Macbeth - “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare

The Psychology of Great Characters: A Comprehensive Analysis of Literary Icons - Sykalo Evgen 2023

Macbeth - “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare

Background and Motivations


Scottish aristocrat Macbeth leads King Duncan's troops as a general. He is a bold and well-respected warrior who is well-known for his ability and bravery in combat. But Macbeth is also a driven individual who secretly yearns for power. Feelings of inadequacy and the conviction that he should have received more are the driving forces behind this aspiration.

Reasons for

The reasons behind Macbeth's actions are intricate and varied. Their motivations are control, recognition, and power. But they're also driven by a need for approval, fear, and insecurity.

Power: Macbeth thinks he is destined to be king and is driven by a desire for power. He is prepared to go to any lengths in order to fulfill his belief that he is more qualified to rule than Duncan.

Acknowledgment: Macbeth feels that ascending to the throne is the only path to gaining the respect he deserves as a great man. His need to validate himself in the eyes of others drives him, and he would stop at nothing to feel significant.

power: Macbeth thinks that assuming the throne will grant him the ultimate power because he fears losing control over his life. In order to fulfill his desire to control his own fate, he is prepared to use his influence over others.

Fear: Macbeth fears both the loss of what he has and the inability to fulfill his dreams. The witches' predictions torment him, and while he works to maintain his position, his paranoia grows.

Insecurity: Macbeth continuously looks to other people for approval because he lacks confidence in his own skills. He is especially receptive to Lady Macbeth's flattering remarks, and he looks to her to give him courage.

Guilt: Macbeth's conscience is a constant source of agony for him because of his acts, which causes him to grow more reclusive and alone. He cannot avoid the repercussions of his misdeeds and is plagued by the spirits of the people he has killed.

To sum up, Macbeth is driven by a complicated combination of ambition, fear, insecurity, and a need for approval. These reasons push him to murder people and take over positions of authority, but they also finally bring him to ruin.

Personality Traits and Development

Characteristics of the Mind

Macbeth's paradoxical features and their development during the play demonstrate his dual nature, which is a defining characteristic of his psyche.

Bravery and Cowardice: At first, Macbeth is portrayed as a valiant and fearless warrior, winning Duncan, his king, over. But his valor turns to cowardice as he gives in to guilt and ambition. He acts rashly and viciously out of an increasing fear of losing control and facing the repercussions of his choices.

tenderness and Ruthlessness: As Macbeth seeks power, his growing ruthlessness eclipses his earlier tenderness. He develops the willingness to murder and betray those closest to him, such as Banquo, his best friend, and his monarch, Duncan. Though he struggles with his conscience over these deeds, his ambition finally triumphs over empathy.

Ambition and Insecurity: Macbeth acts out of an abundance of ambition. He feels he deserves more than his current position and is driven by a desire for recognition and power. This ambition, nevertheless, stems from fear and a need for approval from other people. He is easily charmed and manipulated, especially by his wife Lady Macbeth.

Development of Personalities

Throughout the play, Macbeth's personality changes significantly. He starts off as a well-liked warrior, but his moral deterioration is brought on by his run-in with the witches and his subsequent rise to prominence.

Ambition and Moral Struggle at First: At first, Macbeth's conscience checks his ambition. He feels tension inside himself since he knows how his acts may affect others morally. But when his desire gets bigger than his conscience, he starts to do more and more horrible things.

Decline into Tyranny and Paranoia: Macbeth's ruthlessness and tyranny grow as his ambitions get stronger. He becomes paranoid and eliminates anyone who he believes could challenge his authority, including those who are close to him. His persistent worry of being exposed and hallucinations are symptoms of his remorse.

solitude and Mental Decline: As remorse and paranoia overwhelm Macbeth, his solitude grows more intense. He withdraws from society and enrages his allies, especially Lady Macbeth. His mental state worsens, and he starts having delusions and visions, which emphasizes his psychological suffering even more.

Relationships and Interactions


Macbeth's choices and actions are greatly influenced by the interactions he has with other people. His relationships with significant characters in the play shed light on his vulnerabilities, motivations, and the effects of his decisions on those around him.

Lady Macbeth: Originally Macbeth's inspiration to pursue power, Lady Macbeth is his most powerful ally. Her ambition is equal to his, and she gives him unflinching support, urging and persuading him to take the throne and commit murder. But as Macbeth spirals toward despotism and anxiety, their bond breaks down. As Lady Macbeth's own mental health and conscience fail, Macbeth becomes more and more alone and troubled.

