In the beginning of the story, we see Macbeth as a brave, Scottish soldier who is valiant in battle. He is the thane of Glamis, an honorable, noble position. He reveals a more ambitious side as the prophecies of his future are told to him by the three witches. The witches claim he will become the thane of Cawdor and eventually the King of Scotland. When he sees one of the prophecies come true as he is named the thane of Cawdor, he becomes thirsty for more. The prophecies fuel his ambition and he begins to plot to make them come true. He debates whether to kill Duncan, the King and his trusted ally. He is conflicted as we see in Act 1, Scene 7 where he points out the King’s good qualities and the sense of loyalty he feels towards him. He is also nagged with self-doubt and fear of retribution if he were to kill the King. However, it is his ambition that gets the upper hand despite the fact he doesn't see that as enough justification for killing the King. His wife, Lady Macbeth convinces him to kill the King. She pushes him to do it as she accuses him of being a coward if he doesn't kill Duncan. Wanting to avoid showing cowardice, he kills Duncan. He is remorseful after murdering Duncan and we see Macbeth with fear of his deed as he says “Will the ocean even wash the blood off my hands.” However, Macbeth’s ambition and self-preservation prevail as he kills the King’s guards the next day acting as though he was enraged that they killed the King. He feels he must continue down the violent, murderous path to cover-up his previous misdeed. Guilt-ridden, insecure and driven by ambition, Macbeth continues his murderous ways to secure his position on the throne. This is because of the prophecies he heard from the evil witches. They claimed Banquo’s heirs would have the throne. Couple this with the fact that Macbeth realized Banquo could blame him for Duncan’s death; and Macbeth hires men to kill Banquo and his son to eliminate the threat. He shows fear when confronted by Banquo’s ghost and revisits the witches. They warn him to beware of Macduff, who had fled to England. This further fuels his insecurities and he orders Macduff’s family killed. He continued to choose violence and murder as the solution to his problems. As things fall apart for him at the end of the play with the English army and a revenge seeking Macduff at his gates, he can finally return to life as a fighter, and he acts as a kind of reckless soldier as his enemies surround him. Unlike many of Shakespeare’s other tragic heroes, Macbeth never seems to contemplate suicide: “Why should I play the Roman fool,” he asks, “and die / On mine own sword?” (5.10.1–2). Instead, he goes down fighting. Macduff killed and beheaded Macbeth. Macbeth is the true tragic hero as he fell from high to low, accepted his downfall and had a gruesome death.
Analysis by Brendan Blees