Macbeth is Thane of Glamis. A superb general, he is a physically powerful man, able in a fight to eviscerate a man with an upward stroke.
The predictions of the witches make a great impression on him; though he insists on reasons for being called Thane of Cawdor, the moment it is confirmed the thought of becoming king lodges in his mind. Very close to his wife, he writes to her of the prediction as soon as he can. Though at first he seems willing to let Fortune take care of bringing him to the throne, the thought of murder cannot be hid, and his wife soon pushes him to it. He still over-thinks the matter, finding out all the moral objections to the act, but he cannot adequately answer his wife’s incitements to committing it. He is possessed of a powerful imagination that is able to conjure a dagger before his eyes. As he leaves after killing Duncan, he hears a voice predicting that he will never sleep again, a prediction that comes true. He is quick-witted enough to kill Duncan’s grooms as his supposed murderers before they can protest their innocence. Deeply insecure, he is a paranoid king, keeping spies in the household of every nobleman. He plans to have Banquo and Fleance killed in the hopes of undoing the witches’ prophecy that Banquo’s descendants would take the throne. Once king, he becomes far more manipulative than he was, able to convince the murderers that their complaints against him are actually Banquo’s responsibility. He hides the murder plot from his Queen, signaling an end to the closeness of their relationship. Courageous though he may be in battle, he is not proof against the supernatural, as evidenced by the apparition of Banquo’s ghost. To explain his fit, he explains to his assembled noblemen that he is subject to an epileptic-type condition, but whether this is true or not is uncertain. By this stage an insomniac, he has lost all hope of redemption, and is determined to do anything that he must to keep himself safe. To this end he visits the witches. He is reassured by the three apparitions they conjure for him, but fails to note the warnings in their shapes which offer a hint of the loopholes in their promises. Hearing of Macduff’s flight, he resolves to now act on his first impulses, and he sends his men to sack Fife and murder all of Macduff’s family. The reassurances of the witches lead him to discount the desertions in his ranks, but he is nevertheless grown to a state of despair, thinking that his life has gone on long enough. Still, he arms himself, and swears that he will not simply give up. He cares about his wife in her illness, though his concern for her state of mind may apply as much to his own. By the time Malcolm’s army begins its approach, he has lost all touch of the fear that afflicted him in the lead-up to his killing Duncan. He alternates between wild rage and deep, nihilistic depression as his wife commits suicide and his enemies arrive at his gate. He is brought to doubt the witches’ promises by the moving forest of Birnam, and in his last moments convinced of their falseness when Macduff reveals the circumstances of his birth. He still pulls up his courage, however, and dies fighting.