King Duncan: The first benefactor and liege lord of Macbeth is King Duncan. He is shown to be a compassionate and benevolent king who values Macbeth's accomplishments and respects his valor. The choice Macbeth makes to murder and betray Duncan is a pivotal moment in his moral development and lays the groundwork for his terrible demise.

Banquo: A fellow warrior and Macbeth's best ally. At first, their relationship is marked by respect and dedication to one another. But as Macbeth's ambition increases, he starts to view Banquo as a danger to his authority and grows more suspicious of him. This belief culminates in Banquo's murder, highlighting Macbeth's spiral into brutality and paranoia even more.

The Witches: Macbeth's demise is significantly influenced by the three witches. Despite being vague, their prophecies act as a spur to his ambition, igniting his thirst for power and persuading him that being king is his destiny. Macbeth's fixation on the witches' words drives him to take more and more risky actions, which finally determine his demise.


Macbeth's interactions with other characters shed light on his conflicting motivations, nuanced nature, and the results of his deeds.

Manipulation and Submission: A dynamic of manipulation and submission characterizes Macbeth's relationship with Lady Macbeth. At first, Lady Macbeth assumes command and uses Macbeth's ambition and fears to her advantage to coerce him into killing someone. But Macbeth reinforces his domination as his power increases and his conscience weakens, marginalizing Lady Macbeth until she finally gives in to her own guilt and insanity.

Betrayal and Loyalty: Macbeth's relationship with King Duncan serves as an example of his moral collapse. Betrayal and murder strike in the face of Duncan's trust and admiration for Macbeth, demonstrating Macbeth's readiness to sacrifice allegiance for one's own benefit. This betrayal is a pivotal moment in Macbeth's spiral into despotism and lays the groundwork for his eventual collapse.

Friendship and Rivalry: Macbeth and Banquo's relationship undergoes a shift from friendship to rivalry. Their relationship is first built on respect for one another and common experiences. But when Macbeth's ambition increases, he sees Banquo as a challenger to both his authority and his own royal prophecy. This view results in Banquo's murder, highlighting Macbeth's moral decline and the deadly character of his unbridled ambition.

Obsession and Misinterpretation: Macbeth's encounters with the witches highlight his gullibility and incorrect reading of their prophecies. His ambition is fueled by the witches' confusing utterances, which also persuade him that he is destined to be king and cause him to behave violently and recklessly. Nonetheless, Macbeth's fixation on their forecasts causes him to become blind to the possible repercussions of his actions because their predictions are ultimately interpretable.

Role in the Narrative

Principal Character & Protagonist

Shakespeare's tragedy centers on Macbeth, who acts as the main character and focal point of the story. The plot is advanced by his choices, actions, and intentions, which set up a series of events that lead to his terrible demise. The play's examination of ambition, guilt, and the corrupting effect of power is centered on Macbeth's character journey, which sees him go from being a well-respected warrior to a merciless tyrant.

Conflict and Tragedy's Catalyst

After Macbeth encounters the three witches, a sequence of events unfolds that culminate in conflict, violence, and tragedy. His deadly acts are motivated by his unquenchable ambition and fixation with their prophecies, upending the kingdom's order and having far-reaching effects. The tragic conflicts in the play are sparked by Macbeth's decisions, and they ultimately result in the deaths of Lady Macbeth, Duncan, and Banquo, among many others.

Symbol of the Destructive Power of Ambition

The persona of Macbeth perfectly captures the deadly force of unbridled ambition. His obsession with power drives him to act violently and betray others, undermining his own wellbeing and destroying his relationships in the process. The story of Macbeth's downfall serves as a warning about the perils of allowing ambition to triumph over morality and empathy.

Emotional resonance's driving force

The audience experiences a spectrum of emotions as they follow Macbeth's transformation from a revered warrior to a fallen tyrant. His early ambition and bravery inspire admiration, but his eventual decline into brutality and paranoia inspires sympathy and horror. Because of his empathy-inducing problems with remorse, loneliness, and the fallout from his deeds, Macbeth's collapse is a tragic and poignant sight.

