Macbeth first appears to the audience to be a susceptible victim who is swayed by outside forces rather then an evil protagonist from the start. Macbeth is initially portrayed as a brave and loyal knight who is good at heart, and this initial perception would lead one to believe that he could not fulfil his acts of treason without some heavyweight persuasion. However, coming to the end of the play we see his character change into something more of an evil protagonist. We are first introduced to Macbeth when he was returning from a battle in which he was victorious.
He is accompanied by Banquo. The impression you are given is that Macbeth is very brave “Speak if you can” Saying this, when approached by the witches, which would have startled any normal man at the time, suggests bravery. We can also see that Macbeth is a modest person after his reaction to being named Thane of Cawdor by the witches, “I know I am Thane of Glamis, but how of Cawdor? ” He doesn’t believe it is in “the prospect of belief”, which shows his modesty. The witches deliver their first set of prophesies, and these are soon confirmed as Macbeth is made Thane of Cawdor.
By being made Thane he is convinced that the “greatest is behind,” we can see here that Macbeth has fallen for the witches prophecies and that he believes that now the third prophecy can be true. He writes to his wife to tell her of his meeting with the witches and him being pronounced Thane of Cawdor. The tone of this letter is of promises of happiness, “That thou mightst not lose the dues of rejoicing by being ignorant of what greatness is promised thee” Greatness is coming her way. In the letter he has not yet decided to kill Duncan.
He is just informing his wife of what is to come. Lady Macbeth’s reaction to this letter is that she is worried that Macbeth does not have the evil in him to do what is needed to make sure the prophecy comes true. “Yet I do fear thy nature, it is too full o’th’milk of human kindness to catch thy nearest way”, She knows Macbeth wants to become king but fears he cannot, Lady Macbeth is willing to do anything needed to convince Macbeth to attain the crown. “And chastise with the valor of my tongue”,
Showing that Macbeth was acted upon by outside forces of someone whom he trusts naturally as a man would trust the women he loves and would be likely to be convince by her to kill Duncan. On the night of the murder he tries to back out, saying “We still have judgement here that we but teach bloody instructions, which being taught, return to plague the inventor” Murderers get murdered saying that if he does kill Duncan then he’s future may be shortened. He also tries to back out by saying that he is his “Kingman and subject” and that Duncan is a good king, this shows Macbeths unwillingness to commit any evil.
Lady Macbeth convinces Macbeth by trying to make him feel guilty, “From this time, such I account thy love” Saying that if he doesn’t do it then he obviously doesn’t love her showing that Macbeth was acted by an outside force to guilt him into committing evil. She also tries to convince him to fulfil his dream by calling him a “coward” which at the time period ‘Macbeth’ is set in would be a blow to the his pride and would of pushed him into killing Duncan.
After Macbeth kills Duncan he feels guilty and scared, he hears a voice in his head saying Sleep no more, Macbeth murder sleep” He is hearing voices and feels he has destroyed his own sleep showing that he is scared of what he has done, “I am afraid to think what I have done – look on’t again, I dare not” He regrets doing it and puts what he has done out of his head he’s weak character, but his reaction highlights that Macbeth is not evil but due to the will of his wife he was led to kill Duncan.
Macbeth decides to murder Banquo and Fleance; this is because of the witches’ prophecy saying that Banquo’s children will be kings, upon my head the placed a crown a fruitless crown, and put a barren sceptre in my gripe, thence to be wrenched with an unlineal hand, no son of mine succeeding” For Fleance to be king it would mean that Macbeth has to die and this is why Macbeth decided to kill him, this is where I would argue that Macbeth has become more evil, as it would require pure evil to kill a young child and his own best friend for personal gain. Though the fact that Banquo is haunting him proves that Macbeth is full of guilt and regret at what he has done.
It shows that he is weak and has been pushed into commiting the acts. The key scene rarely studied is Act III Scene V, Hecate is angry that the witches were using their riddles on Macbeth without consulting her, so she decides to “Raise such artificial sprites as by the strength of their illusion, shall draw him on to his conclusion. He shall spurn fate, scorn death, and bear he hopes but wisdom, grace and fear” She is planning to trick Macbeth into making him feel invincible. She is controlling his actions, giving him a false sense of security.
She is going to make him confident as she knows that “security is mortal’s chiefest enemy”, so she is controlling his actions by making him feel confident, showing that he is a victim of outside forces. The witches then deliver their second set of prophecies which state that no man born of a woman can kill him and not to be afraid until Birnam Wood moves to Dunsinane. The effect this has on Macbeth is to make him feel over confident which would make his downfall. The prophecy makes him feels immortal and untouchable. This proves that Macbeth actions are mainly pushed by the witches’ prophecies and that he is acted upon by outside forces.