In this essay, I am going to see if Macbeth, or his wife, Lady Macbeth is the more interesting character. Both characters play very important roles in the play, and both are interesting in different ways. The word interesting can men different things; funnier, more dangerous, eviler, or better to read about. However, I will see, overall, if Macbeth or his wife is more interesting.
From the very beginning of the play, Macbeth is immediately associated with evil. Even though Macbeth is not present, he is talked about in two different ways. The first is in the opening scene of the first act. The witches are only in a few scenes. This is there first entrance and the first conversation between them mentions Macbeth. The witches target Macbeth.
In the second occurrence, Macbeth, again, is not in the scene, but he is spoken about. This scene is very different from the first, as the mentioning of Macbeth comes after a battle that Macbeth was involved in. The people in this scene talk about Macbeth’s qualities. The sergeant says, “he unseamed him from the nave to the chops”. This line says that Shakespeare has presented Macbeth as a very aggressive warrior. It means that Macbeth has ripped someone open from the navel to the jaw. Macbeth is very thorough in his job and likes to be sure he has done the deed one hundred percent. He is also a brave warrior, as the sergeant says, “valour’s minion”. This means that Macbeth is a good fighter, courageous and well respected.
From this point, the reader can tell that Macbeth is going to be an interesting character to read about. He is very bloodthirsty and determined. This makes him interesting in the way that he has already been associated with evil and battle, so the reader will want to see what happens.
So, in Act 1, Scene 2, we already know a lot about Macbeth’s character from what has been said. We know that he can be very vicious, but he is also a valiant and skilled warrior, with no principle. Macbeth’s character is also a loyal one, who is patriotic and loves his country. The irony is that he will, in effect, turn against Scotland, due to the witches who related him to evil in the first scene.
Act 1, Scene 3, is the first time that Shakespeare has introduced Macbeth into the play. His first appearance is with the witches. However, before he arrives in the scene, the witches are talking about their day. One of the witches has said that she had got angry when a sailor’s wife would not give her any food. The witches plan to sink the women’s husband while he is out sailing. The 1st witch says, “A sailor’s wife had chestnuts…’Give me’ quoth I”. The woman refuses to give the witch her food, the other witches are disgusted. The 2nd witch says, “I’ll give thee a wind”. But they can’t do it alone. They must use the power of the wind and a storm to capsize the sailor. This is a metaphor for Macbeth. The witches cannot take down Scotland by themselves. The ship represents Scotland and Macbeth is the storm. So, like the storm will destroy the boat, the witches are going to use Macbeth to destroy Scotland.
When Macbeth enters the scene, another nobleman, Banquo, accompanies him. Macbeth’s first words reflect the witches, who at the end of the first scene said, “fair is foul, and foul is fair”, meaning that good is bad, and bad is good. This shows how twisted the witches are. Macbeth’s first words are, “so foul and fair a day I have not seen”. As the witches are associated with evil, and had related Macbeth to evil, when Macbeth says these words he is linking himself more and more to the witches. Shakespeare has planned this out very carefully, so the character of Macbeth is starting to look increasingly evil and more interesting to the readers of the play.
When the witches tell Macbeth and Banquo about their prophecies, Macbeth is fascinated by the remarks that he will become King. Macbeth is eager to know more, and Shakespeare has made it so that Macbeth is intrigued. The witches vanish at this point to leave as almost like a cliffhanger. The reader also wants to know what will happen.
The character’s reaction shows that he has thought about being King before. This news had spun him into wonder. He is constantly thinking about the idea of the throne. He says, “Glamis, and Thane of Cawdor: The greatest is behind”. This shows that his character is a very determined man. Macbeth is very interesting to read about in the first three scenes of the play. We find out so much about his character.
Near the end of this scene, one of the witch’s predictions has already come true. The witches say, “hail to thee, thane of Cawdor”. Macbeth is only a thane of Glamis and the thane of Cawdor is still alive, thinks Macbeth, but when two noblemen enter and make Macbeth the thane of Cawdor as the previous thane had died, Macbeth is believing more in the prophecies of the witches. He is quite gullible, as he actually believes that he will become King with no strings attached. He put his utmost faith in three strangers who had only talked to for a few minutes. He is rather foolish.
