Why does the character of Macbeth change throughout the play? (use quotes)anybody in a good mood and want to write a paragraph or twelve for my essay?? thanks ;)

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the beginning of Shakespeare's Macbeth, Macbeth was a loyal subject, an excellent warrior, and well-loved by Duncan, the King of Scotland.

In Act One, scene two, the Sergeant reports how Macbeth fights ferociously across the battlefield to face the traitor Macdonwald. Macbeth overcomes the traitor and kills him. Duncan is delighted:


O valiant cousin! Worthy gentleman! (26)

When reinforcements show up, the Sergeant again reports that Macbeth is like a raging fire, sweeping through the enemy's ranks with Banquo, undeterred by the numbers he faces.

By scene three, the witches have predicted that Macbeth will become the Thane of Cawdor and, later, king. When Duncan rewards him with the title of Cawdor, Macbeth secretly wonders about the prophecies of the witches. He knows that the witches' predictions promise good things, but he is overcome by a sense of dread, as well, because in order to be king, Duncan must die. He is not comfortable with this.

However, soon the idea of taking action is seated in his mind. In scene four, Duncan names his son, Malcolm, the Prince of Cumberland: next in line to inherit the throne. Macbeth recognizes an obstacle in his path to the throne. He notes:

And you whose places are the nearest, know
We will establish our estate upon
Our eldest, Malcolm, whom we name hereafter
The Prince of Cumberland... (42-45)

Returning home, not completely committed, Macbeth is confronted by his wife who has received his letter with news of what has occurred; she has already begun to consider a plan. Macbeth knows that he has no other reason to kill Duncan than his dangerous ambition—his need to always have more:

I have no spur 
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself
And falls on the other— (I.vii.25-28)

When she learns that Duncan will come to stay at their home, she decides he will never leave alive. Macbeth does not defy her, but when the time comes to carry out the plan, he balks. Lady Macbeth questions his bravery, insulting him. Finally, he agrees to move forward.

By this time, Macbeth is determined to murder Duncan, even though his best friend Banquo has questioned him about the witches' prediction. Once Duncan is murdered (and Duncan's sons have fled for fear of their own lives), Macbeth realizes he will also need to kill his friend because Banquo will never be satisfied as long as he suspects Macbeth may have had a hand in Duncan's death. Macbeth does have Banquo murdered; later, to maintain his position as king, he tries to kill Macduff, who also questions Macbeth's place on the throne.  

Macbeth gets to the point that he believes he has lost his soul and is so steeped in killing that he can never be free from his guilt. Ultimately, he realizes that the witches have tricked him by telling him half-truths, and he is killed in battle.

At the beginning of the play, Macbeth is the man Duncan believes him to be: brave and honorable. However, as Hecate notes to her followers:

And you all know security
Is mortals’ chiefest enemy. (III.v.32)

In believing the witches' predictions, he depends solely upon them and develops a false sense of invincibility. With his irresistible ambition ever driving him on, Macbeth ends up giving in to his unquenchable desire to be greater than he is.

In losing his honor, Macbeth loses his humanity. He interferes with God's choice of king and is with that choice, doomed. Only when Macbeth is dead is order restored.

luannw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the beginning of the play, Macbeth is a good and valiant soldier who is happy to serve his king.  In Act 1, sc. 2, ll. 17-25, the Captain tells Duncan of Macbeth's valor in battle.  We see Macbeth start to change as early as Act 1, sc. 3 after Angus delivers the news about Macbeth's new title as Thane of Cawdor.  Since this confirmed the witches' second prophecy, Macbeth lets his thoughts go to the possibility of becoming king (ll. 148-163).  He quickly, at the end of that aside, decides that he will let fate run its course rather than help it along though.  When Macbeth's wife gets the news about the prophecies and Macbeth's new title, she decides he must become king and fulfill the prophecies.  When Macbeth decides he will not kill the king as Lady Macbeth wants, she gets angry with him and insults his masculinity.  This, then, convinces him that, to appease his wife and his own ambition, he will go through with the deed (Act 1, sc. 7, ll. 92-95), even though he is obviously still reluctant.  His reluctance is also shown in Act 2, sc. 1, when he delivers his soliloquy.  He knows that the dagger he sees in front of him is a product of his imagination stemming from the guilt he feels over his impending deed (ll. 45-51).  Macbeth still has a conscience that is telling him killing Duncan is wrong.  By the time, we get to Act 3, sc. 1, Macbeth's conscience, if not gone, is on its way out.  He tells the murderers here to kill his friend, Banquo, and tells them that Banquo is their enemy (ll. 125-126).  In Act 4, sc. 1, after the witches' apparitions have appeared, Macbeth has become cold-blooded.  He plans to kill off Macduff's family (ll. 173-177).  Macbeth has now become extremely paranoid also.  The paranoia shows itself in Act 5 when Macbeth keeps grasping on to the apparitions' prophecies (Act 5, sc. 3, ll. 4-9 and Act 5, sc. 7, ll. 2-4). By the end of the play, Macbeth has become resolved to his fate, which is death at the hands of Macduff (Act 5, sc. 8, ll. 35-39).