In the end of the play we view Macbeth as a tyrant, a traitor and a bloody butcher because of the murder of King Duncan, and the chaos he imposed on Scotland. However, Macbeth did have honourable qualities within him, but because he was turned into an evil character from the circumstances the witches, his wife and his country put him in we sympathize with him to the extent of treating him as a tragic hero; an honourable, and important figure who has inherent weaknesses in his character which brings about his tragic end.
Macbeth’s honourable character can be seen by his loving, loyal and respectful attitude towards those around him. His loyalty is demonstrated from his inspirational speech after his appointment as the Thane Of Cawdor:
“Macbeth: The service and the loyalty l owe,
In doing it, pays itself. Your Highness’ part
Is to receive our duties, and our duties
Are to your throne and state, children and servants,
Which do but what they should, by doing everything
Safe toward your love and honor.”
He doesn’t want to kill King Duncan because he isn’t willing to lose the respect that he has painfully earned: “he hath honoured me of late”. This respect Macbeth has for King Duncan is mentioned by Lady Macbeth: “Lady Macbeth: Yet do I fear thy nature/It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness”.
His love and respect towards Lady Macbeth is an indication to one of several of Macbeth’s honourable character. He told Lady Macbeth that he was appointed as the Thane of Cawdor, and his address to her as a “dearest partner of greatness” in his letter deserves some merit, since it shows his love and devotion towards her. He listens to what she has to say about killing King Duncan without questioning her opinions.
Macbeth’s sensitive conscience is evidence to suggest that he can tell right from wrong. The images he sees are all horrific images played by his conscience that is plagued by the fear of being an outcast who is hated by his subjects. The image of the sword that lead him to King Duncan, and the image of Banquo and his sons as Kings are all indications of the guilty conscience haunting his mind. Macbeth even admits to his fears:
“ The time has been, my senses would have cool’d
To hear a night-shriek, and my fell of hair
Would at a dismal treatise rouse and stir”
Macbeth even shows courage throughout the whole play. Although the whole country was plotting against him at the end of the play, Macbeth still tries to keep his courage and strength at a time when other people would’ve lost hope and given up a fight: Macbeth: “But swords I smile at. Weapons laugh to scorn,/ Brandished by man that’s of woman born”. Macbeth still keeps his courage until the very end.
However, Macbeth did turn into an evil figure that was traitorous, ruthless and conniving, but it was because of several reasons; reasons that make us understand the inevitable tragic situation Macbeth was put into. Lady Macbeth urged him on to kill King Duncan. She appealed to his manhood and he had no choice but to prove himself by doing the evil deed. No matter how hard he resisted, “But in these cases we still have judgment here”, his good-natured character was manipulated into an evil character. His evilness still continued later on, and instead of getting better he became more ruthless and conniving because of the build up of circumstances he was put into, which was caused by the murder of King Duncan. His own soldiers and servants were assured that Macbeth was the culprit who killed King Duncan, and as a result they left his castle and his trust. Consequently, Macbeth began to treat others without honour or respect. The witches influenced him to continue to treat others mercilessly:
“Be bloody, bold, and resolute: laugh to scorn
The power of man, for none of woman born
Shall harm Macbeth”. Macbeth murdered Macduff’s family, and treated his servants and soldiers plainly and cruelly, “MACBETH: If thou speak’st false,/Upon the next tree shalt thou hang alive,/Till famine cling thee”, to keep the respect that the others felt for him. Since his ruthless, murderous and conniving character was the result of unavoidable circumstances that he tried but couldn’t easily avoid, the sympathy we have for him still stands.
Nevertheless, our sympathy mainly lies in what happens to him and his wife at the end. They become sad and tense characters that are only anxious about protecting their honour:
“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. ………….
It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”. Consequently, Lady Macbeth dies without the mourning of her loved ones such as her husband, “She should have died hereafter”, and Macbeth dies with the happiness and relief of Scotland.
Macbeth can be seen as a tragic figure, but he shouldn’t be treated as a complete tragic figure. Although Macbeth does have our sympathy, he also has our bitterness. He killed King Duncan, Banquo and Macduff’s family not only because of the circumstances, but also for the sake of his greed for honour and nobility. His greed caused his own country to be filled with fear, grief and unhappiness, which is personified in one of Malcom’s speeches that makes us feel the pain Scotland is feeling:
“I think our country sinks beneath the yoke;
It weeps, it bleeds, and each new day a gash
Is added to her wounds.”
We feel sad for Macbeth’s death, but we also feel happy that he was executed. His death restored the country from chaos (“the minions…turn’d wild in nature”) and “illness” to freedom and harmony (Malcolm: “ We will perform in measure, time, and place”). The emotional speech by Macduff about the death of his family that was caused by Macbeth is another classic example of the bitterness that we should feel:
“MACDUFF. He has no children. All my pretty ones?
Did you say all? O hell-kite! All?
What, all my pretty chickens and their dam
At one fell swoop?”. The imagery of the children as innocent chickens makes us feel more sorry for the children, and more bitterness for Macbeth.
In the beginning of the play we find that Macbeth is admired as a hero, but because of his ambitions, the witches and his wife’s influence he is brought to a tragic end. But despite the flaws in his character we still have sympathy for him because of his courage in the face of the inevitable. We knew that he was once an honourable person and throughout the whole play he still is a brave soldier who fights until the end.