In the next scene, Act 1, Scene 4, the King praises Macbeth, for his truly outstanding effort in the battle. Macbeth still has the thought of being king resting on his mind and when it is announced that Malcolm, King Duncan’s son, is heir to the throne, Macbeth thinks of what to do and immediately thinks of murder. The line “let not light se my black and deep desires” shows that the protagonist is self-aware of his thoughts. He faces up to the reality of what he is really wanting and desiring. The word “light” represents all good things in life. It means goodness or purity. The word “black” means all the bad and evil things. It symbolizes evilness or corruption. This line shows that Macbeth doesn’t want anyone to know about these impure thoughts until he is sure that they are real. He doesn’t want to King, the light, to find out about his unfinished and malevolent plans, the black.
Lady Macbeth is first seen in scene 5 of the first Act. She is reading a letter from her husband, who has confided in her about his plans and the prophecies. This shows that there is a very strong bond between the two characters of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth. Macbeth obviously trusts his wife enough to speak to her about murder. Lady Macbeth is only to keen to become Queen, and for her husband to become King. She is almost determined to see the murder of Duncan through. Lady Macbeth is presented as the dark horse of the play. She is seen to be very innocent and trustworthy, but as the play progresses, we see her true colours and how evil she really is. Quotes like, “unsex me here”, my keen knife see not the wound it makes”, and “look like the innocent flower, But be the serpent under’t”, prove this point.
Lady Macbeth knows that she is not strong enough to go through with the murder of the King, but we can see how desperately she wants to be Queen by the line “unsex me here”. This line shows Lady Macbeth to ask spirits to remove her femininity. She wants all her thoughts that are soft and womanly to be removed from her body. The line literally means that she wants to be made a man in a mental way. Her character wants masculine thoughts, so that her female side will not get in the way of her husband and the throne. From this point in the play, where Lady Macbeth is starting to become less feminine, and more evil, she has already started to become an interesting character. Even from this small scene, she is about the same level of interestingness as her husband. This scene shows a lot about her character. She is certainly one to watch.
Half way through this scene Macbeth enters and meets his wife for the first time in the play. This is the first time that they are seen together in the play and we find out how powerful they are together. Macbeth is a very powerful man, but Lady Macbeth doesn’t think he will have the guts to do it. She says “it is too full o’th’ milk of human kindness”. This illustrates the idea that she sees Macbeth as too kind to kill.
With Lady Macbeth determination and Macbeth’s power, the pair seems to be inseparable and indestructible. This all changes after the murder as it gets too much for both of their consciences.
From the moment Lady Macbeth sees her husband; she immediately starts to flatter her husband. Her first words to him are, “Great Glamis! worthy Cawdor!”. She is secretly implying that she wants Macbeth to take part in the evil straight away. Duncan will be staying at the two character’s castle, and Lady Macbeth feels that this would be the perfect opportunity to strike.
She says, “Your face, my thane, is as a book”. This signifies that a book can be read easily, and Macbeth’s face tells what he is thinking, so that Lady Macbeth can read his mind in an instant. Again, this indicates the strong bond between the two Shakespearean characters. Lady Macbeth is the power behind her husband at the moment. Another important line is, “look like the innocent flower, But be the serpent under’t”. This is what Macbeth is told by his wife. It means that Macbeth should put on a faced when Duncan comes to stay the night. He should act innocent and not show the King his worries or plans. However, underneath the concealment, he should be prepared and ready to act, like a serpent.
Macbeth tries to avoid the discussion. This shows how worried he is really feeling deep down. He is starting to go back on his thoughts, but now knows that his wife won’t stop until they succeed.
The sixth scene of the first act is very short. It shows the arrival of Duncan at the castle, with Lady Macbeth greeting him. The people in this scene are very polite and complimentary. The character of Lady Macbeth is still going along with the plan. She is putting on a false act in front of the King. Her character has become a hypocrite, insincere, and sycophantic. This is about appearance and reality, as Lady Macbeth looks innocent in appearance, but in reality she is manipulating and plotting all the time.
