Macbeth Characters (Kneale)

Macbeth Lady Macbeth’s husband and a Scottish nobleman, the Thane of Glamis. He is made Thane of Cawdor for his bravery in battle, and becomes King of Scotland by murdering the previous King, Duncan. As Macbeth opens, Macbeth is one of the great noblemen in Scotland: valiant, loyal, and honorable. He’s also ambitious, and while this ambition helps to make him the great lord he is, once he hears the weird sisters’ prophecy Macbeth becomes so consumed by his desire for power that he becomes a tyrannical and violent monster who ultimately destroys himself. What’s perhaps most interesting about Macbeth is that he senses the murder will lead to his own destruction even before he murders Duncan, yet his ambition is so great that he still goes through with it
Lady Macbeth Macbeth’s wife. Unlike her husband, she has no reservations about murdering Duncan in order to make Macbeth King of Scotland. She believes that a true man takes what he wants, and whenever Macbeth objects to murdering Duncan on moral grounds, she questions his courage. Lady Macbeth assumes that she’ll be able to murder Duncan and then quickly forget it once she’s Queen of Scotland. But she discovers that guilt is not so easily avoided, and falls into madness and despair
Banquo A Scottish nobleman, general, and friend of Macbeth. He is also the father of Fleance. The weird sisters prophesize that while Banquo will never be King of Scotland, his descendants will one day sit on the throne. Banquo is as ambitious as Macbeth, but unlike Macbeth he resists putting his selfish ambition above his honor or the good of Scotland. Because he both knows the prophecy and is honorable, Banquo is both a threat to Macbeth and a living example of the noble path that Macbeth chose not to take. After Macbeth has Banquo murdered he is haunted by Banquo’s ghost, which symbolizes Macbeth’s terrible guilt at what he has become
Macduff A Scottish nobleman, and the Thane of Fife. His wife is Lady Macduff, and the two have babies and a young son. Macduff offers a contrast to Macbeth: a Scottish lord who, far from being ambitious, puts the welfare of Scotland even ahead of the welfare of his own family. Macduff suspects Macbeth from the beginning, and becomes one of the leaders of the rebellion. After Macbeth has Macduff’s family murdered, Macduff’s desire for vengeance becomes more personal and powerful
King Duncan The King of Scotland, and the father of Malcolm and Donalbain. Macbeth murders him to get the crown. Duncan is the model of a good, virtuous king who puts the welfare of the country above his own and seeks, like a gardener, to nurture and grow the kingdom that is his responsibility. Duncan is the living embodiment of the political and social order that Macbeth destroys
Malcolm The older of King Duncan’s two sons, and Duncan’s designated heir to the throne of Scotland. Early in the play, Malcolm is a weak and inexperienced leader, and he actually flees Scotland in fear after his father is murdered. But Malcolm matures, and with the help of Macduff and an English army, Malcolm eventually overthrows Macbeth and retakes the throne, restoring the order that was destroyed when Duncan was murdered
Weird Sisters Three witches, whose prophecy helps push Macbeth’s ambition over the edge, and convinces him to murder Duncan in order to become King. The witches’ knowledge of future events clearly indicates that they have supernatural powers, and they also clearly enjoy using those powers to cause havoc and mayhem among mankind. But it is important to realize that the witches never compel anyone to do anything. Instead, they tell half-truths to lure men into giving into their own dark desires. It’s left vague in Macbeth whether Macbeth would have become King of Scotland if he just sat back and did nothing. This vagueness seems to suggest that while the broad outlines of a person’s fate might be predetermined, how the fate plays out is up to him
Fleance Banquo’s teenage son. Macbeth sees him as a threat because of the weird sisters’ prophecy that Banquo’s descendants will one-day rule Scotland
Lady Macduff The wife of Macduff and the mother of Macduff’s children (and the only female character of note in the play besides Lady Macbeth). She questions her husband’s decision to leave his family behind when he goes to England to help Malcolm save Scotland from Macbeth
Donalbain King Duncan’s younger son and Malcolm’s brother
Porter The guardian of the gate at Macbeth’s castle

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