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Macbeth’s Role Reversal Essay

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One can only see another’s true intentions when you are no longer beneficial in their life, a perfect example of the victims that fall under Macbeth’s dramatic role reversal throughout the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Every person has good side along with a bad side, and the reader can too interpret the protagonist as a dynamic character, from being patriotic to becoming tyrannical.

This is shown progressively throughout the story, first with Macbeth being loyal to the king by refusing to kill him, then becoming ambitious with evil thoughts as he is influenced by Lady Macbeth, and finally being overwhelmed by his thirst for power through his bloodthirsty manners. As the play first commences, it is evident that Macbeth is an innocent fellow, earning himself a reputation for being a noble and loyal kinsman to King Duncan when he visits the Inverness Castle because he believes that “he’s here in double-trust” (1. 7. 12). King Duncan perceives Macbeth as a trustworthy subject, for he is Duncan’s fellow kinsman.

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Also, Macbeth is the host of Duncan for the evening, leaving Macbeth with the duty of protecting his guests, not harming his guests himself. When the three witches first present their prophesies to Macbeth, “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Glamis…thane of Cawdor…that shalt be king hereafter” (1. 3. 50-53), he finds them confusing because he is unable to determine what they mean and how they apply to him. He knows he will take the throne as the Thane of Glamis, but he cannot comprehend how he will be the Thane of Cawdor for King Duncan is still alive and happy.

Macbeth soon realises what he must do to gain power and decides “If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me, without my stir” (1. 3. 154-156). He himself must take the first initiation to satisfy his desires, but Macbeth knows that he cannot justify the plans for killing King Duncan stating, “First, as I am his kinsman and his subject…who should against his murderer shut the door” (1. 7. 13-16). Macbeth accepts the fact that killing in cold blood is something he would never do, which informs the reader that he knows the differences between right and wrong.

After consulting his sticky situation with Lady Macbeth, he responds “we will proceed no further in this business. /He hath honour’d me of late, and I have bought/Golden opinions from all sorts of people” (1. 7. 33-35). Macbeth demonstrates once again that he is proud of the honors he is receiving and refuses to break the trust he shares with King Duncan. Macbeth is patriotic in his ways, believing that he owes a moral debt towards Duncan, exposing his ability to feel guilt under circumstances, which quickly changes as the story develops.

Soon, Macbeth starts to show the devil inside of him after consulting with Lady Macbeth about the prophesies the witches declare to him. Lady Macbeth insults and questions Macbeth’s manhood by asking “What beast was’t, then,/That made you break this enterprise to me? /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” (1. 7. 52-56). Lady Macbeth’s relentlessly nagging is successful because soon Macbeth asks, “Is this a dagger which I see before me” (2. 1. 40), a sign that he is questioning his own conscience.

The dagger is a symbol that Macbeth interprets as a clue to go forth with the plan of killing Duncan. A trend begins to develop, Macbeth is beginning to think more evil, talk more evil, and eventually do more evil as he “go, and it is done; the bell invites me. /Hear it not, Duncan, for it is a knell/That summons thee to heaven, or to hell” (2. 1. 69-71). However, although Macbeth does become vicious, he still possesses the innocent, loyal qualities, realizing that he and Lady Macbeth are the cons behind the operation and tries to believe that “a little water clears us of this deed” (2. 2. 85).

When Lennox and Macduff arrive at the scene of the crime, they believe Duncan’s soldiers are responsible, whom Macbeth kills both. The protagonist at this point is regretting what he did, and is trying to save himself from the immense guilt by telling the others “Oh, yet I do repent me of my fury/That I did kill them” (2. 3. 121-122), explaining the fact that he kills the two soldiers out of loyal rage. It almost seems as if Macbeth attempts to preserve himself by admitting to the others the noble act of killing Duncan’s blood-covered grooms in hope that Macduff and Lennox will praise him and make him feel like a better man.

Finally, Macbeth becomes the self-centered, egoistic, wicked, evil ridden man that ultimately leads him to his deathbed. The killing of both Banquo as well as Macduff effectively gives the impression that his conscience is darkening. First, Macbeth ponders about whether to kill Banquo or not. After much thought, “It is concluded: Banquo, thy soul’s flight” but he knows Banquo is a good man for “If it find heaven, must find it out to-night” (3. 1. 157-158). Macbeth predicts that Banquo is surely going to heaven, and does not think twice about hiring assassins to kill him.

Even if he is Macbeth’s long-time friend, he has yet to feel any remorse or regret towards his execution. Secondly, it appears that Macbeth kills Macduff with no justifiable reason. The apparition informs Macbeth that “none of woman born/Shall harm Macbeth” which gives Macbeth the impression that he is invincible, deciding “Then live, Macduff: what need I fear of thee” (4. 1. 86-88). However, Macbeth ultimately determines to “make assurance double sure… thou shalt not live” (4. 1. 9-90), killing Macduff nevertheless. Macbeth though, does not stop at just Macduff, but “The castle of Macduff I will surprise…give to the edge o ’the sword/His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls” (4. 1. 164-166). Macbeth clearly exposes that he will murder without a second thought, even if the situation calls for the slaying of women and children. Here, the reader begins to see a pattern forming, with Macbeth committing more and more crimes in a shorter period of time.

Macbeth begins to establish an impulsive demeanor, killing the first person he feels is a threat, to ensure his position at the throne. In conclusion, Macbeth is a vastly dynamic character. His thoughtful and compassionate ways from the beginning of the play creates an image of a perfect leader, but ironically, as the play progresses and situations present themselves to Macbeth, he exhibits his true intentions, becoming a ruthless killer with an undying ambition for power that no one is able to stop.

From his first refusal to kill King Duncan due to mutual respect and loyalty, to then becoming ambitious with evil ideas mainly influenced by Lady Macbeth, to ultimately being dumbfounded by his thirst for the throne, it is without question that Macbeth experiences a role reversal within the play. Unfortunately, his greed and selfishness presents him a battle that he could not win, bringing him to his death bed.