For centuries, scholars and literary experts have argued about the quality of Macbeth's character. Some will say Macbeth is little more than a tragic hero who followed the wrong path in life, but was originally a good person. The play, however, offers much evidence to the contrary. Macbeth is a figure of treachery and evil, responsible for the death of a king and the slaughter of innocents. Boosted into the first crime by prophecies and his power thirsty wife, Macbeth grows increasingly independant and vicious following each great crime he commits.
Macbeth is a killer and has an evil nature
from the beginning of the play. His greed
breaks his evil mind free from repression
by his goodness when he receives his prophecies
from the witches
. Macbeth's murder of King Duncan
is inspired by the witches' prophecy
that he will become king. Macbeth, who is a good man loved by the people and of a very respectable rank, chooses to sacrifice it all based on the prophecy. At first, his morals hold him back. He tells Lady Macbeth
"We will proceed no further in this business / He hath honour'd me of late, and I have bought golden opinions from all sorts of people." (Act I, vii, 31-33).
His will is broken easily by Lady Macbeth's urging, and he commits the terrible deed. The day before, he loved the king
who promoted him. The following day, he murders him. The witches tempted his evil side, and set it free.
While Macbeth's first great crime took a lot of persuasion, his second was independent and clearly displays the increasing darkness in Macbeth's heart. Having successfully planned and murdered Duncan with Lady Macbeth, his good will broke down even further as he singlehandedly plans the assassination of his best friend. Macbeth's paranoia sets in as he plants to destroy those who are a possible threat to his throne. Macbeth witnesses the witches give the prophecy that Banquo "...shalt get kings, though thou be none." (Act I, iii, 67), this meaning Banquo's son Fleance will one day be king. Macbeth sees this as a threat to his crown, and without even consulting Lady Macbeth, sends two murderers to kill Banquo and his son. Macbeth's greed and treachery is almost fully realized with the blood of his king and his best friend now on his hands.
Once more, Macbeth shows true evil in his most heinous act yet, the third great crime. Again, Macbeth receives prophecies from the weird sisters when the apparitions tell him to beware of Macduff. The ruthless Macbeth commands his mercenaries to kill Macduff, but he has alrady fled to England. Macbeth then says :
"The castle of Macduff I will surprise / Seize upon Fife; give to the edge o' the sword / his wife, his babes and all unfortunate souls / that trace him in his line" (Act IV, i, 150-153).
He orders that Macduff's castle be razed
, and everyone in it murdered. This merciless slaughter of innocents shows to us the extent of Macbeth's evil. There is no longer a good thought in his mind.
Macbeth displays his treachery and evil soul to readers very early in the play. His three great crimes show the escalating evil in him, and the decline of morals and sensibility. He descends from a noble than loved by all to a usurper beast with the blood of dozens on his hands. Macbeth's true colours and wicked nature are clearly displayed.