How Macbeth’s Character Development Went From A Loyal Soldier to A Murderer



Ambition can provide the drive to succeed in something that requires hard work and determination. Ambition can be incredibly destructive if it negatively influences individuals who have them or others around them. Shakespeare showed how deeply Macbeth wanted to become king. “Stars hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires.” (Macbeth Act 1 Scene 5) Shakespeare showed how the protagonist’s ambition was a stairway to hell. Macbeth’s character development went from a loyal soldier to a murderer. He became a self-centred and pitiless man without remorse, and paranoia and hallucinations developed along the way. Ultimately his ambition led to his demise.

At the beginning of the play, Macbeth was loyal to his king, Duncan. He was rewarded well for fighting in the war. That soon changed when he met The Weird Sisters. They said, “All hail Macbeth, hail thee, Thane of Cawdor.” (Macbeth Act 1 Scene 3)  Macbeth was confused at first because he was only the Thane of Glamis. The witches planted a new vision into Macbeth’s head of becoming the king and ignited his ambition to become king. Even though Macbeth was told these prophecies by the witches and was manipulated by his wife, he still had to overcome his scruples to kill Duncan and it was his ambition that made him do it. He put aside his loyalty because he was power-hungry to become king.

Even after the killing of his king, Macbeth ordered other murders of Banquo and Macduff’s family. He became more self-centred and pitiless. The contrast between the first murder compared to the second and third murder is very strong. In the first murder, Lady Macbeth was the dominant part of the relationship who persuaded Macbeth to murder Duncan. Afterwards, he showed regret and was shocked by his actions. This can be seen in line 55. “I’ll go no more. I am afraid to think about what I have done; Look on’t again, I dare not.” (Macbeth Act 2 Scene 2)  On the second murder, the killing of Banquo and the third murder of Macduff’s family, Macbeth did not confront Lady Macbeth at all. She took no part in the killing of Banquo and Macduff’s family, and Macbeth didn’t hesitate to kill them. At this point in the play, you can see Macbeth and Lady Macbeth becoming more distanced in their relationship and how he became more numb to the idea of murder.

Although Macbeth showed less remorse about the murders of Banquo and Macduff's family, his guilty conscience caused paranoia and hallucinations. The development of the hallucinations progressed from bad to worse. Macbeth’s first hallucination was the bloody dagger. Macbeth stated, “Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.” (Macbeth Act 2 Scene 1) As the story progressed, Macbeth got to a state of mental instability where he saw the people he murdered. Macbeth hallucinated a ghost of Banquo at the dinner party banquet. Macbeth went insane, he visualized that the table was full, “The table’s full”. (Macbeth Act 3 Scene 4)  In addition, he also talked to his hallucination. “Avaunt, and quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee. Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold. Thou hast no speculation in those eyes.” (Macbeth Act 3 Scene 4)

In conclusion, Macbeth’s ambition was a stairway to hell. Shakespeare showed a downward spiral of crime that was driven by Macbeth’s ambition encouraged by the witches ’ prophecies and Lady Macbeth’s manipulation. Macbeth put aside his relationship, friendship, and loyalty because of his ambition. He was a man fighting a war with himself. Macbeth constantly had paranoia and hallucinations as the play progressed. Macbeth became the complete opposite of what he wanted as king. And In the end, he met his demise.