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MACBETH

Character of Macbeth

Lord Macbeth, the Thane of Glamis, is the title character and titular
main protagonist turned primary antagonist of William Shakespeare's Macbeth.
The character is based on the historical king Macbeth of Scotland, and is derived
largely from the account in Holinshed's Chronicles, a history of Britain.

Macbeth is a Scottish noble and a valiant military man.


After a supernatural prophecy, and at the urging of his wife, Lady Macbeth, he
commits regicide and becomes King of Scotland. He thereafter lives in anxiety and fear, unable
to rest or to trust his nobles. He leads a reign of terror until defeated by his former ally Macduff.
The throne is then restored to the rightful heir, the murdered King Duncan's son, Malcolm.

The tragedy begins amid a bloody civil war in


Scotland, where Macbeth is first introduced a valorous and loyal general in with the title
of Thane of Glamis serving under the elderly King Duncan, who gives a colourful and
extensive exaltation of Macbeth's prowess and valor in battle. When the battle is won,
largely due to Macbeth and his lieutenant Banquo, the Thane of Lochaber, Duncan
honours his generals with high praise and sends the messenger Ross to deliver
Macbeth his reward: the title of Thane of Cawdor, since its previous holder was to be
executed for betraying Scotland and siding with the enemy.
Macbeth and Banquo wander onto a heath following the conflict, where they
encounter three witches who greet them with prophecies. They address Macbeth first,
hailing him as Thane of Glamis and Cawdor, and that he shall be King afterwards, while
Banquo is hailed as a father to a line of kings, though he himself will never rule. As the
witches disappear, Ross arrives and presents Macbeth with his new title, but it becomes
apparent that Macbeth has already begun to consider murdering Duncan and taking his
place as king. He states that the kingship will fall into his lap by luck alone and that he
will not have to take any action to fulfil the witches' last prophecy: “If chance may have
me king, why chance may crown me without my stir”. Macbeth becomes fixated on the
prophecy, ignoring Banquo's advice that “oftentimes to win us to our harm these
instruments of darkness tell us truths…to betray us in deepest consequence”.

When he returns home, Lady


Macbeth tries to convince him to kill Duncan. Macbeth at first refuses but changes his
mind when she accuses him of cowardice. Giving in to his ambition, he kills Duncan and
plants evidence of the regicide on two guards, whom he also kills. He hears voices that
say "Macbeth shall sleep no more. Macbeth does murder sleep". He acknowledges that
only the innocent sleep and that sleep is "the balm of hurt minds". The king's sons,
Malcolm and Donalbain, fear they will be blamed for Duncan's death and flee the
country. Macbeth is then crowned king.
Macbeth becomes a tyrant, brutally stamping out any real or perceived threats to his
power. Macbeth decides to hire two murderers to kill Banquo and his son Fleance, with
a Third Murderer sent later to assist. Banquo is murdered, but Fleance survives.
Macbeth goes to the witches for counsel, and they tell him that he will not be defeated
"until Birnam wood move to high Dunsinane", and that "no man of woman born" may
harm him. Macbeth takes this to mean that he is invincible. Nevertheless, Macbeth
decides to get rid of Macduff and sends assassins to kill him and his entire family.
Macduff escapes harm, but his wife, her young son and their entire household are
brutally murdered. Macduff swears revenge and joins forces with Malcolm to overthrow
Macbeth.

In Act V, Lady Macbeth is overcome with guilt; she dies and it is later
postulated that she committed suicide. Now completely alone, Macbeth laments that life
is a "tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." By the end of the
play Macbeth learns that the witches' second set of prophecies have hidden meanings:
Malcolm's army carries shields made from Birnam wood to Macbeth's fortress in
Dunsinane, and Macduff reveals that he was prematurely removed from his mother's
womb, meaning that he technically was not "of woman born". Beaten but still defiant,
Macbeth declares, "Lay on Macduff, and damned be he who first cries, hold, enough!"
In the ensuing duel, Macduff kills Macbeth and cuts off his head.
 Character of Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth is a leading character in William Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth. The


wife of the play's tragic hero, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth goads her husband into
committing regicide, after which she becomes queen of Scotland. Later, however, she
suffers pangs of guilt for her part in the crime, which drives her to sleepwalk. She dies
off-stage in the last act, an apparent suicide.

Lady Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most famous and frightening female characters.
When we first see her, she is already plotting Duncan’s murder, and she is stronger,
more ruthless, and more ambitious than her husband. She seems fully aware of this and
knows that she will have to push Macbeth into committing murder. At one point, she
wishes that she were not a woman so that she could do it herself. This theme of the
relationship between gender and power is key to Lady Macbeth’s character: her
husband implies that she is a masculine soul inhabiting a female body, which seems to
link masculinity to ambition and violence. Shakespeare, however, seems to use her,
and the witches, to undercut Macbeth’s idea that “undaunted mettle should compose /
Nothing but males”. These crafty women use femalemethods of achieving power—that
is, manipulation—to further their supposedly male ambitions. Women, the play implies,
can be as ambitious and cruel as men, yet social constraints deny them the means to
pursue these ambitions on their own.

Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth appeared to be a


composite of two personages found in the account of King Duff and in the account of
King Duncan in Holinshed's Chronicles. In the account of King Duff, one of his captains,
Donwald, suffers the deaths of his kinsmen at the orders of the king. Donwald then
considers regicide at "the setting on of his wife", who "showed him the means whereby
he might soonest accomplish it." Donwald abhors such an act, but perseveres at the
nagging of his wife. After plying the king's servants with food and drink and letting them
fall asleep, the couple admit their confederates to the king's room, where they then
commit the regicide. The murder of Duff has its motivation in revenge rather than
ambition.

Lady Macbeth makes her first appearance late in scene five of the first act, when she
learns in a letter from her husband that three witcheshave prophesied his future as king.
When King Duncan becomes her overnight guest, Lady Macbeth seizes the opportunity
to effect his murder. Aware her husband's temperament is "too full o' the milk of human
kindness" for committing a regicide, she plots the details of the murder; then, countering
her husband's arguments and reminding him that he first broached the matter, she
belittles his courage and manhood, finally winning him to her designs.
The king retires after a night of feasting. Lady Macbeth drugs his attendants and lays
daggers ready for the commission of the crime. Macbeth kills the sleeping king while
Lady Macbeth waits nearby. When he brings the daggers from the king's room, Lady
Macbeth orders him to return them to the scene of the crime. He refuses. She carries
the daggers to the room and smears the drugged attendants with blood. The couple
retire to wash their hands.
Following the murder of King Duncan, Lady Macbeth's role in the plot diminishes. When
Duncan's sons flee the land in fear for their own lives, Macbeth is appointed king.
Without consulting his queen, Macbeth plots other murders in order to secure his
throne, and, at a royal banquet, the queen is forced to dismiss her guests when
Macbeth hallucinates. In her last appearance, she sleepwalks in profound torment. She
dies off-stage, with suicide being suggested as its cause, when Malcolm declares that
she died by "self and violent hands."
 Character of Banquo

Lord Banquo, the Thane of Lochaber, is a character in William Shakespeare's 1606


play Macbeth. In the play, he is at first an ally to Macbeth and they meet the Three
Witches together. After prophesying that Macbeth will become king, the witches tell
Banquo that he will not be king himself, but that his descendants will be. Later, Macbeth
in his lust for power sees Banquo as a threat and has him murdered by two hired
assassins; Banquo's son, Fleance, escapes. Banquo's ghost returns in a later scene,
causing Macbeth to react with alarm during a public feast. Shakespeare borrowed the
character of Banquo from Holinshed's Chronicles, a history of Britain published
by Raphael Holinshed in 1587. In Chronicles Banquo is an accomplice to Macbeth in
the murder of the king, rather than a loyal subject of the king who is seen as an enemy
by Macbeth. Shakespeare may have changed this aspect of his character to
please King James, who was thought at the time to be a descendant of the real
Banquo.

Banquo is in a third of the play's scenes, as both a


human and a ghost. As significant as he is to the plot, he has fewer lines than the
relatively insignificant Ross, a Scottish nobleman who survives the play. [9] In the second
scene of the play, a wounded soldier describes the manner in which Macbeth, Thane of
Glamis, and Banquo, Thane of Lochaber, resisted invading forces, fighting side by side.
In the next scene, Banquo and Macbeth, returning from the battle together, encounter
the Three Witches, who predict that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor, and then
king. Banquo, sceptical of the witches, challenges them to predict his own future, and
they foretell that Banquo will never himself take the throne, but will beget a line of kings.
Banquo remains sceptical after the encounter, wondering aloud if evil can ever speak
the truth. He warns Macbeth that evil will offer men a small, hopeful truth only to catch
them in a deadly trap.

When Macbeth kills the king and takes the throne, Banquo—the only one aware of this
encounter with the witches—reserves judgment for God. e offers his respects to the
new King Macbeth and pledges loyalty.[12] Later, worried that Banquo's descendants
and not his own will rule Scotland, Macbeth sends two men, and then a Third Murderer,
to kill Banquo and his son Fleance. During the melee, Banquo holds off the assailants
so that Fleance can escape, but is himself killed.[13] The ghost of Banquo later returns
to haunt Macbeth at the banquet in Act Three, Scene Four. A terrified Macbeth sees
him, while the apparition is invisible to his guests. He appears again to Macbeth in a
vision granted by the Three Witches, wherein Macbeth sees a long line of kings
descended from Banquo.

Ghost Scene
When Macbeth returns to the witches later in the play, they show him an apparition of
the murdered Banquo, along with eight of his descendants. The scene carries deep
significance: King James, on the throne when Macbeth was written, was believed to be
separated from Banquo by nine generations. What Shakespeare writes here thus
amounts to a strong support of James' right to the throne by lineage, and for audiences
of Shakespeare's day, a very real fulfilment of the witches' prophecy to Banquo that his
sons would take the throne. This apparition is also deeply unsettling to Macbeth, who
not only wants the throne for himself, but also desires to father a line of kings.
Banquo's other appearance as a ghost during the banquet scene serves as an indicator
of Macbeth's conscience returning to plague his thoughts. Banquo's triumph over death
appears symbolically, insofar as he literally takes Macbeth's seat during the feast.
Shocked, Macbeth uses words appropriate to the metaphor of usurpation, describing
Banquo as "crowned" with wounds. The spirit drains Macbeth's manhood along with the
blood from his cheeks; as soon as Banquo's form vanishes, Macbeth announces: "Why,
so; being gone, / I am a man again."