MacBeth - Character Changes


"This dead butcher and his fiend like queen", is the way in which 
Malcolm describes Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Describe the way in which 
these two characters changed during the course of the play.

 At the beginning of the play Macbeth is seen as a courageous 
soldier who is loyal to the King but is corrupted from the witches 
prophecies and by his and Lady Macbeth's ambition. This is because of 
the weakness of Macbeth's character and the strong power of Lady 
Macbeth and how she is easily able to influence him. Her strength 
motivates him at the start but after he realises what he has done it 
is himself that continues in his murderous, bloody path. At the 
beginning of the play Lady Macbeth appears as a kind wife of Macbeth's 
but underneath lies a scheming and treacherous woman.

 In the beginning of the play Macbeth is a strong soldier who 
fights for the King without mercy but his strive for ambition and his 
curious nature leads him to the witches who give him a prophecy. 
Banquo realises that there must be a trick hidden in the witches 
prophecies somewhere but Macbeth refuses to accept that, and when Lady 
Macbeth finds out about the witches her strong desire for ambition and 
her cold nature leads Macbeth astray. Macbeth is a little ambitious 
at first, but Lady Macbeth's far exceeds his and so she is able to get 
Macbeth to agree with her to kill King Duncan. Macbeth still has a 
conscience at this stage because he is very hesitant about killing the 
King but his weak nature over comes him. He has a conscience 
throughout the entire play as this is seen by the hallucinations of 
the dagger and the ghost of Banquo and his vivid imagination and his 
constant worry also provokes him. This is also evident in his 
terrible dreams which gives the solid theme that he has indeed 
"murdered sleep".

 Throughout the play we see the character of Macbeth change not 
from just the way he thinks and what we hear from the play, but from 
the actions he takes in the play, from killing Banquo, then having 
Lady Macduff and her children murdered, shows the insecurity that was 
present in Macbeth. After the murder of Duncan Macbeth becomes 
paranoid and his first step of killing the guards is one of many that 
Macbeth takes to secure himself. Macbeth is also very superstitious 
and this is shown when he believes the prophecy the witches told him 
that Banquo's offspring would become Kings.

 Towards the end of the play when Macbeth's wife has died and 
the battle is drawing closer Macbeth shows some good which may have 
been. He wishes for a normal life for which he would have lived to an 
honourable age but he recognises that he has denied himself of this. 
Even when Macbeth hears that the prophecy has become true of Birnam 
Wood coming to Dunsinane, he rejects this idea and fights on until he 
realises that Macduff wasn't born in a natural birth but instead was 
"Untimely ripped" from his mother's womb. When Macbeth hears of this 
he realises what he has done and how he has been tricked by the 
witches but instead he realises that it is useless and so he fights on 
only to be slain.

 Macbeth can be summarised into a character although strong 
physically he is very weak mentally and it is this weakness which 
causes the downfall and change of Macbeth. Other factors do however 
also contribute to this change such as his wife whose ambition is very 
strong at first and is much more stronger mentally than Macbeth but it 
is also Macbeth's ambition and his trust in the witches which 
ultimately change him.

 Lady Macbeth seems to be almost opposite compared to that of 
Macbeth in physical and mental power. Lady Macbeth is the person who 
is able to persuade Macbeth into killing Duncan, assuring Macbeth that 
it will succeed, as Lady Macbeth's ambition is far greater than that 
of Macbeth. This change in the character of Lady Macbeth is apparent 
after she reads the letter from Macbeth as she goes and talks to the 
evil spirits to make herself evil with lines such as "Fill me from the 
crown to the toe-top full of direst cruelty! Make thick my blood". 
She goes to the extent of planning the murder of Duncan and assumes 
full responsibility of this. She exerts a lot of power over Macbeth 
in this part of the play and even calls him a "coward" and this shows 
just how determined she is and how much ambition she has for her 
husband. It is this confidence in herself plus the persuasiveness on 
her words that makes Macbeth act on her words without hesitating.

 After performing the necessary acts in preparation for the 
murder of Duncan she thinks of performing the act herself but shows a 
sign of humanity and doesn't because it resembles "My father as he 
slept". After the muder has been done Lady Macbeth shows just how 
strong a person she really is by using kind words and confidence to 
clam Macbeth down and prevent him going insane. Lady Macbeth however 
jokes with Macbeth about forgetting the incident as "These deeds must 
not be thought after these ways: so, it will make us mad". Afterwards 
she gets the daggers that Macbeth had brought with him and smeared 
them with blood and then told Macbeth to change into a nightgown. At 
this point Lady Macbeth is in complete control and has tried to make 
Macbeth free of guilt even though he in fact did perform the deed.

 Lady Macbeth is then able to exclaim in horror "What! In our 
House!" to the murder of Duncan but whilst in complete control, to 
draw away the suspicion from Macbeth. When however she finds out that 
Macbeth has killed the guards she faints "Help me Hence" but is this a 
another sign of an act to again draw away the suspicion from Macbeth 
or did she faint from shocked dismay. I believe she was shocked 
because I think that Lady Macbeth was surprised that she was able to 
get Macbeth to commit the murder of Duncan, but was shocked at how 
over one night and in fear, Macbeth could kill two more men in cold 

 Lady Macbeth is still strongly in control as the play proceeds 
and is able to handle crises very well which is shown at the banquet 
incident where Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo, but Lady Macbeth is 
quick to lie for Macbeth to conceal the real ideas that are happening. 
 As Macbeth progresses with his evil acts, however, Lady Macbeth 
starts to go mad which is almost like what her prophecy mentioned. 
She also hallucinates like her husband but this time about trying to 
cleanse her hands of the blood that will not wash off. Even though 
she may be a strong character greatly supporting her husband she is 
reduced and battered by the deeds and her conscience which she was 
able to rid from Macbeth, eventually drives her insane. She then 
kills herself unable to remove the "damned spot". At his wife's 
suicide Macbeth has already thrown away his conscience, so much so, 
that Macbeth commits even more evil acts afterwards without even 
admitting her to his conscience.

 Over the course of the play Macbeth and Lady Macbeth greatly 
change with respect to their characters and their personalities. 
Although Macbeth was weak at first it was the strong Lady Macbeth who 
helped him through the first murder but in sacrifice to controlling 
Macbeth and his conscience she lost control of hers and in consequence 
turned insane and killed herself. Thus in the end it was worthy to 
call Macbeth and his wife "a dead butcher and his fiend like queen" 
but it must not be forgotten that at the beginning of the play Macbeth 
and his wife were ordinary nobles at the time.


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