In Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, Macbeth’s character changes a lot from the beginning of the play till the end. At the end of the play, Macbeth is a totally different person from who he was at the start of the play. Lady Macbeth’s character also changes dramatically, but in a different way than Macbeth’s. Macbeth’s character changes because of a variety of reasons. He is influenced by supernatural forces, emotionally blackmailed by Lady Macbeth, and when he has a crisis of conscience his power-hungry greedy side comes out on top.
Lady Macbeth turns from a manipulative blackmailer into a lost soul wrapped in immense guilt. The transformation of powerful noble people into an evil tyrant and a depressed woman who taker her life may be a message from Shakespeare to stay away from witchcraft. Shakespeare shows the developments in many ways involving emotion, character, appearance and the way they communicate to others.
Early in the play, Macbeth is described as:
This is a positive remark about him and is the first time we see his character described, so we know he is brave in Act1 Scene2.
When the witches make their predictions, Banquo asks Macbeth why he fears the thought of becoming king:
“Good sir, why do you start and seem to fear
Things that sound so fair?”
This tells us he doesn’t want to hear what the witches are saying, because they are saying bad things.
In the early acts, we get the impression that Macbeth is a man of noble, honourable and truthful character.
In Act3, Macbeth is now king. Shakespeare may have changed Macbeth’s appearance by showing a different expression on his face than he used to have before he killed Duncan and became king. Macbeth speaks very confidently when setting up Macbeth, this shows a change in Macbeth’s character.
We find out that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are plagued by thoughts of the evil they have committed:
That shake us nightly.”
Macbeth also uses a metaphor to tell us he is constantly reminded of the evil he has committed:
“O, full of scorpions is my mind”
He uses this as a metaphor because it means the poison is the thought of the evil he has done and the scorpion repeatedly whips its poisonous tale. When Macbeth sees Banquo’s ghost at the table we know he is mentally disturbed and his character has definitely changed. Lady Macbeth still criticises and questions Macbeth’s character to get what she likes:
“Are you a man?”
Macbeth tells us he is stuck in the situation so deeply there is no getting back:
“I am in blood
Stepped in so far that should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go’er.”
Macbeth meant he was so far into the situation that there was no turning back and he had to continue with what he was doing despite the consequences and immorality of it. He says he is in “blood” because the situation involves blood and murder and violence.
Lennox tells us that Macbeth is a tyrant:
“His presence at the tyrant’s feast”
Macbeth has changed from the noble man early on in the play into an evil tyrant. We learn how evil Macbeth has become when he sends people round to murder.
The doctor says Lady Macbeth is depressed and sleepwalking because of bad thoughts at the back of her head:
Do breed unnatural troubles; infected minds”
Lady Macbeth’s character has developed a lot from the strong manipulative and very determined woman who gets what she wants into a depressed weak state. This is because she is plagued with the guilt and misfortune that has come after she told her husband to murder Duncan.
Macbeth is very cocky and arrogant and full of himself when he says he fears no-one born of a woman. However this is in contrast to the same quality of bravery he showed at the start of the play:
“That was not born of a woman? Such a one
Am I to fear, or none.”
Macbeth is brave and courageous from the start of the play till his last fight:
“Why should I play the roman fool and die
On mine own sword? Whiles I see lives, the gashes
Do better upon them.”
Shakespeare shows the development of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s characters through their change of intention, emotion and expressions. Macbeth turns from good to evil while his wife, who turned him to evil turns from evil into a depressed weak lost soul who ends up taking her own life.