At the beginning of the play, Macbeth is a respected general, a devoted husband, and a loyal subject of the king. The first of the witches' prophecies bring out his ambitious nature, but he struggles with killing the king. By attacking his manhood, Lady Macbeth convinces him to committ the first of his evil deeds. Macbeth's evil deed causes him to suffer from fear and guilt, which leads to even more evil crimes. Then Macbeth becomes paranoid, suffering from hallucinations and sleeplessness. He becomes less human as he tries over and over to establish his manhood. His ruthlessness in killing Banquo and Macduff's family shows how perverted his idea of manliness really is.
Macbeth's degeneration is also seen in the collapse of his marital relationship. They are loving and have a mutual respect for one another at first. Lady Macbeth becomes more and more unimportant to her husband after killing Duncan, however. He leaves her out of the plan to kill Banquo, Fleance, and Macduff's family. Macbeth allows the witches to take the place of his wife by allowing them to boost his ego, thinking he cannot be harmed by any man. Macbeth is, of course, mistaken about the witches' prophecies, but this just that he now allows his evil nature to control his actions. By the end, Macbeth has degenerated into evil personified, totally inhumane in his actions.
Macbeth is nobleman and a Scottish general in the king's army. At the beginning of the play, he has gained recognition for himself through his defeat of the king of Norway and the rebellious Macdonwald. Shortly after the battle, Macbeth and another of the king's general's, Banquo, encounter three witches (or weird sisters) who greet Macbeth as thane of Glamis, thane of Cawdor, and future king. Macbeth, unaware that King Duncan has bestowed upon him the title thane of Cawdor, appears to be startled by these prophesies. As soon as the witches finish addressing Macbeth, Banquo asks him, "why do you start, and seem to fear / Things that do sound so fair?" (I.iii.51-52). The witches vanish after telling Banquo that he will father kings. Shortly thereafter, Rosse and Angus arrive to tell Macbeth that the title of thane of Cawdor has been transferred to him. Upon hearing this, he says to himself that the greatest title, that of king, is yet to come. When Duncan announces that his son Malcolm will be next in line for the throne, Macbeth acknowledges the prince as an obstacle which will either trip him up or one which he must overcome.
After Macbeth sends words to his wife about the witches prophesies, Lady Macbeth hears that the king will be coming to stay at the castle. She then decides that the king will die there. When Macbeth arrives at Inverness, Lady Macbeth discusses with her husband her intentions. Soon after, he reviews in his own mind the reasons for not killing the king. He has many, including his obligations to the king as a kinsman, a loyal subject, and a host. Other reasons listed by Macbeth include the goodness of the king and the general lack of any reason other than ambition. However, when his wife argues with him, attacking his manhood, Macbeth resolves to follow through with the murder.
The extent of Lady Macbeth's power over her husband is debated. Some critics blame Lady Macbeth for precipitating Macbeth's moral decline and ultimate downfall. Others argue that, while Lady Macbeth appears to be increasingly guilt-ridden as the play progresses as evidenced by her sleepwalking episodes, Macbeth becomes increasingly murderous.
After murdering Duncan, then framing and murdering Duncan's attendants, Macbeth, disturbed by the witches' prophesy about Banquo's descendants, orders the murder of Banquo and Banquo's son, Fleance. The son escapes, but Banquo is slain, as the murderers report to Macbeth at the banquet in III.iv. Upon hearing this news, Macbeth is haunted throughout the banquet by Banquo's ghost, who no one else can see. As the scene ends, Macbeth vows to visit...
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