Evil in Macbeth is best illustrated by the actions of the the three witches, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, the assassins hired by Macbeth later to commit his evil, the king of Norway, and the traitors, Macdonwald and the thane of Cawdor.
In contrast to this, good is best depicted by King Duncan, his older son, Malcolm - rightful heir to the throne, Banquo, Macduff, Lady Macduff and the king of England, Edward, as well as the forces who are gathered to overthrow the usurper and tyrant, Macbeth.
It is ironic that Macbeth, who virtually becomes the epitome of evil, is initially depicted as good and honorable. An injured sergeant's report of him at the beginning of the play speaks of a courageous general who was prepared to sacrifice his life for king and country, as illustrated in the following extract:
For brave Macbeth--well he deserves that name--
Disdaining fortune, with his brandish'd steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution,
Like valour's minion carved out his passage...
It is his 'overriding ambition' as well as the witches' predictions and his wife's urging, that turns Macbeth into a bloodthirsty tyrant. He and his wife plot the king's assassination and then murder him in his sleep, whilst Macbeth also kills the king's guards to prevent any suspicion falling on him. This act sets him off on a pernicious journey of vile evil. Once he is crowned, he becomes paranoid and sets out to destroy whomever he deems a threat. In the process, he has his best friend, Banquo, murdered and sends out assassins to kill Macduff's entire family.
Lady Macbeth, ironically, appears to be the more evil of the two partners in crime at the beginning. She urges her husband to carry through their evil plot when he expresses doubt. The depth of her perfidy is best illustrated by the following quote from Act 1, scene 3:
I have given suck, and know
How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums,
And dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this.
In the end, it is she who is destroyed by remorse for what they have done. She iss tortured by visions of their crime and, overwhelmed by guilt, she commits suicide whilst Macbeth heads toward his own doom, believing that he is invincible since the witches predicted that 'no man of women born shall harm Macbeth.' The evil tyrant is eventually killed in a fight by Macduff, who had been 'from his mother's womb untimely ripped.'
The witches take great pleasure in watching Macbeth's road to ruin. They set out to deliberately confuse him, using paradox and equivocation, literally leading him down the garden path. Their predictions encourage and empower him to commit further and greater evils.
The king of Norway, Macdonwald and the thane of Cawdor represent evil because they all plotted against king Duncan, planning to usurp his throne. They were defeated by the forces of good, ironically lead by Macbeth at the time, who had obviously been assisted mainly by his courageous compatriots, Banquo and Macduff.
The remaining forces of good, (i.e. after Duncan's assassination) represented by the characters named previously, initially suffer heavily at the tyrant's hands. Banquo, who has been suspicious of Macbeth from the outset, is murdered but his son, Fleance, manages to escape.
Macduff, who is aware of Macbeth's malice, flees to England where he seeks assistance from the English king and joins forces with Malcolm to plot the tyrant's defeat. It is a necessary and desperate move and he pays dearly for it, for Macbeth has his entire family murdered. This, however, encourages Macduff to seek vengeance and ensure Macbeth's annihilation, as depicted in his passionate declaration in Act 4, scene 3:
But, gentle heavens,
Cut short all intermission; front to front
Bring thou this fiend of Scotland and myself;
Within my sword's length set him; if he 'scape,
Heaven forgive him too!
Edward, the king of England, who has taken Malcolm under his wing, is depicted as one blessed with healing powers. In effect, the implication is that he will provide the cure for Scotland's disease - Macbeth. He vows to assist Malcolm by providing ten thousand English troops to invade Scotland.
In spite of their earlier setbacks, those who represent good, under the leadership of Malcolm, his uncle Siward, and Macduff, soldier on and eventually defeat the tyrant Macbeth, whose decapitated head is displayed by Macduff for all to see. Malcolm becomes the new king of Scotland. The forces of good have triumphed.
