A person’s behavior can be affected greatly by those around them. In Macbeth by William Shakespeare, Macbeth allows the words and actions of others to affect his behavior. Over the course of the play, Macbeth’s character changes from a respectable thane to an evil tyrant due to his ambition.
Initially, Macbeth is an honored thane who struggles with his own morality as his ambition is piqued. In Act 1 Scene 3 the witches inform Macbeth about their predictions of what they believe is going to happen. At first, Macbeth speculates what the prophecies mean and if they are true. Then, he begins to not only question the witches further but also demands to hear more information, “Tell me more./ By Sinel’s death I know I am Thane of Glamis./ But how of Cawdor? The Thane of Cawdor lives…” (1.3.73-75). Later in the scene two of the witches predictions come true leading Macbeth to wonder if the third prophecy will come true as well. He frightens himself by having the thought of murdering the King saying the “horrid image doth unfix my hair/And make my seated heart knock at my ribs” (1.3.148-149) in order to obtain the title he believes he will be getting. Plus, he is so disturbed by the thought that his “Present fears/ are less than horrible imaginings” (1.3.150-151). Again we see Macbeth’s morality being challenged when Lady Macbeth uses her words to convince him to follow through with the plan to murder King Duncan. Macbeth knows he is no murderer and that Duncan is an innocent man and good ruler. He ponders the decision and realizes that the only thing driving him to murder the King is “Vaulting ambition , which o’erleaps itself/ And falls on th’ other” (1.7.27-28).Order now
After losing his morality to his ambition, Macbeth also begins to lose his mind and hallucinate due to fear. While Macbeth is deciding whether or not to do the murder, he visualizes a dagger in front of him pointing to the room where Duncan is sleeping. Macbeth can not tell if it is “a dagger of the mind, a false creation” (2.1.50) coming from his fevered brain or a real dagger. In addition, Macbeth believes he hears a voice cry “ ‘Sleep no more!/ Macbeth does murder sleep’ the innocent sleep,/ Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care ”(2.2.47-49). This illustrates Macbeth’s awareness that he has murdered not only a defenseless man but also the sleep that washes away all the worries and puts the day to rest. Another example is when Macbeth’s guilt is expressed through seeing Banquo’s ghost. None of the other guest see the ghost. Macbeth struggles to hide his guilt telling the ghost “Thou canst not say I did it. Never shake/ Thy gory locks at me” (3.4.61-62). The image of Banquo’s ghost also leads Macbeth to decide to visit the witches again.
Ultimately, Macbeth becomes an evil, brutal tyrant as he learns that killing is an effective way to maintain his ambitions. Being that he developed a fear of murder he tells himself the more experience he gets the easier it will be to murder people. When Macbeth visits the witches again, they tell him false things to make him overconfident. This also causes Macbeth to feel the need to eliminate his competition at any cost . Macbeth orders Macduff to see him at the castle and when he does not show up Macbeth declares he will kill “His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls/ That trace him in his line.” (4.1.173-174) even though they are innocent. Additionally, in Act 5 we read Menteith and Caithness not calling Macbeth by name, referring to him as “the tyrant” and describing him by saying “Some say he’s mad; others that lesser hate him/ Do call it valiant fury. But for certain/ He cannot buckle his distempered cause/ Within the belt of rule.” (5.2.15-18). The description said by Caithness is similar to that of a tyrant who has lost his mind.
To sum it up, Macbeth started the play by being a respected thane who was looked up to by many. But, soon his ambition took him over causing him to partake in violent actions in order to maintain his authority. He starts to use murder to destroy anyone in his way. Shakespeare’s tragic story of Macbeth is a pure example of how ambition alone can bring down the greatest of men.