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Characters’ Traits in Shakespeare’s Macbeth Essay

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Updated: Aug 8th, 2020

Macbeth: Watching the World Collapse


Truly, a lot can be said about one of Shakespeare’s most complex villains and also one of the most complex and compelling villains of all time, infamously known as Macbeth. His character is a mixture of seemingly noble and disturbingly weird character traits; thus, Shakespeare managed to make this villain not only obviously unpleasant but also intriguingly mesmerizing. With all his nastiness and weakness, Macbeth has a few traits that are considered intrinsically characteristic of “heroes,” the good characters. Impulsiveness is one of those features; although being rather a neutral feature of character, which can turn one’s personality either good or evil, it does not work for Macbeth’s benefit in the play.

Macbeth prefers thinking only after taking a certain step, which makes him especially easy to manipulate for his wife. Macbeth’s impulsiveness becomes especially evident as he talks to the murderers: “In such bloody distance,/That every minute of his being thrusts/Against my near’st of life” (I, vii, 1135–1137). In contrast to his wife, who is especially cold-blooded compared to him and seems to contemplate making every single step, Macbeth follows the lead without considering the consequences, which contributes to the tragedy of this character. Instead of thinking about the outcomes of his actions, Macbeth takes steps, with the bitter realization of what he has done coming afterward.


Unlike his wife, Macbeth is never shown as a cunning man and an intriguer – quite on the contrary, Shakespeare often portrays him as a stereotypical military man, who cannot possibly have any second thought about anything. The given characteristics of a military servant must have been recycled to death even before Shakespeare created his timeless classics; however, the poet manages to add a weird unique air to the given feature.

To be more exact, what other writers made silly and were used to poke fun at, Shakespeare made intimidating. Although Macbeth is never portrayed as a smart man who prefers to elaborate on his decisions and thinks every step through carefully, he still creates an impression of a very threatening villain instead of a dumb and, therefore, rather silly antagonist. At some points, his straightforwardness becomes even more terrifying than the most threatening hint: “Here lays Duncan,/His silver skin laced with his golden blood” (II, iii, 900).

It is very fascinating to hear a villain calling his deeds by their names and not shunning away from the fact that what he is doing is ethically wrong. Even though Macbeth can be considered morally bankrupt, his nearly enchanting ability to tell the truth straightforwardly does add another layer of complexity to his character.

Lady Macbeth: Ambitions and Remorse

Lust for power

Another compelling and unique, though definitely negative character, Lady Macbeth deserves a thorough analysis. Even though she is the key antagonist and by far the least appealing character in the entire novel, she is a very fascinating person in that she combines rather unexpected and seemingly incompatible qualities. The first feature of Lady Macbeth to be mentioned is her unbelievable thirst for power.

The extent to which she goes to make sure that she will finally be able to control others is incredible; not only does she dreams of becoming powerful, but she also manages to control every single action of her husband, which was unspeakable at the time. Like a true Shakespearean villain, she manifests her greed for control with every single word that she utters. No matter what person is captured into the focus of her attention, she wants to track down their actions and make sure that they follow her lead: “When I burned in desire to question them further, they made themselves air, into which they vanished” (I, v, 346–349).

While Lady Macbeth’s lust for power has been discussed over and over, most discussions seem to focus on her need to obtain the money and the title; however, when taking a closer look at the given feature, one will be able to see that at some points, it reaches truly demonic proportions. Lady Macbeth does not need control over the state; nor does she want the privileges and perquisites that titles give. Instead, she wants people to be entirely in her command; basically, she wants to be omnipotent.


The second and admittedly unexpected trait of Lady Macbeth’s character concerns her emotionality. As weird as it might sound, Lady Macbeth is very emotional; as a matter of fact, the crimes that she committed can be attributed to her emotionality rather than her greed, though the latter has affected her actions. Lady Macbeth is madly in love with her husband, which only an emotional person is capable of. More to the point, her decision to commit suicide can also be seen as a result of her outburst of emotions, remorse being the key one.

Whenever Lady Macbeth speaks, one can hear the passion in her voice: “Infirm of purpose! Give me the daggers” (II, ii, 714). One of the most memorable character traits of the most compelling Shakespearean character, Lady Macbeth’s emotionality cannot be doubted.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. 1603. Web.

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IvyPanda. "Characters’ Traits in Shakespeare’s Macbeth." August 8, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/characters-traits-in-shakespeares-macbeth/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Characters’ Traits in Shakespeare’s Macbeth." August 8, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/characters-traits-in-shakespeares-macbeth/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Characters’ Traits in Shakespeare’s Macbeth'. 8 August.

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