Good vs. Evil in Macbeth
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Good vs. Evil in Macbeth
The good characters in Macbeth are less interesting than the evil ones. Everybody has an 'evil seed' planted in them. Only the really evil person acts on them and commits something morally wrong. Like Macbeth. When Macbeth first received the prophecies, he actually considered them. " Two truths are told,...but what is not" (line 137-152, Pg 27-29). We see him arguing with himself and feeling disgusted that he even thought that. That was interesting because we get the feeling that something out of the ordinary is coming up and our anticipation gets into the story straightaway. At the end, we didn't expect that a murderer like Macbeth would have a dramatic and poetic imagination "To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,...And then is heard no more: it is a tale" (line 21-28, Pg 233), or that he would, even in defeat, display conscience and bravery. "I will not yield to kiss the ground before young Malcolm's feet,...And damn'd be him that first cries 'Hold, enough!'" (line 32-39, Pg 249). We are surprised, and astonished because we see Macbeth in a different light and for that reason, he is interesting. While Banquo (the good character) on the other hand, was sceptical and quickly dismissed the idea of the prophecies, saying it was just their imagination. " Were such thing here as we do speak about? ...That takes the reason prisoner?" (line 86-89, Pg 27). That response was so predictable. There was no excitement at all.
Lady Macbeth. When she got the letter from Macbeth about the prophecies, she immediately thinks of murder and we saw how evil she really was. " The raven himself is hoarse,...To cry, 'Hold, hold!'" (line 41-57, Pg 41). Here we see her summon evil spirits to thicken her blood and to turn her milk into bitter gall and then calls on them to prevent her from feeling remorse and to remove her femineity. This is very intriguing. We didn't even expect that an apparently strong, practical, and determined woman would act in such contradiction to her womanliness. We also see her as a selfish woman when Macbeth had second thoughts about murdering King Duncan. "Was the hope drunk...Like the poor cat I' the adage?" (line 38-48, Pg 59), "What beast was't then...As you have done to this" (line 52-64, Pg 59). She then attacks his manhood to persuade him to kill Duncan.
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Evil In Macbeth Vs. Evil Good Vs. Evil Such Thing Prophecies Feeling Remorse Yield Kiss
She was even cruel to Macbeth-her own husband. Then she says that if she promised Macbeth something, she would carry it out even if it were killing her own child. We now see her here as a disturbed, yet fascinating woman. After she murders Duncan, she consequently, suffers from overwhelming guilt, paranoia, which leads to madness and violent suicide at the end. "Out, damned spot! Out I say! One, two: why,...blood in him" (line 32-37, Pg 213). Lady Macbeth had been sleepwalking, always with a candle and is often appearing to be washing her hands then writing a piece of paper then locking it up. "Since his majesty went into the field, I have...bed; yet all this while in a most fast sleep" (line 3-7, Pg 211). This scene opens our eyes to what guilt can really do to a person. It holds our attention; therefore Lady Macbeth is an interesting character.
The evil witches are (in my opinion, the most interesting) they had the idea to play a very nasty 'mind game' on Macbeth. Manipulation was the most interesting part here. " All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Glamis!...Banquo, and Macbeth, all hail!" (The witches then vanish making us wonder what the real purpose of their presence was. We get the impression that they are conniving misfits who are going to cause more trouble on the way. We are eager to see what they're going to do next. They did cause big trouble, for they gave Macbeth false confidence, which partly led to his downfall.
In this scene the witches are in a dark cave. In the middle, a cauldron is boiling, there is thunder. "Double, double, toil and trouble;...In the cauldron boil and bake; Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog," (line 10-15, Pg 169). We are captivated by the supernatural vibe that the witches send out. We are also revolted to what the witches put in their cauldron.
After that, Macbeth appears, asking them for answers. "I conjure you, by that which you profess,...To what I ask you" ( line 50-61, Pg 171). The witches decide to trick him again. "...beware Macduff Beware the thane of Fife. Dismiss me enough." First apparition: an armed Head. (line 77-78, Pg 173). "Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn the power of man, for non of woman born Shall harm Macbeth" Second apparition: a bloody child (line 83-87, Pg 173). "Be lion-mettled, proud, and take no care...Shall come against him" Third apparition: a Child crowned, with a tree in his hand (line 98-102, Pg 173). The witches cunningly gave him a double meaning which will (again) give him false confidence. This then leads Macbeth to feeling foolish when he finds out that the witches tricked him. Therefore the evil witches are more interesting characters than the good characters.
In conclusion, the evil characters are more interesting than the good characters -who only do 'what is right', thus resulting in a predictable outcome, while the evil characters commit unpredictable acts- surprising us and holding our attention.