Essay on The Character of Macbeth from Macbeth

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Macbeth from Macbeth

In William Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth we find a guilt and fear-ridden usurper of the throne of Scotland. Let us study this character in this essay.

A.C. Bradley in Shakespearean Tragedy paints a portrait of Macbeth:

Macbeth, the cousin of a King mild, just, and beloved, but now too old to lead his army, is introduced to us as a general of extraordinary prowess, who has covered himself with glory in putting down a rebellion and repelling the invasion of a foreign army. In these conflicts he showed great personal courage, a quality which he continues to display throughout the drama in regard to all plain dangers. It is difficult to be sure of his customary demeanour, for in the play we
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The Tragedy of Macbeth opens in a desert place with three witches who all say together the mysterious and contradictory "Fair is foul, and foul is fair." Macbeth is greeted by the witches with "hail to thee, thane of Glamis," "thane of Cawdor," and "thou shalt be king hereafter!" When Ross and Angus arrive with news of Duncan's reward ("He bade me, from him, call thee thane of Cawdor"), it is logical for Macbeth to assume that all of the weird sisters' prophecies will come true. Macbeth is "rapt" on the "suggestion" and concludes that "chance may crown me."

After the king's announcement that "We will establish our estate upon / Our eldest, Malcolm," Macbeth says, "The Prince of Cumberland! that is a step / On which I must fall down, or else o'erleap," for his scheming is seriously underway. Duncan's visit to Inverness, a one-night celebration of the victory, occasions quick plotting. Macbeth recognizes that King Duncan's "virtues / Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against / The deep damnation of his taking-off," while he himself has only "vaulting ambition" on his own side. Macbeth feels the pressure of the impending "bloody business" and thereby has a vision of the murder instrument:

Is this a dagger which I see before me,

The handle toward my hand?
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