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Macbeth - Attitude Changes

In the tragic drama Macbeth, written by William Shakespeare in 1606 during the English

Renaissance, the hero, Macbeth, constantly declines in his level of morality until his death

at the end of the play. Because of his change of character from good to evil, Macbeth's

attitude towards other characters, specifically Duncan, Banquo, Lady Macbeth, and the

witches, is significantly affected. The first of the four characters is Duncan. Since Macbeth

interacts with Duncan only a minimal amount before Duncan's death, Macbeth's attitude

towards him changes very rapidly. Before Macbeth hears the witches' first prophecy, he is

very close to Duncan, and would never even think of doing something against him. When

the thought of murdering Duncan crosses his mind immediately after he finds that he has

just been named Thane of Cawdor, he cannot believe he "yield[s] to that suggestion /

Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair / And make my seated heart knock at my ribs" (I,

iii, 133-35). In scene 5 of act 1, however, his "vaulting ambition" is starting to take over,

but partly because of his wife's persuasion. He agrees that they must "catch the nearest

way" (17), and kill Duncan that night. On the other hand, as the time for murder comes

nearer, he begins giving himself reasons not to murder Duncan:

First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,

Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,

Who should against his murderer shut the door,

Not bear the knife myself.

(I, vii, 13-16)

When Lady Macbeth enters, though, she uses her cunning rhetoric and persuasion

techniques to convince Macbeth that this is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the right thing

to do. He then tells her that "I am settled." (79). He is firmly seated in his beliefs that

killing Duncan is the right thing to do-until he performs the murder. He is so horrified by

this act that for a moment he forgets where he is or who he is with. We learn from this

murder that Macbeth truly had faith in the king and was very loyal, but under the forces of

his wife's persuasion and his own vaulting ambition, he is put in the evil frame of mind for

just long enough to kill Duncan. This murder does permanently alter him from his moral

state of mind, however, and he soon does not feel much remorse for murdering Duncan.

The Second of the four characters towards whom Macbeth's attitude changes is Banquo.

Before he murders Duncan, Macbeth is a very close friend to Banquo, and they are almost

always together. After the murder, however, Macbeth senses suspicion on Banquo's part.

He realizes that Banquo's "wisdom that doth guide his valour / To act in safety" (52-53)

will cause Banquo to want to turn Macbeth in for his crime. Macbeth knows he must also

get rid of Banquo since, according to the prophecy, the throne will pass to Banquo's sons.

Macbeth starts showing his extreme hatred towards Banquo while he is convincing the two

murderers that killing him is right:

Macbeth: Both of you Know Banquo was your enemy.

Murderers: True, my lord.

Macbeth: So is he mine; and in such bloody distance that every minute of his

being thrusts against my near'st of life;

(III, i, 114b-118)

Finally, Macbeth actually shows signs of relief when the murderer calls him to the door

during his banquet and tells him of Banquo's death:

Macbeth: There's blood upon thy face.

Murderer: 'Tis Banquo's then.

Macbeth: 'Tis better thee without than he within.

(III, iv, 12-14)

Macbeth's last statement, "Tis . . . within", means that Banquo's blood is better on the

murderer than in Banquo, showing that Macbeth is, in truth, happy that Banquo has been

killed. The killing of Banquo by Macbeth shows extreme selfishness; he cannot bear to see

even his best friend's sons succeed him on the throne. However, a more important reason

that Macbeth kills Banquo is because of Banquo's suspicion of him, and what Banquo will

do to him once he finds out for sure that Macbeth has committed the murder of Duncan.

One can see that Macbeth becomes extremely harsh if he wants his way. He will go to

horrid extremes just so that he does not have to live his kingship in fear, but instead "to be

safely thus." (III, i, 49)

Lady Macbeth, the third character, interacts with Macbeth a considerable amount, and




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