when she presses and presses him to commit the murder, "I dare do all that may become a man. / Who dares do more is none" in an attempt to silence his wife (1.7.51-52), but he cannot silence her and as a result loses the manhood he desperately wants to preserve. In these moments our negative feelings transfer to Lady Macbeth, and we give Macbeth himself our sympathy for we surely would not want to be hounded upon as she hounds upon him.