Macbeth

Macbeth Character Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
Lady Macbeth's husband and a Scottish nobleman, the Thane of Glamis. He is made Thane of Cawdor for his bravery in battle, and becomes King of Scotland by murdering the previous King, Duncan. As Macbeth opens, Macbeth is one of the great noblemen in Scotland: valiant, loyal, and honorable. He's also ambitious, and while this ambition helps to make him the great lord he is, once he hears the weird sisters' prophecy Macbeth becomes so consumed by his desire for power that he becomes a tyrannical and violent monster who ultimately destroys himself. What's perhaps most interesting about Macbeth is that he senses the murder will lead to his own destruction even before he murders Duncan, yet his ambition is so great that he still goes through with it.

Macbeth Quotes in Macbeth

The Macbeth quotes below are all either spoken by Macbeth or refer to Macbeth. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Ambition Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of Macbeth published in 2003.
Act 1, scene 3 Quotes
And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
Win us with honest trifles, to betray's
In deepest consequence.
Related Characters: Banquo (speaker), Macbeth, Weird Sisters
Page Number: 1.3.135-138
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 1, scene 4 Quotes
Stars, hide your fires!
Let not light see my black and deep desires.
Related Characters: Macbeth (speaker)
Page Number: 1.4.57-58
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 1, scene 5 Quotes
Look like the innocent flower,
But be the serpent under it.
Related Characters: Lady Macbeth (speaker), Macbeth
Page Number: 1.5.76-77
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 1, scene 7 Quotes
I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself
And falls on the other.
Related Characters: Macbeth (speaker)
Page Number: 1.7.25-28
Explanation and Analysis:

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I dare do all that may become a man;
Who dares do more, is none.
Related Characters: Macbeth (speaker)
Page Number: 1.7.51-52
Explanation and Analysis:

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Macbeth: If we should fail.
Lady Macbeth: We fail?
But screw your courage to the sticking-place,
And we'll not fail.
Related Characters: Macbeth (speaker), Lady Macbeth (speaker)
Page Number: 1.7.68-71
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2, scene 1 Quotes
Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee;
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I draw.
Related Characters: Macbeth (speaker)
Related Symbols: Visions and Hallucinations
Page Number: 2.1.44-53
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2, scene 2 Quotes
Methought I heard a voice cry, Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep, — the innocent sleep;
Sleep, that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labor's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast.
Related Characters: Macbeth (speaker)
Related Symbols: Sleep
Page Number: 2.2.47-52
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 3, scene 4 Quotes
I am in blood
Stepp'd in so far, that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er.
Related Characters: Macbeth (speaker)
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 3.4.168-170
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 4, scene 1 Quotes
By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
Related Characters: Weird Sisters (speaker), Macbeth
Page Number: 4.1.44-45
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 5, scene 5 Quotes
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
Related Characters: Macbeth (speaker)
Page Number: 5.5.22-31
Explanation and Analysis:

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Macbeth Character Timeline in Macbeth