Scene seven is an important scene, as it starts off with a soliloquy by Macbeth’s character. In his soliloquy, he is even more nervous than before. He cannot bring himself to say the word murder. Instead he uses euphemisms like, “it”, “th’assassination”, and “surcease”.
Macbeth is wrestling with his conscience. He knows that he should be protecting Duncan, as he is Duncan’s host, his kinsman and his subject. He realises that both sides have strong arguments and he is torn in two about what is the right thing to do, or what is the better rewarding thing.
After his soliloquy, Lady Macbeth enters. Macbeth decides that it is time to let the plan the plan go and forget all about it, but Lady Macbeth will not take no for an answer. She was determined to carry this out and still is, perhaps even more so. She says, “Was the hope drunk Wherein you dressed yourself? hath it slept since? And wakes it now, to look so green and pale…” She is comparing her husband with a person who promises to do something when they are drunk, falls asleep, wakes up with a bad hangover, and cannot face what he said he would do. Slowly, she is turning her husbands mind back to evil. She questions has masculinity by calling him a coward, which changes Macbeth’s mind completely and he agrees to go along with the murder.
Lady Macbeth’s contribution to the plan is deceit and her own determination. She promises Macbeth that he will be successful.
From the first Act, the two characters seem to be as interesting as each other, as they both have very strong motives and plans. What will happen to the characters later in the play will make the reader able to tell the more important character.
In Act 2, Scene 1, Macbeth is very nervous. He is a traitor and is gradually becoming mentally unstable. His conscience has started to ache more and more. Paranoia and insecurity are settling into his blood and he is becoming very unpredictable. The vision of a dagger is very troublesome, as it is drenched in blood when Macbeth sees it. This shows he has started to hallucinate and is increasingly reminded of the deed.
In scene 2, the murder has already taken place. Macbeth has forgotten to place the dagger on the guards, to frame them and his hands are soaked in Duncan’s blood. His wife places them on the guards, getting her hands covered in blood as well. This is a very important part as the blood remains metaphorically on their hands as a reminded of the dreadful deed they have committed.
Lady Macbeth is still in control. She has to keep her husband calm, so as not to raise suspicion. However, she says, “Had he not resembled my father as he slept, I had done it” This shows that she does not have the courage to actually do the regicide. Her conscience is troubling her although she ignores this. Macbeth says, “I am afraid to think of what I have done; Look on’t again, l done not.” He is very tense and is unable to think straight. Macbeth was a great warrior, yet he is lost in his guilt, revealing the extent of the evil that he has committed.
Once the murder has taken place Shakespeare’s character of Macbeth has passed the point of no return. He will become corrupted by power and desperate to cling on to the throne.
Act 2, Scene 3, also shows the effect and use of appearance and reality. When the King is found murdered, Macbeth pretends that he knows nothing of the murder. He is taking no chances for when the guards wake up, so he makes a final decision to kill the guards. Lady Macbeth also pretends to know nothing of the murder. She is an expert at lying, as she even pretends to faint when she hears that regicide has been committed in her home. When the guards are found dead, Macbeth admits he killed them for killing his King. It was out of anger. He very cleverly uses hyperbole in his justification for killing the guards.
Macbeth’s character is getting very tense. He is starting to arouse suspicion, especially from Banquo, who saw the witches’ prophecies. In Act 2, Scene 4, Macbeth is crowned King.
By Act 3, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have grown apart. Macbeth no longer depends on his wife. He has become more stable and is gradually accepting what he has done, after knowing all the rewards that being a King has.
Macbeth is trying to alter the course of destiny, suggesting that he is a tyrant. Earlier, Macbeth had taken destiny into his own hands, forcing the witches’ prophecies to come true. Now, he is trying to stop one of the prophecies of ever becoming true. He doesn’t want Banquo’s descendants to become King. The amount of power he has, has turned him into a monster. He no longer worries about what he has done. Instead, he is almost the complete opposite. Macbeth knows that Banquo has started to suspect him, so he consorts with murderers and organises Banquo’s death. The irony in this scene is that when Macbeth says to Banquo “Fail not our feast”, Banquo replies “My Lord, I will not”. This is ironic because as Banquo is murdered later in the play, his ghost appears at the banquet, proving that Macbeth is still worrying and having severe hallucinations.
