Macbeth is presented as a mature man ofdefinitely established character, successful in certain fields ofactivity and enjoying an enviable reputation. We must notconclude, there, that all his volitions and actions arepredictable; Macbeth’s character, like any other man’s at agiven moment, is what is being made out of potentialities plusenvironment, and no one, not even Macbeth himself, canknow all his inordinate self-love whose actions arediscovered to be-and no doubt have been for a long time-determined mainly by an inordinate desire for some temporalor mutable good. Macbeth is actuated in his conduct mainlyby an inordinate desire for worldly honors; his delight liesprimarily in buying golden opinions from all sorts of people. But we must not, therefore, deny him an entirely humancomplexity of motives. For example, his fighting in Duncan’sservice is magnificent and courageous, and his evident joy init is traceable in art to the natural pleasure whichaccompanies the explosive expenditure of prodigiousphysical energy and the euphoria which follows.Order now
He alsorejoices no doubt in the success which crowns his efforts inbattle – and so on. He may even conceived of the propermotive which should energize back of his great deed: Theservice and the loyalty I owe, In doing it, pays itself. Butwhile he destroys the king’s enemies, such motives work butdimly at best and are obscured in his consciousness by morevigorous urges. In the main, as we have said, his natureviolently demands rewards: he fights valiantly in order that hemay be reported in such terms a “valour’s minion” and”Bellona’s bridegroom”‘ he values success because it bringsspectacular fame and new titles and royal favor heaped uponhim in public. Now so long as these mutable goods are at allcommensurate with his inordinate desires – and such is thecase, up until he covets the kingship – Macbeth remains anhonorable gentleman.
He is not a criminal; he has no criminaltendencies. But once permit his self-love to demand asatisfaction which cannot be honorably attained, and he islikely to grasp any dishonorable means to that end whichmay be safely employed. In other words, Macbeth has muchof natural good in him unimpaired; environment hasconspired with his nature to make him upright in all hisdealings with those about him. But moral goodness in him isundeveloped and indeed still rudimentary, for his voluntaryacts are scarcely brought into harmony with ultimate end.
Ashe returns from victorious battle, puffed up with self-lovewhich demands ever-increasing recognition of his greatness,the demonic forces of evil-symbolized by the WeirdSisters-suggest to his inordinate imagination the splendidprospect of attaining now the greatest mutable good he hasever desired. These demons in the guise of witches cannotread his inmost thoughts, but from observation of facialexpression and other bodily manifestations they surmise withcomparative accuracy what passions drive him and whatdark desires await their fostering. Realizing that he wishesthe kingdom, they prophesy that he shall be king. Theycannot thus compel his will to evil; but they do arouse hispassions and stir up a vehement and inordinate apprehensionof the imagination, which so perverts the judgment of reasonthat it leads his will toward choosing means to the desiredtemporal good.
Indeed his imagination and passions are sovivid under this evil impulse from without that “nothing is butwhat is not”; and his reason is so impeded that he judges,”These solicitings cannot be evil, cannot be good. ” Still, he isprovided with so much natural good that he is able to controlthe apprehensions of his inordinate imagination and decidesto take no step involving crime. His autonomous decision notto commit murder, however, is not in any sense based uponmoral grounds. No doubt he normally shrinks from theunnaturalness of regicide; but he so far ignores ultimate endsthat, if he could perform the deed and escape itsconsequences here upon this bank and shoal of time, he’ldjump the life to come.
Without denying him still a complexityof motives – as kinsman and subject he may possiblyexperience some slight shade of unmixed loyalty to the Kingunder his roof-we may even say that the consequenceswhich he fears are not at all inward and spiritual, It is to bedoubted whether he has ever so far considered the possibleeffects of crime and evil upon the human soul-his laterdiscovery of horrible ravages produced by evil in his ownspirit constitutes part of the tragedy. Hi is mainly concerned,as we might