Male Characters Analysis in Macbeth Essay Example

Fair is foul, and foul is fair.” Mentioned various times, the play warns the audience from the beginning that things are not always as they seem. In the tragic play, Macbeth, Shakespeare contrasts two characters, Macbeth and Macduff, to compare the seemingly benign characteristics and to decipher the true intentions of the two men. Macbeth, who at first deemed noble and honest, becomes full of greed and misguided ambition. However, Macduff proves to be a character of wit and integrity; a character Macbeth failed to become. These contrasting qualities define them as soldiers, husbands, and leaders throughout the play. 

Both of Scottish nobility, the two begin as appraised and respected soldiers. Macbeth is considered a hero in battle,  called “brave Macbeth -- well he deserves that name,”(2) because of his esteemed courage and loyalty to King Duncan. As kinsmen and soldiers of the king, it is a vowed expectation to protect him, not scheme against him. Despite this common knowledge, Macbeth proceeds to murder Duncan in his sleep, then covers it up to take the throne for himself.

To execute his plan, he treacherously kills the servants at the king’s door, turning against his country and morals he was revered for. He "[marks] with blood those sleepy two of his own chamber and [uses] their very daggers.”(13) Unlike Macbeth, Macduff is steadfast to Scotland and to his king, who is heartbroken at the news of his death. “O horror, horror, horror! Tongue nor heart cannot conceive nor name thee!”(19) His grief-stricken heart shows his devotion to the king and later becomes motivated to rid the country of a deranged and covetous tyrant -- Macbeth. Although the two men are introduced as soldiers and of equal distinction, there is a clear difference between patriotism and faithfulness to their country. 

As husbands at first glance, they both seem to love their wives. However, their devotion can be corrupted to iniquity; much like Macbeth. Macbeth is easily swayed by his wife, who mocks his masculinity when he is unable to kill the king. She scorns him saying, “when you durst do it, then you were a man; and, to be more than what you were, you would be so much more the man.”(12) Lady Macbeth is an evil influencer, but instead of refuting, Macbeth powerlessly cripples to her commands.

He does not take charge and murders for the sake of his wife. Conversely, Macduff is seen taking vengeance against Macbeth for the death of his wife and children. Through love, he “[feels] it as a man”(47) and is told to “let grief convert to anger”(47) to avenge his family. There is quite the difference between Macbeth, transgressing a treasonous act for his wife, and Macduff who fights to avenge his assassinated family. Macbeth is full of remorse and regret, while Macduff is motivated to pursue what is right for Scotland. 

In this play, leadership is emphasized not only by the ability to take charge but by humility and selflessness. When Macbeth is intrigued by the witches’ prophecy, he becomes consumed by the greed and temptation to become king. Instead of strategizing, he advances by “only vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself and falls on the other.”(12) Despite his position as the Thane of Cawdor, he grows blind with ambition saying, “if chance will have [him] king, chance [will] crown [him].”(7) He is quick to betray Scotland if it means he will gain more power.

Contrarily, Macduff, the Thane of Fife, is emphasized with altruism and loyalty. Willing to risk his life for the country, he aids Malcolm, the son of King Duncan, to lead troops against Macbeth. “Come, go we to the king; our power is ready.” (47) In desperation to rid Scotland of such evil, he fulfills the prophecy by killing Macbeth since he is not “of woman born.”(37) As shown in the play, servanthood and integrity are vital factors to leadership, and Macbeth fails to practice either. Contrasting this, Macduff proves to be a selfless and devoted leader, who figuratively and literally, kills the evil --which is Macbeth-- in the play. 

Shakespeare uses these men as foils of one another, portraying Macduff as a character Macbeth failed to become. Although seemingly brave and loyal as first, Macbeth grows in cowardice and senseless ambition to become king. Conversely, depicted as devoted and honest, Macduff becomes the avenging hero in the play. In Macbeth, the two men differ as soldiers, husbands, and leaders, battling between the greed of Scotland, versus the good of Scotland.



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