Essay on William Shakespeare's Macbeth as Hero or Villain

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William Shakespeare's Macbeth as Hero or Villain

Macbeth is a complicated character whose human nature means that he possesses both good and evil traits. Macbeth's courage, conscience and his tentative approach of moral wrongdoing are as extensive as his evil ambition, cunning and cruelty. While his good qualities bring him to the status he enjoys at the beginning of the play his 'vaulting ambition' (I.vii) exemplifies his less desirable characteristics. Macbeth cannot be discussed as either purely heroic or villainous; the complexity of his character is illustrated by his violent inner conflict which arises from the opposing traits he possesses and is fuelled by his imagination.

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The Captain tells of Macbeth being a fierce warrior and being un-afraid to kill in war describing Macbeth killing Macdonwald as, 'he unseamed him from the nave to th' chops'. At this point in the play it is acceptable for him to be a brutal killer and as it is on behalf of his country. He is perceived as a hero, but it could be hinting to the audience that he has the potential to be a bloody murderer and a villain.

The witches' revelation of the prophecy regarding Macbeth's kingship of Scotland can be seen as the beginning of Macbeth's transformation from hero to villain. When he is first told Macbeth flinches and looks worried as he 'Stands not within the prospect of belief.' This is a sign of his reservations about the actions he may have to undertake. It is soon afterwards, however, that Macbeth's ambition begins to show itself as he does whatever he can to ensure the prophecy ' thou shalt be king hereafter.' (I.ii) comes true.

The way in which the witches appear with their 'prophetic greeting' initiates Macbeth's evil thoughts about killing Duncan ,the current king. The Shakespearean view of witches as links to the devil and hell make the truth of the prophecies questionable. The fact that Macbeth is willing to perform an act of pure evil, namely Duncan's murder, on the evidence of an unreliable source suggests that he has evil in him, or is at least susceptible to it,

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