Macbeth Hero or Villain?

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There is much debate about whether Macbeth is a hero or if he is purely villainous. Shakespeare has created many villains and heroes throughout his plays. Macbeth is a character unlike any of these. Macbeth is neither purely villainous nor heroic though he does show characteristics of both. A villain is defined as a wicked person who shows little sympathy or remorse for their actions. According to this definition the statement is an unsatisfactory comment upon Macbeth due him demonstrating a great deal of remorse and sorrow, Macbeth creates admiration through his ambition, dignity, desire, bravery, morals, compassion, honour and willpower. A hero is defined as a person of distinguished courage or performance, admired for his noble qualities which would fit Macbeth”‘”s character. Shakespeare manipulates how the reader will respond using different dramatic techniques such as the use of Macbeth”‘”s soliloquies.

We first hear of Macbeth in the captains account of his brave battlefield valour, he says in Act I Scene II ‘”‘For brave Macbeth (well he deserves that name), disdained fortune, with his brandished steel, which smokes with bloody execution, like valours minion, carved out his passage, Till he faced the slave, Till he unseamed him for the nave to the chops, and fixed his head upon our battlement.'”‘ The reader”‘”s initial impression is of a brave and capable warrior-somewhat of a hero which is formed through other characters praise of Macbeth. This perspective becomes somewhat complicated, however, once we see Macbeth interact with the witches in Act I Scene III. The reader realizes that Macbeth”‘”s physical courage is joined by a consuming ambition and tendency to self doubt. The prediction that he will be King brings him joy, he comments in Act I Scene III ‘”‘If chance will have me King, why, chance may crown me.'”‘ This prediction however also creates inner turmoil. These three attributes-bravery, ambition and self doubt, struggle to consume Macbeth throughout the play. Shakespeare uses Macbeth to show the reader the terrible effects ambition and guilt can have on a man who lacks strength of character.

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Both Lady Macbeth and the Witches are somewhat responsible for the downfall of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth through her persistence for Macbeth to kill Duncan through her manipulation and her attacks on his manhood and ego. The witches do this through embedding the thoughts into Macbeths mind. Blame cannot be placed upon them entirely; the blame lies with the person who committed the act- Macbeth. It was Macbeth”‘”s lack of strength when his wife laid pressure on him and his craving to be King and to have social power that ultimately led to the deaths of King Duncan, Banquo, Lady Macduff and her children, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. The reader cannot help but wonder that if Macbeth had never met the witches would he still have killed King Duncan? Macbeth decided to kill King Duncan but being King was not enough; he needed the reassurance that it would not be taken away from him so he had Banquo killed saying in Scene I Act III ‘”‘To be thus is nothing but to be safetly thus, Our fears in Banquo stick deep, and his royalty of nature reigns that would be feared; “‘”tis much he dares, and, to that dauntless temper of the mind, he hath a wisdom that doth guide his valour to act in safety.'”‘ He does this to protect him crown but when he has Lady Macduff and her children we see the evil in him.

Shakespeare manipulates Macbeth”‘”s character so that we both feel sympathetic for him whilst angry at his actions. He does this through use of characters relationships, use of language and structure. Shakespeare manipulates the way in which the characters communicate to the reader. The characters feelings and emotions are shown through their soliloquies and speech. At the beginning of the novel Macbeth has quite a few soliloquies and we are let know how he is feeling and we are therefore rather close to him, in the middle, during and after Macbeth has killed King Duncan, Banquo and Macduff”‘”s family there are few soliloquies and we are drawn away from Macbeth and again in the end we are close to him due to there being many soliloquies again. Macduff is the hero of the play but we do not hear much speech from him and are distanced from him as a result and do not feel as much for him as we do for Macbeth even though Macbeth kills so many people.

Characters relationship and interactions give the reader insight into the mind of the characters and manipulates how the readers respond. Lady Macbeth and Macbeth have a very loving relationship at the start but they soon drift apart once Macbeth becomes King, possibly because Lady Macbeth is jealous that she cannot be King herself. This shows the reader what effects this situation can have on a loving relationship; it also shows the good side of Macbeth and also Lady Macbeth. You could either see him as being forced into killing King Duncan by his love for Lady Macbeth or him being manipulating into killing by her. Either of these would make the reader more sympathetic towards Macbeth. How other characters praise and denote Macbeth manipulates how the reader perceives him. At the start he is thought of as a good man because he s praised by the captain, in the middle and end he is denoted by a few characters including Banquo when they get suspicious that it may have been Macbeth who killed King Duncan, this shows us how he people can be good and bad at the same time.

Macbeth is neither pure hero nor pure villain, though no one ever can be. He shows characteristics of both. He does show remorse for his actions and has many qualities you can admire in him. Other characters and Shakespeare”‘”s manipulation of the text help the reader to form their ideas about the characters and the play. Macbeth is manipulated so that the reader feels a lot more sympathetic for him despite him having killed so many innocent people. This is a hard text to scrutinize over due to the playwright being dead so his reasons for doing the things he did in the way he did cannot be recognized but only guessed.

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Macbeth Hero or Villain?. (2017, Oct 19). Retrieved from

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