Macbeth and Macduff: contrasting warriors
Macbeth is a drama of crime and punishment, of temptation, guilt, remorse and retribution. The protagonist, Macbeth, is in turn a hero, traitor and tyrant. His story is a journey through loyalty, ambition, treachery and eventual disillusionment. Although Macbeth and his companion Macduff are similar at the beginning, they differ by the end in that Macbeth becomes disloyal, selfish and cold-blooded while Macduff remains loyal, selfless and compassionate.
First, there are some similarities between Macbeth and Macduff. Both of them are introduced as the noble kinsmen of King Duncan and are respected by people. They have both Thane titles, which were given to them by their fathers. Because of Macbeths valiancy and achievement, he is the Thane of Cawdor assigned by the king after he succeeds in suppressing the civil war and defeating the army of Norway. In the beginning, he and Macduff are both loyal to the king and gain his absolute trust. Moreover, both of their wives are tragically killed by the end of the play. Macduffs wife is killed by murderers assigned by Macbeth, and Macbeths wife commits suicide because she is remorseful and feels guilty for coercing her husband to slaughter the king.
However, as the play unfolds, Macbeth gradually becomes disloyal, selfish, and cold-blooded. Following the witches' prophecies and his wife's coercion, his mind is twisted and he becomes disloyal; he kills Duncan and usurps his crown. He is lustful and says, "Star, hide your fires, / Let not light see my black and deep desires." This shows that he is aware of the evil nature of his thoughts. Furthermore, Macbeth just cares for power and he leads Scotland to ruin. When Malcolm says, "I think our country sinks beneath the yoke; it weeps, it bleeds, and each new day a gash to her wound," he strongly proves that Macbeth is selfish and willing o destroy Scotland in order to gain his power. Moreover, when Macbeth learns about his wife's death, he is cold-blooded to say, "She should have died hereafter, there would have been a time of such a word." There is no feeling for the woman who has been closest to him throughout the play.
In contrast to Macbeth, Maduff is loyal, selfless and compassionate. Maduff clearly cares about the state of his country when it is in trouble; he cries, "Oh, Scotland, Scotland!" He dares to go out of Macbeth's favor and be loyal to his real leader. He decides to go to England to assist Malcolm in recapturing his crown. Moreover, when Macduff holds Macbeth's cursed head and says, "The time is free", it means he successful in bringing Scotland to peace. However, his family is all killed by this tyrant. He selflessly sacrifices his family in order to rescue his wife's dead, Macduff compassionately exclaims, "they killed my children" and "my wife [is] killed" when he learns about the fact of his family's slaughter. These are expressions, not of indifference, but of shock and grief.
In conclusion, Shakespeare shows that Macbeth evolves from a loyal general to a tyrant because of his selfishness and disloyalty. By contrasting Macduff's loyal and selfless character, the reader can see the two characters have different attitudes toward their families, goals and leaders. Even though they are somewhat similar to each other at the beginning of the play, differences develop after Macbeth's ambition comes out. Macbeth represents evil and treason, and Macduff represents justice and integrity.