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Macbeth is a protagonist in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth (1623). This story discovers the life path of a talented Scottish general who moved from being a respected general to a man chasing crazy ambitions that lead him nowhere in life. In this essay, I will discuss Macbeth’s personality traits that influenced his character development.
Rage for Power
Macbeth is a dramatic hero greedy for power. At first, the reader is met with the author, the genius Shakespeare, glorifying the character’s bravery, leadership style, and military skills that granted him a victory as a general in King Duncan’s army. However, once the protagonist’s first meeting with the three witches happens, everything changes in the character’s life, so we are introduced to his all-consuming ambition for power that will control all of the following events of the play.
The same prophecy has a different effect on various characters because while it makes Banquo purify his conscience, for Macbeth, it opens Pandora’s box to his unrealistic and obsessive ambitions. Harold Bloom, a famous American literary critic, once said that Macbeth could be considered a tragedy of imagination. We can understand that Macbeth suffers his tragic downfall because of the wild imagining of power, which becomes the main driver of all his endeavors.
Macbeth exists hostage to his obsessive thoughts. Unlike other villains in literature and theatre, he can never enjoy the evil inside him. Intensely aware of his craziness, he does things much worse than his previous acts.
After listening to the predictions of the three witches, he can already feel himself in the position of power he has been obsessing with for a long time. So when Duncan announces Malcolm as the successor to his kingdom, it automatically encourages him to act fast.
He turns into an animal born to kill, acting out of pure instinct. When Lady Macbeth does everything to insult his manhood, it clears his confusion, and he follows with his wrongdoings to the endpoint.
Throughout the play, the main character begins at the highest point where features like resilience, ambition, and power work in a positive mix, but with each new Act, everything good shatters into pieces until a declaration of madness is made.
Throughout the author’s writing about Macbeth, he seems to warn the readers to pay attention to unchecked ambition.
The main character finds a way to assassinate his enemies without guilt, making Macbeth question his intentions but never stop fulfilling his plans. Macbeth creates a roadmap according to the predictions of what he must go through to make all his dreams come true.
Banquo warns the protagonist that such “instruments of darkness tell us truths…to betray us in deepest consequence,” might be dangerous, while the character’s wife keeps pushing for the next move.
By Act III, Macbeth has full control over his misbehaviors. It states, “Blood will have blood.” He kills Banquo without even detecting any of his positive traits. His ambition has no integrity to it. His fantasy can accommodate the whole ocean when he reveals his guilt after his first murder in the play.
His thoughts are explicit and full of various visual images. His imagination assists his “vaulting ambition,” which “overleaps itself.” Macbeth’s personality has a great capacity for love and emotion, but with Lady Macbeth in the picture, they make a great evil couple. His love for his wife, his “partner in greatness,” is one great unselfish passion.
The death of Lady Macbeth shocks him but never stops the protagonist in his thriving for power. Overall, it becomes hard for us to decide whether he is a man of action, a thinker, or a dreamer thrown out of his natural habitat.
He never contemplates defeat. Rather at the end of the story, Macbeth says, “I will not yield to kiss the ground…yet I will try the last..” Towards the end, his pride and faith in his invincibility dominantly mark his character.
Overall, Macbeth’s character development is a bumpy way that reveals both the good and bad sides of this person. However, despite the expectations of the reader, the negative sides prevail. Macbeth’s personality is discussed through actions and their consequences on the protagonist.
- Shakespeare, W. (1992). Macbeth. Wordsworth Editions.