Description of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as we see them in act
In the beginning of the play, Macbeth is presented by a conversation between King Duncan, his son Malcolm and a sergeant who has just returned from a victorious battle against an army of rebels. The sergeant speaks highly about Macbeth who, apparently, has shown his true character in the battle. He fought bravely and without fear and showed no mercy to his enemies. During the battle he displayed great abilities as general of the Kings army. At this point of the story, Macbeth thus seems to be a professional soldier serving for his country and King. He appears to be a good man fighting darkness and evil in order to create a good and just world. What originally seems to be a good hero actually turns out to be an evil anti-hero: "Fair is foul, and foul is fair" (Act 1, scene 1, line 11.)
Returning from the battle, Macbeth and his friend Banquo meet three witches. They tell Macbeth that he will be appointed Thane of Cawdor and that he will be King of Scotland. The first part of their prophecy comes true and this changes Macbeth's character. He begins to believe in their ability to foretell the future and becomes tempted by the implications of their evil predictions.The "horrid image" of the murder of King Duncan in order to become king himself crosses his mind. Macbeth who originally fought for King Duncan now begins to wonder whether he should get rid of the King and claim the throne. The seed of evil has thus been sown in a good man and it displays the rising of evil and decline of good in him.
He is not totally cold and solely ambitious as shown by his terror of the murder image, which thoroughly defies his loyalty. There is love in Macbeth as shown by his letter to Lady Macbeth in which he calls her his "dearest partner of greatness." Macbeth is already thinking about being king, but he is undecided about whether it is better to succumb to the temptation presented by the witches or to wait for fate to crown him. Banquo warns him that at times evil forces "tell us truths . . . to betray's in deepest consequence."
Even though he does not state it out loud, Macbeth does care about morality and religion, as demonstrated in his soliloquy (I, IV, 12-28) where he lists the three reasons why he should not kill Duncan: he is "his kinsman," "his subject" and "his host." Macbeth adds that "Duncan hath born his faculties so meek, hath been so clear in his great office, that his virtues will plead like angels." Lady Macbeth knows her husband and feels that he is "too full o' th' milk of human kindness." To counter this she accuses Macbeth of being a coward if he does not kill Duncan. Macbeth does not want to be a coward, either as soldier or as husband, so he accepts to murder Duncan. His ambition and self-image of bravery win over his virtues.
A frightening character. When we first see her, she is already plotting Duncan's murder, and she is stronger, more ruthless, and more ambitious than her husband. She seems fully aware of this and knows that she will have to push Macbeth into committing murder. At one point, she wishes that she were not a woman so that she could do it herself. This theme of the relationship between gender and power is key to Lady Macbeth's character: her husband implies that she is a masculine soul inhabiting a female body, which seems to link masculinity to ambition and violence. But the play, however, seems to use her (and the witches) to undercut Macbeth's idea that "undaunted mettle should compose / Nothing but males." These crafty women use female methods of achieving power (i.e. manipulation) to further their supposedly male ambitions (I.vii.7374). Women, the act implies, can be as ambitious and cruel as mensocial constraints deny them the means to pursue these ambitions on their own.
Lady Macbeth manipulates her husband with remarkable effectiveness, overriding all his objections and, when he hesitates to murder, repeatedly questioning his manhood until he feels that the murder is necessary to prove himself.
Lady Macbeth suffers none of her husband's uncertainty. She desires the kingship for him and wants him to murder Duncan in order to obtain it. When Macbeth arrives at Inverness, she overrides all of her husband's objections and persuades him to kill the king that very night.
In the mind of Lady Macbeth, ambition is represented as the ruling motive, an intense overmastering passion. In the pursuit of her object, she is cruel, treacherous, and daring. When her husband's more kindly nature shrinks from the perpetuation of the deed of horror, she, like an evil genius, whispers him on to his damnation.
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