Is Macbeth a villain or hero?

Answered by Stephen Mosley

Macbeth, undoubtedly, can be categorized as a villain due to his actions and the methods he employs to achieve his ambition of becoming king. The traditional archetype of a villain encompasses traits such as being cruel and ruthless, and Macbeth certainly exhibits these qualities throughout the play.

One of the defining moments that solidifies Macbeth’s villainous nature is the murder of King Duncan. In order to ascend to the throne, Macbeth not only plots but also carries out the cold-blooded killing of his own king, who trusted and honored him. This act alone showcases his willingness to go to extreme lengths to attain power, disregarding any moral boundaries.

Furthermore, Macbeth’s path to kingship is marked by a series of malicious deeds. He hires murderers to eliminate his friend Banquo and his son Fleance, solely because they pose a threat to his reign. Macbeth’s betrayal of his once loyal comrade further demonstrates his cruelty and lack of remorse in pursuing his goals.

Moreover, Macbeth exhibits a lack of empathy and disregard for human life. When he receives the prophecies from the witches, he becomes obsessed with maintaining his position as king and is willing to do anything necessary to ensure his reign continues. This includes ordering the slaughter of Macduff’s family, purely as a means to eliminate any potential threat to his power. Macbeth’s callousness and willingness to sacrifice innocent lives for his own benefit highlight his villainous nature.

Additionally, Macbeth’s descent into madness and tyranny showcases his ruthlessness. As he becomes more consumed by guilt and paranoia, Macbeth becomes increasingly brutal in his methods of maintaining control. He no longer hesitates to shed blood or inflict pain, as evidenced by his ruthless massacres and the psychological torment he inflicts upon his subjects.

Macbeth can be unequivocally classified as a villain due to his evil methods, cruelty, and ruthlessness in his pursuit of power. His actions, including the murder of King Duncan, the betrayal of Banquo, and the massacre of Macduff’s family, exemplify the traits traditionally associated with a villain. Macbeth’s transformation from a noble warrior to a malevolent tyrant serves as a cautionary tale about the corrupting nature of unchecked ambition.