In Act 3, Scene 2, we see that Lady Macbeth’s character is no longer the dominant force. She has become anxious and uncertain. Macbeth has become so power crazy that he trusts no one, not even his wife, who knows about his plans and helped him with them.
Macbeth is isolating himself from the real world. People are starting to suspect and Macbeth has no idea. His wife admits that power has not made them happy. It has, in fact, done the complete opposite, and separated the two main characters that seemed to be inseparable in the beginning of the play. She is now confused of her husbands behaviour.
The line said by Macbeth, “O, full of scorpions is my mind”, is a metaphor. It represents the troubled mind and the psychological state of him. He is deeply unnerved and suffers from a range of terrifying nightmares.
Lady Macbeth tries to comfort her husband. She says, “what’s done, is done”, which also is related to something she says in Act 5, when she becomes a nervous wreck.
By the end of the scene we realise that Macbeth is fully committed to the path of evil.
Scene 3 shows, again, of how much he mistrusts everyone. He sends three murderers to kill Banquo and Fleance, instead of the two he met with. This is because he doesn’t trust two murderers and three murderers would get the job done quicker.
Act 3, Scene 4, is a tense scene as Macbeth’s power starts to slip. This scene shows the great power of Macbeth’s mind. His hallucination of Banquo’s ghost is a reminder of what he has done.
The scene starts of well, however, Macbeth takes a huge risk in being seen with the murderer. This sparks the onset of chaos. The ghost could be seen as a sign of Macbeth’s paranoia, or his guilty conscience. It could also be the witches torturing him. Macbeth disturbs the celebrations, just like the way he will eventually disturb Scotland and lead it into chaotic times.
Lady Macbeth’s character is just about holding it together. She has to make up an excuse for her husband’s absurd behaviour after the vision of Banquo’s ghost. This is her last moment of significance.
In Act 4, Scene 1, Macbeth goes to meet the witches again for more prophecies and reassurance. The witches are planning to tell only the equivocation or half-truths. They plan to manipulate him to make him think he has nothing to fear.
When Macbeth arrives, he is very naï¿½ve as he thinks that he controls the witches. He believes that he hold power over them. Macbeth’s arrogance has surpassed his power.
Macbeth is even more egotistical when he hears three more prophecies. One of the predictions makes Macbeth thinks that he is virtually indestructible. It says, “for none of woman born Shall harm Macbeth”. This apparition tells that no one who is born from a woman’s womb shall harm Macbeth. However, Macduff is Macbeth’s killer and the witches have, in effect, told the truth as Macduff was born from a caesarean.
At the end of the scene, Macbeth realises that more people are starting to accuse him. He orders the murder of Macduff’s family.
The last scene that highlights the personality of the characters is Act 5, Scene 1. Lady Macbeth has had a dramatic change. She has had a total breakdown. She is tormented by nightmares. Her guilty conscience is painfully hurting her, and she has started sleepwalking and saying stuff she doesn’t mean too.
Lady Macbeth’s speech is broken and disjointed. She is suffering from a psychological breakdown. In her mad ramblings, she amalgamates the crimes of her husband. At present, she is unable to differentiate between the catalogue of crimes.
Overall, I think that Lady Macbeth is a more interesting character as she goes through the most dramatic change. From her entry into the play, until her death she has had a traumatic time and had paid the price for her deeds. She started of as the power behind Macbeth. She was the only one brave enough to go through with the plan and not even try to back out.
Both characters swap roles. By the end Macbeth is the dominant force, and is so power hungry. However, Lady Macbeth has changed more, as she is now one hundred percent opposite to her previous self. She is breaking down, mentally and physically. She has lost her touch with Macbeth and can’t seem to get back into her careless days. The power of her husband has drawn the two apart and she has gone into to complete turmoil.