An Analysis of the Main Character in Macbeth, a Play by William Shakespeare

Categories: Macbeth

Macbeth is a hero and a coward, often at the same time depending on what meaning of the words you use. Macbeth is the hero of the story but he doesnit act like a hero, except for a time at the beginning of the play (Act 1 Scene 2). After Macbeth murders Duncan, he doesnít ever become his heroic self again. Macbeth then becomes a coward, which he demonstrates by killing in cold blood all the people that pose even a small threat to him, including his companion and comrade, Banquo who is suspicious of him, which can be seen in the text.

Banquo. Act 1 Scene 3 Line 120

That, trusted home,

Might yet enkindle you unto the crown

Besides thane of Cawdor.DIf we were to say Macbeth was a coward in today’s meaning of the word, which is an old one at that and use it in a Shakespearean play, which was written in 1606, we could be seriously misinterpreting the word.

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The word coward comes from the Latin derivation meaning simply Itailo, but we can also see this word as meaning not just lone without couragel (Chambers Dictionary) but also meaning one without pity, objectivity or compassion, which Macbeth shows very few signs of.

By killing the king while he was sleeping, Macbeth was displaying some very dire signs of being a coward.

Macbeth. Act 2 Scene 1 Line 62

Il go and it is done; the bell invites me

Hear it now Duncan, for it is a knell

That summons thee to heaven, or to hell.

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Macbeth is blaming others- the Bell- for his cowardly act.

But, by using the old meaning of the word, Macbeth would be the tail, but he cannot be, because he is a Thane, which is someone who is wealthy and has lots of land.

If we were to say Macbeth was a hero, we could also be misinterpreted. Chambers Dictionary says that Herol coming from the Greek words Herosi means that the Hero is the principal male figure, who career is the thread of the storyi. This meaning would be correct, but hero also can be seen as meaning the saviour of the story who defeats the enemy.

Macbeth cannot be seen as acting in a heroic way as he is the one who killed all those people in cold blood and committed regicide in order to obtain the throne.

Macbeth can also be seen as acting in a very brave way by even attempting to kill the king, but it is a also very stupid thing to do because if he were to get caught he would almost certainly be killed.

Macbeth Act 1 Scene 7 Line 79

II am settled and bend up

Each corporal agent to this terrible feati So in a way Macbeth can be seen as both types of hero as he, in Act 1, is the person who saves the day from the traitor-the Thane of Cawdor, but also in the other meaning of the word as he is the central male figure of the story throughout the play.

So, is Macbeth a hero or coward? Well, that depends on what connotation of the words you use. Macbeth is both of them for at least some part of the play.

Macbeth fits our description of a hero in the context that the story revolves around him and so therefore he is the hero of the story, but he doesnit act in a heroic way, so he can be said to be the Herol but not Heroici.

Macbeth can also seen to be a coward as he acts in a cowardly way by killing lots of innocent people, but he doesnit lack courage which is how Chambers Dictionary describes a coward, as Macbeth fought the Traitor in the first act and he didnit back down when he found out that Macduff was INot of woman born,

Macbeth Act 5 Scene 7 Line 60

IAnd thou opposed, being of no woman born

Yet I will try the last. So- Macbeth can be said to have acted in a Icowardlyd way but he is not a Icoward..

Ultimately Macbeth fails as a hero because of the way he acts as a man by killing Banquo and Macduffis family, all of whom were innocent. He also can be seen to be weak-because he listens to what the witches say whilst Banquo, who also heard them talking, does not take it seriously and so by listening to what the witches say, Macbeth becomes disoriented.

I cannot really say whether I agree or disagree because of the way the words have derived from the original meanings of them but if we were going to use todayis language, I would agree with the statement that Macbeth is a coward as a man and a hero as a soldier, whose dying words sound heroic.

Macbeth Act 5 Scene 7 Line 63

Ol throw my warlike shield: Lay on Macduff

And Dammed be him that first cries Hold, Enoughl.

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An Analysis of the Main Character in Macbeth, a Play by William Shakespeare. (2022, Feb 15). Retrieved from

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