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The character of Macbeth

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How does the character of Macbeth develop throughout the play? Think about the key events of the play and Macbeth's changing thoughts and feelings, before working through some important questions about Macbeth's character.We have chosen quotations to support the points made, but try to find other examples yourself to use in your essays.Look at how quickly Macbeth goes from being a loyal, faithful subject and husband to a vicious, desperate tyrant.

Interpretations of Macbeth

A traditional stage production shows MAcbeth staring into a cauldron while the witches sit round him

Nicol Williamson plays Macbeth in a 1983 production

The witches (Act 1, Scene 3)

Why do the witches' prophecies have so much power over Macbeth?

Macbeth and Banquo hear the same words - but they react in very different ways. Why is Macbeth so moved?

  • The witches speak dangerous thoughts that Macbeth is thinking himself. This is probably the most important point. His reaction is as if someone has read his mind.
  • Macbeth immediately takes one step towards the kingship. Macbeth is excited by thewitches' words, but when he receives news that he is now Thane ofCawdor, he has proof that they know the future and he begins to believethem.
  • Macbeth is essentially a vulnerable person. The witches choose the right time and place to approach him. He is full of the glory of the recent battle and fresh from fighting and killing.

 

Different interpretations of the witches

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Watch

Scene from Macbeth.

Class Clips

An actor talks about what goes on in Macbeth's head

Watch

Scene from Macbeth.

Class Clips

Video clip - different ways of interpreting Macbeth

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