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9/01/2018

Character of Macbeth

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Introduction:
Macbeth is the most controversial and most complex of Shakespeare’s heroes. In him, we find a rare blending of the qualities of a controversial hero with those of a devil. Upon his character and that of his wife hang the issue of the play. The uncanny and supernatural influence of the Witches no doubt controls the main action of the play, but it must be remembered that if Macbeth and Lady Macbeth had not been exactly what they were , the machinations of the weird sisters would never have had the results they actually have in the course of the play.

Valour and generalship: 
The qualities of Macbeth which first impress us in the play , even before he personally appears on the stage, are his valour and generalship. He is the life and soul of  Duncan’s army which he so ably leads to victory against the rebels. The first engagement of the battle is represented as having been gained by personal prowess and generalship.
He does not loss heart even when the army of the rebel is reinforced “with terrible numbers” by the King of Norway. It is indeed significant, and in keeping with the rare valour of his character, that Macbeth makes his first and final appearances in the play as a soldier in armour.

Nobility and gentleness :
The qualities of nobility and gentleness, persistently visible in the character of Macbeth throughout the play, arouse in a feeling of pity for him, and make him a tragic hero in our eyes. Though he yields to more powerful evil forces in his mind , his submission to them is most often after the conflict with his conscience or better instincts. When he receives the news of the conferment of the title of Thane of Credit on him  “as happy prologue to the swelling act of the imperial theme,” his good instincts try to ward off any thought of murdering Duncan by asking him to wait, and he tries to dismiss temptation from his mind:
“If chance will have me king , why , chance may crown me ,
Without my stir”

His gentleness finds expression in his attitude towards Macduff . The first Apparition warns him to beware of Macduff, and yet he wants an excuse for sparing him. So, when the second Apparition reassures him that no one born of a woman can harm him, he spontaneously decides that he can spare Macduff ‘s life :
“Then live, Macduff: what need I fear of thee . “

Imagination:
Macbeth is endowed with the Gift of imagination which often torments him with images, pleasant or horrid. The prophecies of the Witches make him wonder if he might be king some day even before he has planned to murder Duncan. The effect of such strong imagination can hardly be concealed. Basque notes his startled reaction to the prophecies:
“Good sir, why do you start and seem to fear
Things that do sound so far?”
In the same scene when Macbeth receives the news that he has been made the Thane of Credit, the thought of witches' prophecies that he would be king at once brings forth to him the horrid image’ of himself killing Duncan:
“ This supernatural soliciting
Cannot be ill, cannot be good:
If ill , why hath it given me earnest of success,
Commencing in a truth? I am Thane of Cawdor :
If good , why do I yield to that suggestion
Whose horrid image doth unifix my hair,
And make my seated heart knock at my ribe,
Against the use of nature….”

Rashness: 
Macbeth 's physical strength and courage, as is evident from the play, is characterized by a certain rashness and impetuosity . His valour in the battle against Macdonwald , where “disdaining fortune” he cuts his way through the enemy troops is certainly associated with rashness. In Act I, Sc, IV , when Duncan proclaims Malcolm “The Prince of  Cumberland”, Macbeth , finding that the chances of his being king are weakening, rashly decides to take immediate steps to gain the Thorne. Thus we find a rash Macbeth in whole play.

Fear:
The complexity of Macbeth ‘s character arises from the fact that his character is full of contradictory features. Side by side with the courage required of a brave general often discover in him an irresistible sense of fear. In Act I , Sc, III, when witches prophecies , in Act I, Sc, VII, when thinks of murdering Duncan, in Act II , Sc,II , after murdering Duncan, and also after murdering Banquo , all the times we find a fearful Macbeth developing the play
And lastly when Macduff tells him the secret of his birth, he is overcome by a sense of helplessness rather than by an awe of Macduff.

Greatness:.
Throughout the play, despite all the crime that Macbeth commits, we never lose a sense of his greatness. Our repugnance for his savagery is largely decreased by the spectacle of his suffering. Though he is gradually transformed into a monster, we we never fail to catch glimpses of the different man he might have been a man greatly loved , a courteous and kind man . This is how Harold Wilson sums him up : “He is capable of gentleness and generosity; there is a tender human love between him and his wife , though they are both abandoned to evil ; we may recall the relation between Glaudius and Gertrude, and Shakespeare’s capacity for seeing some goodness in wicked people. Above all , he is a poetic person , a man of great and imaginative sensitiveness , one of the rare persons we sometimes meet , if we are lucky , whose every word thrills us, who are incapable of  dullness or the commoner kinds of stupidity, even though they may be guilty of greater crimes. All these , along with his wickedness, is part of the man we somehow value and feel for”.



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