Macbeth's Transformation: How Has Macbeth Changed since The Beginning of The Play

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Words: 610 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 610|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Macbeth, one of Shakespeare's most iconic tragic heroes, undergoes a profound character transformation throughout the play. At the beginning, he is a loyal and valiant warrior, admired by his comrades and loved by his wife. However, his encounter with the supernatural prophecies and his own unchecked ambition lead him down a dark path of treachery and bloodshed. This essay will explore the various stages of Macbeth's character evolution, examining how he changes from a noble and virtuous man into a tyrant consumed by his lust for power.

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One of the first signs of Macbeth's transformation can be seen in his reaction to the witches' prophecies. When they first inform him that he will become the Thane of Cawdor and eventually the King of Scotland, Macbeth is initially skeptical and dismissive. He says, "This supernatural soliciting / Cannot be ill, cannot be good" (1.3.130-131), indicating his uncertainty about the witches' intentions. However, as the prophecies start to come true, Macbeth's curiosity and ambition are piqued. He becomes increasingly obsessed with the idea of becoming king and begins to contemplate the possibility of taking matters into his own hands.

Macbeth's change in mindset becomes evident when he shares his thoughts with his wife, Lady Macbeth. In Act 1, Scene 5, he writes a letter to her, revealing his encounter with the witches and his desire for power. He says, "Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be / What thou art promised" (1.5.13-14). This demonstrates how Macbeth's initial skepticism has morphed into a belief in the witches' prophecies and a willingness to take action to fulfill them. Lady Macbeth, recognizing her husband's ambition, encourages him to seize the opportunity and even suggests murdering King Duncan to hasten their ascent to the throne.

The murder of King Duncan marks a turning point in Macbeth's character transformation. At first, he is plagued by guilt and remorse, unable to wash away the blood from his hands. He laments, "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood / Clean from my hand?" (2.2.78-79), revealing the turmoil within his conscience. However, as Macbeth gains more power and eliminates potential threats to his rule, his moral compass becomes increasingly distorted. He orders the murder of his loyal friend Banquo and attempts to kill Banquo's son Fleance to secure his position as king. This demonstrates a significant change in Macbeth's character, as he becomes willing to commit heinous acts without remorse.

Macbeth's transformation into a tyrant is further exemplified in his descent into madness. After the murder of Banquo, Macbeth starts to hallucinate and see the ghost of his former friend. He exclaims, "Thou canst not say I did it. Never shake / Thy gory locks at me" (3.4.51-52), revealing his guilt and paranoia. These hallucinations showcase Macbeth's deteriorating mental state and his inability to escape the consequences of his actions. As the play progresses, his madness intensifies, culminating in the famous "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow" soliloquy (5.5.19-28), where he reflects on the futility and meaninglessness of life.

In conclusion, Macbeth's character transformation is a tragic journey from a noble and virtuous man to a power-hungry tyrant consumed by guilt and madness. His initial skepticism about the witches' prophecies gives way to ambition, leading him to commit heinous acts in his quest for power. As Macbeth's moral compass becomes increasingly distorted, he loses touch with reality and descends into madness. Shakespeare's portrayal of Macbeth serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked ambition and the destructive nature of power. This exploration of Macbeth's character transformation highlights the timeless relevance of the play and the enduring impact of Shakespeare's tragic heroes.

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Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Edited by Robert S. Miola, Norton Critical Editions, 2014.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Macbeth’s Transformation: How Has Macbeth Changed Since the Beginning of the Play. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
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