How Does Macbeth Change Throughout The Play

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 626 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 626|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Macbeth's Ambition
  2. Macbeth's Guilt
  3. Macbeth's Moral Decay
  4. Conclusion
  5. Bibliography

William Shakespeare's play Macbeth follows the tragic journey of the eponymous character as he descends into madness and tyranny. Over the course of the play, Macbeth undergoes a significant transformation, both in terms of his psychological state and his actions. This essay will analyze the changes that Macbeth experiences throughout the play, examining how his ambition, guilt, and moral decay contribute to his ultimate downfall.

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Macbeth's Ambition

From the very beginning of the play, Macbeth's character is driven by his ambition. When he first hears the prophecy of the witches, that he will become the King of Scotland, his desire for power is ignited. However, at this point, Macbeth still has reservations about the morality of his actions. He ponders the consequences of murdering Duncan, the current king, and acknowledges that his ambition is a "vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself" (1.7.27).

As the play progresses, Macbeth's ambition intensifies and consumes him. He becomes increasingly ruthless in his pursuit of power, resorting to violence and manipulation to achieve his goals. This is evident in the scene where he orders the murder of Banquo and his son Fleance. Macbeth's transformation is highlighted by his soliloquy, where he expresses his fear of Banquo's descendants and his determination to secure his throne: "To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus" (3.1.48). This change in Macbeth's character reflects his descent into darkness and the erosion of his moral compass.

Macbeth's Guilt

As Macbeth's ambition drives him to commit heinous acts, he is plagued by overwhelming guilt. This guilt is first evident after the murder of Duncan, where Macbeth is tormented by his conscience. He hallucinates the blood on his hands and realizes the enormity of his crime: "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?" (2.2.78).

As the play progresses, Macbeth's guilt intensifies and begins to consume him. This is especially evident in the famous sleepwalking scene, where Lady Macbeth tries to wash the imaginary blood from her hands. Macbeth's guilt has reached its peak, and he is unable to find solace or redemption. This change in Macbeth's character showcases the psychological toll of his actions and the deterioration of his morality.

Macbeth's Moral Decay

Macbeth's initial moral reservations about his actions gradually erode, leading to his complete moral decay. At the beginning of the play, he questions the morality of killing Duncan, but by the end, he has become a remorseless and brutal tyrant. This change is evident in the scene where Macbeth orders the murder of Macduff's wife and children. He shows no remorse or hesitation, demonstrating his complete loss of humanity.

Macbeth's moral decay is also reflected in his interactions with the witches. Initially, he is skeptical of their prophecies and questions their motives. However, as the play progresses, he becomes increasingly reliant on their guidance, seeking their prophecies and interpreting them to suit his desires. Macbeth's reliance on the witches represents the corruption of his character and his willingness to embrace evil.


In conclusion, Macbeth undergoes a profound transformation throughout the play. His ambition, guilt, and moral decay contribute to his downfall and ultimate demise. Macbeth's journey from a hesitant and morally conflicted character to a ruthless and remorseless tyrant highlights the destructive nature of unchecked ambition and the consequences of succumbing to one's darkest desires. Shakespeare's portrayal of Macbeth serves as a cautionary tale, reminding audiences of the dangers of ambition and the importance of moral integrity.

Further exploration of Macbeth's transformation could delve into the role of supernatural elements in his downfall or analyze the influence of other characters, such as Lady Macbeth, on his change. Ultimately, Macbeth's character serves as a complex and tragic figure, whose transformation captivates audiences and leaves a lasting impact.

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Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2009.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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How Does Macbeth Change Throughout The Play. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“How Does Macbeth Change Throughout The Play.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024,
How Does Macbeth Change Throughout The Play. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
How Does Macbeth Change Throughout The Play [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 14 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from:
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