Macbeth is a brave and valorous general. This impression is essentially built through the words of the wounded captain who sings tales of Macbeth’s bravery and describes his victory in the battle against the Norwegians. Like King Duncan, the audience also expect great things from Macbeth when he is honoured with the title of Thane of Cawdor, perceiving him as well-deserving and worthy of the title. This great impression of Macbeth, formed through the words of others, begins to change when the audience sees Macbeth for the first time in the next scene interacting with the three witches. His tendency of giving-in to the lure of unchecked ambition is evident when he hears the prophecies that predict great things for him. The audience’s perspective is complicated as they realize that his physical strength and courage is tainted by a consuming ambition for political power. The three attributes of bravery, ambition and self-doubt begin to play a game of emotional conflict as Macbeth gradually finds himself contemplating to be king. The inner turmoil that Macbeth begins to experience after hearing the prophecies eventually displays that he lacks strength of character which is often considered as a noble trait for any honest and honourable man. Through Macbeth, Shakespeare puts across an important and moralistic message about the terrible effects of ambition and greed and what it can do to a man who lacks strength of character. Macbeth’s character displays very real and authentic emotions that every common person experiences at multiple times in one’s life. It also shows how even the greatest of persons sometimes falls victim to the evil thoughts of one’s own mind.
On the night when he kills Duncan, Macbeth is constantly plagued by worry and anxiety as the good in him fights the evil of his thoughts. He is almost about to abort the plan to kill Duncan. His conscience is battling with self-doubt and righteousness. It takes Lady Macbeth’s strong-headed character and her steely sense of purpose to push him into killing Duncan to gain the throne. Macbeth shows vulnerability at that point and displays his inability to take charge of situations whether for the good of his soul or the greed for the throne. However, after the murder of Duncan, Lady Macbeth’s powerful personality begins to disintegrate, and it is Macbeth who begins to take control although in a more troubled sort of way. While the part until Duncan’s murder shows Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as a team who plan and operate together, the scene after becoming king and queen changes completely. Macbeth becomes more solitary as he begins to spend more time in his own thoughts and takes important decisions on his own. It shows how his crimes lead to a tortured mind that ultimately alienates him from everything he holds dear. Macbeth’s troubled thoughts resulting from the murder of Duncan isolate him from his wife and from himself. He makes the decision to kill Banquo and plans his murder all by himself without even confiding in Lady Macbeth. He takes it upon himself to secure the throne and its power from all possible threats.
Although Macbeth begins to take charge, he keeps fluctuating between fits of fevered action, in which he plots a series of murders to secure his throne, and moments of terrible guilt and anxiety. At certain points he also displays absolute pessimism as he realises the hopeless circle of crime and guilt that he has got himself into. These fluctuations reflect the tragic tension and conflict inside Macbeth’s mind as he is at once too ambitious and determined to murder his way to political power and also too conscientious to be happy with himself as a murderer. At the end when things seem to fall apart Macbeth almost feels relieved that the torture of his mind will finally come to an end. He bravely returns to the character of a warrior where he for the first time in a long time feels at ease without having to deal with thoughts of power or guilt. He shows that somewhere inside he has always been a warrior whose greatest strengths are bravery and courage. He realises the fatal confidence that he has placed on the witches’ prophecies has made him egoistic. He understands the trickery of the witches but knows he is about to die but he still decides to fight till his very last breath rather than yield and surrender. He goes down fighting and thus brings the play to a full circle in the sense that it begins with Macbeth bravely winning on the battlefield and ends with him bravely dying in combat.