The timeline below shows where the character Macbeth appears in Macbeth. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, scene 1
Fate Theme Icon
Nature and the Unnatural Theme Icon
...meet again on the heath (plain) when the battle now raging ends. There they'll meet Macbeth. (full context)
Act 1, scene 2
Violence Theme Icon
...Scottish rebels Macdonald and the Thane of Cawdor. Two Scottish nobleman have been especially brave, Macbeth (the Thane of Glamis) and Banquo. Macbeth killed Macdonald ("unseemed him from the nave to... (full context)
Ambition Theme Icon
The Thane of Ross arrives, and describes how Macbeth defeated Sweno, the Norwegian King, who now begs for a truce. Duncan proclaims that the... (full context)
Act 1, scene 3
Fate Theme Icon
Macbeth and Banquo enter. The witches hail Macbeth as Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor, and... (full context)
Fate Theme Icon
Macbeth asks how the witches know this information. But the witches vanish, making the two men... (full context)
Fate Theme Icon
Nature and the Unnatural Theme Icon
Macbeth and Banquo are shocked. Macbeth asks Banquo if he now thinks that his children will... (full context)
Ambition Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Nature and the Unnatural Theme Icon
As Banquo talks with Ross and Angus, Macbeth ponders the prophecy. If it's evil, why would it truly predict his being made Thane... (full context)
Ambition Theme Icon
Nature and the Unnatural Theme Icon
Ross and Angus think Macbeth's reverie is caused by becoming Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth and Banquo agree to speak about... (full context)
Act 1, scene 4
Nature and the Unnatural Theme Icon
...being executed. Duncan notes that you can't always trust a man by his outward show. Macbeth, Banquo, Ross, and Angus enter. Duncan says that even the gift of Cawdor is not... (full context)
Nature and the Unnatural Theme Icon
...that time). Duncan then adjourns the meeting and decides to spend the night at Inverness, Macbeth's castle. (full context)
Ambition Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Nature and the Unnatural Theme Icon
Macbeth goes ahead to prepare for the King's visit, but notes that Malcolm now stands between... (full context)
Act 1, scene 5
Ambition Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Manhood Theme Icon
At Inverness, Lady Macbeth reads a letter in which Macbeth tells her of the witches' prophecy. Lady Macbeth worries... (full context)
Ambition Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Nature and the Unnatural Theme Icon
Manhood Theme Icon
A servant enters with news that Duncan will spend the night, then exits. Lady Macbeth says Duncan's visit will be fatal, and calls on spirits to "unsex me here… and... (full context)
Ambition Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Nature and the Unnatural Theme Icon
Macbeth enters, and says Duncan will spend the night and leave the next day. Lady Macbeth... (full context)
Act 1, scene 6
Manhood Theme Icon
Lady Macbeth warmly greets the King and the thanes, though Macbeth is nowhere to be seen. (full context)
Act 1, scene 7
Ambition Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Manhood Theme Icon
Macbeth, alone, agonizes about whether to kill Duncan. He'd be willing to murder Duncan if he... (full context)
Ambition Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Manhood Theme Icon
Lady Macbeth enters, asking where he's been. Macbeth tells her they won't murder Duncan. She questions his... (full context)
Ambition Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Macbeth asks what will happen if they fail. Lady Macbeth assures him they won't fail if... (full context)
Act 2, scene 1
Nature and the Unnatural Theme Icon
Macbeth enters. Banquo tells Macbeth his sleep has been troubled by dreams of the weird sisters.... (full context)
Ambition Theme Icon
Manhood Theme Icon
Banquo says he'll be receptive to what Macbeth has to say provided he loses no honor in seeking to gain more. Banquo and... (full context)
Ambition Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Nature and the Unnatural Theme Icon
Alone, Macbeth sees a bloody dagger floating in the air. He can't grasp it, and can't decide... (full context)
Ambition Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Offstage, Lady Macbeth rings the bell to signal that Duncan's attendants are asleep. Macbeth goes to murder Duncan. (full context)
Act 2, scene 2
Violence Theme Icon
Lady Macbeth waits in agitation for Macbeth to do the deed. She comments that had the sleeping... (full context)
Ambition Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Nature and the Unnatural Theme Icon
Macbeth enters. He's killed Duncan and Duncan's attendants. His hands are bloodstained and he's upset that... (full context)
Ambition Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Lady Macbeth soothes him and tells him to wash his hands, but notices he's still carrying the... (full context)
Violence Theme Icon
Nature and the Unnatural Theme Icon
A knock sounds, terrifying Macbeth. He worries that not all the water in the world could wash the blood from... (full context)
Violence Theme Icon
Lady Macbeth returns, her hands now as bloody as Macbeth's. But she's calm, and identifies the 'mysterious'... (full context)
Violence Theme Icon
Manhood Theme Icon
Macbeth wishes that the knocking could wake Duncan. (full context)
Act 2, scene 3
Nature and the Unnatural Theme Icon
Macbeth enters, pretending to have just woken up. Macduff asks if the King has woken yet:... (full context)
Ambition Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Macduff cries out in horror and runs onstage. Macbeth and Lennox ask what happened, then run to Duncan's chamber. Banquo, Malcolm, and Donalbain wake.... (full context)
Ambition Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Macbeth wishes aloud that he hadn't killed the attendants. When Macduff asks why Macbeth did kill... (full context)
Act 2, scene 4
Ambition Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Macduff then says Macbeth has been made king, and that he has already gone to Scone for the coronation.... (full context)
Act 3, scene 1
Ambition Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
In the royal palace of Forres, Banquo states his suspicion that Macbeth fulfilled the witches' prophecy by foul play. But he notes that since the prophecy came... (full context)
Ambition Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Macbeth enters, with other thanes and Lady Macbeth. He asks Banquo to attend a feast that... (full context)
Violence Theme Icon
Manhood Theme Icon
The two men (identified in the stage directions as "murderers") enter. Macbeth tells them it's Banquo's fault they're poor, then questions their manhood for bearing such offenses.... (full context)
Act 3, scene 2
Ambition Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
After sending a servant to fetch Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, waits, and muses that she has what she desires but isn't happy. (full context)
Ambition Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Macbeth enters. She asks why he spends so much time alone. Macbeth responds: "We have scorched... (full context)
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Lady Macbeth reminds him to be "bright and jovial" at the feast. Macbeth tells her to act... (full context)
Nature and the Unnatural Theme Icon
Manhood Theme Icon
Macbeth says that before the night is through there shall be a "deed of dreadful note"... (full context)
