Macbeth's Tragedy: Sympathy Amidst Darkness and Destiny

Categories: Macbeth

In the realm of Shakespearean tragedies, a unique blend of emotions—pity and fear—often takes center stage. Macbeth, set against the dramatic backdrop of Scotland, delves into profound themes such as power, desire, ambition, and the intricate dynamics of gender. As the narrative unfolds, Macbeth, a once esteemed general, succumbs to the ominous allure of dark desires for power, propelled by the cryptic prophecies of three witches. Notably, a nuanced exploration of the relationship between man and woman emerges, challenging conventional perspectives as Macbeth, typically a formidable force on the battlefield, reveals vulnerability and susceptibility to the influence of his wife.

Unfair Treatment

One compelling argument for Macbeth's sympathy lies in the perpetual unfair treatment he receives from the outset. The witches, harboring their own agenda, deliver prophecies that weave a complex web of half-truths and concealed consequences, acting as the catalyst for Macbeth's insatiable thirst for the throne. Blinded by their partial lies, Macbeth, having witnessed the fulfillment of one prophecy, fashions himself as invincible.

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However, the moral compass within him triggers skepticism about trusting the witches fully.

Equally influential in Macbeth's tragic trajectory is Lady Macbeth, a driving force behind his descent into murder. Motivated by her own hunger for power, she skillfully manipulates Macbeth, leveraging his ambitions by challenging his manhood and courage. Phrases like "screw [his] courage to the sticking place" underscore her role in coercing Macbeth into action. During the murders, Lady Macbeth assumes an active role, providing support and direction, further emphasizing Macbeth's susceptibility to external influences.

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Excessive Suffering

The depth of Macbeth's suffering surpasses the magnitude of his transgressions. From the haunting guilt that accompanies him since the first murder to the relentless onslaught of hallucinations—bloody daggers and Banquo's ghost—Macbeth grapples with the indelible marks of remorse that stain his soul. The isolation intensifies as he loses key figures in his life: King Duncan, a trusted ally, murdered by Macbeth's own hands, and Banquo, a friend and companion, dispatched due to perceived threats.

Perhaps most poignant is the loss of Lady Macbeth, whose demise leaves Macbeth in profound solitude. What was once an isolated couple transforms into a solitary individual, devoid of confidantes. The consequences of Macbeth's actions spiral, culminating in the revenge of Macduff and Malcolm for the murders of Macduff's family and Duncan. Macbeth's journey becomes a tapestry of remorse, isolation, and the inexorable retribution for his deeds.

Heroic Portrayal

Contrary to his tragic fate, Macbeth is initially portrayed as a veritable hero in the eyes of the public. His valor on the battlefield, fighting wars for King Duncan and earning the esteemed title of Thane of Cawdor, paints him as a figure of immense bravery and supernatural prowess. Even in the face of inevitable defeat, Macbeth's determination to fight, likened to a baited bear chained for the audience's pleasure, underscores his resilience in the direst of circumstances.

It is crucial to recognize that Macbeth, despite knowing his impending loss, refuses to capitulate. His unwavering commitment to face adversity head-on, even when chained to a fate of inevitable defeat, reinforces his heroic qualities. This portrayal offers a stark contrast to the eventual unraveling of Macbeth's character, emphasizing the tragic transformation brought about by external influences and his own choices.

Justification for Macbeth's Actions

An anticipated counterargument suggests that Macbeth's continued descent into murder, despite grief and guilt, undermines his claim to sympathy. However, a nuanced perspective contends that Macbeth's actions, while morally reprehensible, align with the trajectory of a normal person caught in the inexorable tide of consequences. Macbeth's poignant declaration, "I am in blood stepped in so far, … returning were as tedious as go o’er," encapsulates the essence of his predicament.

In Macbeth's view, the die is cast, and there is no turning back. The gravity of his mistakes leaves him with limited choices, rendering even repentance ineffective. The inexorable progression of "another crime, another murder" becomes a fatalistic inevitability, highlighting the entrapment of Macbeth in a cycle where the past is irretrievable. In his words, "but did it matter any more?" echoes the futility of dwelling on past misdeeds as Macbeth grapples with the irreversible consequences of his actions.


In conclusion, the narrative of Macbeth unveils a character deserving of sympathy amid the tapestry of tragedy. Macbeth's journey, marked by external manipulations, intense suffering, and a heroic facade, illuminates the multifaceted nature of his character. Despite the wrongs committed, Macbeth's internal struggles, isolation, and the relentless consequences he faces serve as a testament to his sympathetic essence.

While critics may argue the moral culpability of Macbeth, acknowledging his internal conflict, loyalty, and honor adds layers of complexity to his character. Macbeth emerges as a tragic figure, a victim of external influences that propel him into a web of dark desires. In the end, the price he pays—ranging from psychological torment to the loss of loved ones and ultimately his own life—paints a poignant picture of a character enveloped in a tragic fate. Thus, despite the moral shadows cast by Macbeth's actions, the empathy elicited by his journey solidifies his status as a truly sympathetic character.

Written by Liam Williams
Updated: Jan 18, 2024
Keep in mind: this is only a sample!
Updated: Jan 18, 2024
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Macbeth's Tragedy: Sympathy Amidst Darkness and Destiny. (2016, Mar 27). Retrieved from

Macbeth's Tragedy: Sympathy Amidst Darkness and Destiny essay
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