Macbeth Character Changes
In Macbeth by William Shakespeare, our main characters, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth have an interesting but complicated relationship. In my examination of this relationship, I will share my thoughts on the development and change. In more depth, I will look at their changes in behaviour before and after the death of King Duncan. My thoughts will be restricted from the beginning of the play to the end of act three. This is because I feel that is where their characters change most. I will also look at how their friendships with other characters are affected. My essay will be set out in six paragraphs with each act having two paragraphs each. In those two paragraphs, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth will have one each.
To start with, I will look at how Macbeth changes in act one. In the beginning, Macbeth seems baffled, stunned and intrigued as to how the witches’ prophecy can come true. He seems to be in a state of disbelief. At this point, Macbeth is portrayed as quite weak and feeble minded. However, the evil in him is unleashed after the witches’ prophecy starts to become true. Now he has become Thane of Cawdor, the thought of becoming King is plaguing his mind. Macbeth becomes aware that a dark deed may have to be performed in order for him to claim the crown. When Macbeth hosts Duncan at his castle, he ponders over the thought of killing him. Macbeth is after all, trusted by Duncan and fears that terrible consequences will come on Duncan’s death. He weighs out his reasons showing his unwillingness towards killing Duncan until his wife persuades him and plants the seeds for them to grow. As for friendships with other characters, Banquo may be pondering on how Macbeth will become king. He will have the most insight when Macbeth finally does kill Duncan because he has some kind of evidence against Macbeth. This could potentially jeopardise their friendship.
Lady Macbeth had shown strength and control since the beginning of the play. After receiving the letter from Macbeth, she has started to create a plan to get the crown for Macbeth. She says she will do anything for him to receive the crown. I think this is because she does not have much faith in her husband. She also says “unsex me”. This is because she wants to gather all her strength and more so that she will do the deed if Macbeth is not willing too. Lady Macbeth then plants seeds into Macbeth’s brain when he starts reconsidering about killing Duncan. Lady Macbeth calls him a coward and says that there plan is so good, it could not possibly fail. She is very controlling and she seems to run Macbeth’s life as well as her own! As far as friendships go, Lady Macbeth does not really converse with anyone apart from her husband, exchanging hospitalities when necessary and maybe a few servants.
In Act 2, Macbeth carries out the deadly deed. As he proceeds towards Duncan’s chamber, he sees a dagger which seems to be a figure of his imagination. To me, this symbolizes that although he has doubts, Macbeth knows deep down the deed must be done. After Macbeth has murdered Duncan, he hears a voice cry, “Sleep no ore, Macbeth does murder sleep”. I feel that this shows Macbeth’s weaker side coming out to play again. It shows how he did not really want to get the crown in this way. When Macbeth forgets to leave the prepared daggers for the Chamberlains, it shows how absent minded he really was. Macbeth is then seen as cowardly when he refuses to put the blooded daggers in their places. Then when he says he killed the chamberlains because he was so angry, I think it raises a few suspicions amongst the other characters. Lennox, Macduff and Banquo especially might see this as suspicious now. The King has been killed under Macbeth’s roof just after the prophecy is starting to come true. Macbeth seems to be losing lots of trust.
As for Lady Macbeth, she was the main driving force in the killing of Duncan. She seems infuriated when Macbeth forgets to leave the daggers by the chamberlains to frame them. I think this is because she has worked so hard to build up her own beliefs in Macbeth’s head yet they are then ruined as his own thoughts creep back into his mind. It is almost like Lady Macbeth has Macbeth under a permanent spell.
In Act three, Macbeth has gathered all his thoughts together and has realised that Banquo is a threat. Banquo has probably almost finished fitting the pieces of the puzzle together. Now Banquo will hold an advantage over him. That is why Macbeth hires three murders to do this second dark deed for him. Macbeth fills the heads of the murders with hatred towards Banquo so that he can ensure that they will not chicken out and do the deed. Later on, Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth of how he thinks killing Duncan was just the first hurdle. They will have to eliminate many others before they can ensure Macbeth’s crown in safe. Macbeth says he is discontent and that his mind is “full of scorpions”. Whilst feasting, the ghost of Banquo appears but only Macbeth can see him. This again is like the dagger, showing the many doubts he has. As for any friendships, any friends have fled in fear and his friend of many years, Banquo, is dead.
To my surprise, Lady Macbeth does not really have that much involvement in the killing of Banquo. She knows about it but this time it seems to be Macbeth who is in the driving seat in this case. Lady Macbeth has seemed to step back a little. Maybe she is thinking that she needs to let him think a bit for himself and only step in if necessary. Lady Macbeth is also discontent. I think this is her feminine side coming back to her. Later on, Lady Macbeth questions Macbeth’s manhood which is seen as giving him a gentle push in the right direction without being to forceful.
To summarise, I truly think that in the end, Macbeth has changed the most between him and Lady Macbeth. He started off quite weak in his mental state but then he started to gain strength after Lady Macbeth had planted seeds. I just took some time for them to grow. By the end of Act three, I feel that Macbeth has now truly become his own person and for the better as he has eliminated Banquo from his list of threats. Banquo was probably one of his biggest threats if not the biggest. Lady Macbeth had always seemed to be the controlling and figurehead of the relationship but now that Macbeth has found his own way. She just needed to step back a little for Macbeth to form as his own person. I do think however, that Lady Macbeth was the key part in the uprising of Macbeth’s character. Overall, they seemed to have switched characters although Lady Macbeth cannot was everything entirely out of her as an already fully formed person.