Act 3, scene 3
Violence Theme Icon
...in wait a mile from the royal castle. A third murderer joins them, sent by Macbeth. (full context)
Fate Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
...attack. Banquo is killed, but Fleance escapes. The murderers return to the castle to tell Macbeth what's happened. (full context)
Act 3, scene 4
Ambition Theme Icon
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Macbeth bids all the lords welcome to the feast. Just at that moment, he notices that... (full context)
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Lady Macbeth calls to Macbeth and asks him to return to the feast and sit. But Macbeth... (full context)
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Nature and the Unnatural Theme Icon
Manhood Theme Icon
Lady Macbeth tells the thanes not to worry, that since childhood Macbeth has suffered fits. She pulls... (full context)
Nature and the Unnatural Theme Icon
The ghost reappears and Macbeth, terrified, starts shouting at it. Lady Macbeth tries to play down her husband's strange behavior.... (full context)
Ambition Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth: "Blood will have blood" (3.4.121), and asks what Lady Macbeth makes of... (full context)
Act 3, scene 5
Fate Theme Icon
Nature and the Unnatural Theme Icon
...sisters meet with Hecate, the goddess of witches. She rebukes the sisters for meddling with Macbeth without first consulting her. But she says she'll help them when Macbeth comes to see... (full context)
Act 3, scene 6
Ambition Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
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Lennox and another lord talk sarcastically about Macbeth and the too great similarities between the murders of Duncan and Banquo, with Donalbain and... (full context)
Ambition Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
...the English King Edward and his lords to gather an army to help them defeat Macbeth. The rumor is that Macbeth sent a messenger to Macduff. Macduff rebuffed the messenger, who... (full context)
Ambition Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
...safe and soon returns with the armies of Malcolm and England to free Scotland from Macbeth. (full context)
Act 4, scene 1
Ambition Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Nature and the Unnatural Theme Icon
...and all dance and sing. One witch cries out "Something wicked this way comes" (4.1.62): Macbeth enters. He commands the witches to answer his questions. (full context)
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The witches conjure up three apparitions. First, a floating head appears and tells Macbeth to beware Macduff. (full context)
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...bloody child appears. The child says that "no man of woman born / Shall harm Macbeth" (4.1.95-96). (full context)
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Finally, a child wearing a crown and holding a tree appears. It says that Macbeth will not be defeated until Great Birnam Wood marches to Dunsinane Hill. Macbeth is pleased:... (full context)
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Macbeth wants to know one more thing: will Banquo's heirs have the throne? The witches perform... (full context)
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Lennox enters. He brings word that Macduff has fled to England. In an aside, Macbeth scolds himself for failing to kill Macduff when he wanted to earlier. He vows in... (full context)
Act 4, scene 3
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...near the palace of King Edward, Macduff urges Malcolm to quickly raise an army against Macbeth. But Malcolm says Macduff might actually be working for Macbeth, a suspicion heightened by the... (full context)
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Malcolm then adds that he delays attacking Macbeth because he fears that he himself would perhaps be even a worse ruler. Malcolm describes... (full context)
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...that if he invaded the Scottish people would line up to join his army against Macbeth. Finally, Ross tells Macduff his family has been murdered. Macduff cries out in anguish. Malcolm... (full context)
Act 5, scene 1
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It is night in Macbeth's castle of Dunsinane. A doctor and a gentlewoman wait. The gentlewoman called the doctor because... (full context)
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Lady Macbeth enters, holding a candle, but asleep. Lady Macbeth keeps rubbing her hands as if to... (full context)
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The horrified doctor and gentlewoman watch as Lady Macbeth then relives conversations with Macbeth after the murder of Banquo and hears an imaginary knocking... (full context)
Act 5, scene 2
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...Scottish lords and soldiers discuss the situation: Malcolm and his army are at Birnam Wood. Macbeth, in a constant rage verging on madness, is fortifying the stronghold of Dunsinane. (full context)
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The lords agree that Macbeth is tormented by his terrible actions, and that those who follow him do so out... (full context)
Act 5, scene 3
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Macbeth dismisses all reports about Malcolm's army, saying he'll fear nothing until Birnam Wood marches to... (full context)
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He asks the doctor about Lady Macbeth, then commands that the man cure her. In an aside, the doctor says that if... (full context)
Act 5, scene 5
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Macbeth laughs at the coming army, but seems bored by his lack of fear. Suddenly, a... (full context)
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A servant rushes in with news that Birnam Wood is marching toward Dunsinane. Macbeth rushes to see for himself, and realizes the witches tricked him. He feels fear for... (full context)
Act 5, scene 7
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In the fighting, Macbeth encounters and fights Young Siward. Though Young Siward is brave, Macbeth quickly kills him and... (full context)
Act 5, scene 8
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Macduff searches for Macbeth, vowing to kill him to avenge his family. (full context)
Act 5, scene 9
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Malcolm and Siward meet. They have easily captured the castle because Macbeth's men barely fight back. (full context)
Act 5, scene 10
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Macbeth and Macduff meet. Macbeth says he has avoided fighting Macduff because he has too much... (full context)
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They fight. Macbeth mocks Macduff, saying his effort is wasted: no one of woman born can beat Macbeth.... (full context)
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Macbeth, suddenly fearful now that the prophecy has turned against him, refuses to fight him. But... (full context)
Act 5, scene 11
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Macduff enters, carrying Macbeth's severed head. He proclaims Malcolm to be King of Scotland and swears his loyalty. (full context)
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...(a higher rank). He pledges to "plant" a new peace, and to heal the wounds Macbeth and his "fiend-like queen" (5.11.35) inflicted on Scotland. (full context)