Symbol of Fallibility in Humans

The persona of Macbeth is a moving reminder of human frailty. His fragility and vulnerability that can result in disastrous outcomes are highlighted by his reluctance to control his ambition, his gullibility in interpreting the witches' forecasts, and his susceptibility to deception. The demise of Macbeth serves as a reminder of the value of morality, self-awareness, and conscience in directing behavior.

Symbolism and Representation

Blood as a Violent and Guilty Symbol

Throughout the play, the theme of blood recurs, signifying the moral decline and brutality that permeate Macbeth's acts. Blood is a recurring theme in Macbeth's hallucinations and Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking scene, emphasizing the permanent marks their misdeeds have left on their consciences. Blood is a symbol for the psychological weight of remorse and the inevitable results of violence.

Darkness and Light as Signs of Goodness and Evil

Throughout the play, the contrast between light and dark acts as a potent emblem of the conflict between good and evil. Darkness is linked to Macbeth's slide into despotism; it stands for the corrupting power of ambition and the moral decline that results from his deeds. However, light is connected to innocence, purity, and virtue; it represents the moral compass that Macbeth loses when he gives in to his darker tendencies.

Witches and Otherworldly Entities

With their magical abilities and enigmatic forecasts, the three witches stand in for the forces of temptation and fate that shape Macbeth's decisions. Their appearance in the play gives it an extra supernatural element and implies that Macbeth's demise is impacted by outside factors as well as his own decisions. Macbeth's ambition is sparked by the witches' enigmatic prophecies, which reinforce his thirst for power and persuade him that he is destined to be king.

Weather and Nature Imagery

The use of weather imagery in the play reflects Macbeth's moral decline and psychological suffering. Fair weather and natural order represent the peace and harmony that Macbeth disturbs, while storms, darkness, and other unexplained events represent the chaos and disruption that Macbeth's acts bring to the realm. Nature takes on the role of a mirror, reflecting Macbeth's inner turmoil as well as the results of his deeds.

The Dagger as a Murder and Ambition Symbol

The dagger represents the deadly road Macbeth is about to take as it appears in his hallucinations prior to Duncan's murder. It stands for his ambition's weapon, the instrument he will employ to fulfill his lifelong dream of ascending to the throne. The blade keeps coming up in Macbeth's thoughts, highlighting the strength of his ambition and the terrible outcomes that await.

Clothing and Outward Looks

The attire and outward look of the characters also have symbolic meaning. The stark contrast between Macbeth's early warrior garb and his later bloodied tyrant garb symbolizes his moral metamorphosis. The witches' ragged dress and hideous look imply their link to the supernatural and the terrible powers they represent, while Lady Macbeth's nightgown and sleepwalking scene signify her decline into madness.

Additional Considerations

Performance and Gender Roles

The relationship and deeds of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth subvert the prevailing gender roles of the day. While Macbeth's decline into tyranny and paranoia challenges conventional ideas of masculinity, Lady Macbeth's strong and manipulative personality subverts the expected passivity of women. The play's themes of ambition, power, and the results of unbridled passion are made more complex and nuanced by Shakespeare's examination of gender roles through these characters.

Political Allegories and Historical Context

The 11th-century Scottish setting of the drama offers a background against which to examine topics of political authority, succession, and the possibility of tyranny. The period's political unrest and power conflicts over the Scottish crown are reflected in Macbeth's ascent to prominence. Shakespeare's use of historical background permits allegorical readings of the play, implying more general reflections on the nature of authority, the perils of ambition, and the significance of upholding a fair and stable society.

Depth of Psychology and Character Analysis

One of Shakespeare's most psychologically nuanced characters is Macbeth. His journey from a well-liked warrior to a brutal dictator is characterized by moral decline, personal conflicts, and the constant burden of remorse. Shakespeare's depiction of Macbeth's inner anguish offers a deep dive into the human psyche, bringing to light the tensions, weaknesses, and potentially devastating aspects of the human mentality.

Maintaining Pertinence and Contemporary Contexts

Even after the play's composition, audiences are still drawn to Macbeth's themes of ambition, power, and the repercussions of unbridled desire. Contemporary themes like governmental corruption, the quest of power at any costs, and the psychological effects of violence and remorse are frequently covered in modern Macbeth interpretations. The play's eternal themes and relevance guarantee that it will always be relevant and flexible enough to accommodate varied readings in a range of historical and cultural situations.