Macbeth is a Scottish nobleman who holds three successive titles in the play. Initially serving as Thane of Glamis, he meets three witches who prophesy he will be awarded the title of Thane of Cawdor and later become king of Scotland. When King Duncan makes him Thane of Cawdor as a reward for his role for putting down a rebellion, Macbeth decides the witches must be correct. He kills Duncan and takes the crown for himself. He then has his friend Banquo killed, as Banquo was the only other person to know the prophecy. When the other thanes become suspicious, they help Duncan's rightful heir raise an army and defeat Macbeth.
When Lady Macbeth hears of the witches' predictions, she helps her husband murder Duncan and take the throne. Abandoning the characteristics expected of a woman in her position (though she has no problem using them when it suits her purpose), she claims to feel no guilt about the murders that she and Macbeth have committed. She encourages Macbeth to let go of his guilt as well. However, it becomes clear that she still feels guilty, and the memory of Duncan's murder slowly drives her insane.
The sisters in this malevolent trio act as the catalyst for the play's action. The predictions they give Macbeth spark his thoughts of becoming king. They meet twice with Macbeth, and it becomes clear during a meeting with their goddess, Hecate, that they are not working in Macbeth's best interests, as they show him visions that are incomplete and lead to his demise.
Banquo is a friend and thane who fights alongside Macbeth in the battle to put down Macdonwald's rebellion. He is with Macbeth when the witches first appear, and they predict that Banquo will never be king but that his descendants will be. He also hears them predict Macbeth's rise to the throne. Later, this makes him suspicious of Macbeth's role in Duncan's murder, and Macbeth knows this. Based on this knowledge and the prediction about Banquo's descendants, Macbeth decides Banquo is a threat and has him killed.
Macduff is the Thane of Fife and a loyal follower of King Duncan. He has suspicions about Macbeth's role in Duncan's death, as seen in his refusal to attend Macbeth's coronation. Later, he tracks Duncan's son Malcolm to England and convinces him to return to Scotland to fight for his birthright and save the country. The cost of his loyalty, though, is his wife and child, whom Macbeth murders while Macduff is away. When Macduff encounters Macbeth on the battlefield, Macduff is the one to kill him.
Duncan is, by all accounts, a good, respectable king. He inspires loyalty in his thanes and rewards them for this, giving Macbeth a new title to honor his performance in battle. After he is murdered, the thanes and lords mourn him and avenge him by uniting against Macbeth.
Malcolm is King Duncan's older son. Fearing that he and his brother might also be killed—or accused of their father's murder—he flees to England. He has fears about returning to challenge Macbeth but overcomes them when Macduff convinces him how much his country needs him. With an army of 10,000 English soldiers and a thirst for revenge, he returns to Scotland to claim his rightful place as king.
When Duncan is in his house at Inverness, Macbeth comes to a decision not to kill Duncan. Lady Macbeth convinces Macbeth, who decided strongly against murdering Duncan, to go ahead with their plan to murder Duncan. Lady Macbeth is very successful at persuading him to do things that he knows are wrong. Macbeth is not an evil person, but when he is allowed to be influenced by Lady Macbeth, he is vulnerable to committing deeds he knows are wrong. Lady Macbeth entirely breaks the stereotype of women being kind and benevolent in the first act. After Macbeth writes home telling of his murderous plans, Lady Macbeth begins talking to evil spirits. Because women often lack the ruthlessness to kill someone, Lady Macbeth asks the spirits to make her male. One of the most vivid descriptions of Lady Macbeth’s wickedness is directly after Macbeth announces to her he does not want to kill Duncan. This speech epitomizes Lady Macbeth’s evilness. She is ruthless, and her evil accounts for the murders that occur throughout the play Macbeth.
Lady Macbeth is far more savage and ambitious than her husband, yet she convinces Macbeth to commit the murders that will make them king and queen.
Macbeth is without his wife’s cruel and uncompassionate attitude towards life. Lady Macbeth is aware that her husband is genuinely a gentle person. However, she is able to manipulate Macbeth into committing evil deeds in order to achieve her desires.
Lady Macbeth fears that Macbeth lacks enough courage and killer instinct to murder Duncan. Lady Macbeth might be a more vicious individual, but she is more afraid than Macbeth about killing Duncan. She never mentions herself committing the murder, and she always insists upon Macbeth executing the killing. The opportunity arises for Lady Macbeth to murder Duncan, but she decides not to. This is the first humane feeling that we see from Lady Macbeth in the play. Her desires and inspiration are very strong, but when opportunity presents itself, she cannot carry through with the act. Therefore, she uses her husband’s vulnerability to persuasion to achieve her dreams.
The relationship between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth is based on political triumphs, not love. Lady Macbeth often accuses her husband of talking but not carrying through his ambitions. Although, she often talks about becoming queen of Scotland and murdering Duncan, she never does anything to help this cause. The qualities that it takes to murder a king are not present in Lady Macbeth. She recognizes this, and convinces Macbeth to kill Duncan so she can achieve her dreams. Macbeth’s reign as king of Scotland will be short, yet she will enjoy royal luxuries long after her husband is dead. Lady Macbeth is only concerned with the advantages she can have by being married to Macbeth. If Macbeth becomes king by murdering many people, she can reap the benefits of his killing without doing anything. When Macbeth considers not murdering Duncan, Lady Macbeth quickly becomes offended and she accuses her husband of not being a man. Just mentioning the prospect of not murdering Duncan infuriates Lady Macbeth. She refuses to accept the possibility of failure and she is obsessed with the process of gaining absolute power..
Lady Macbeth has become totally engrossed in becoming queen of Scotland. She is relentless in her pursuit of this goal, and she will kill anyone who is in the way of the throne. She is able to influence Macbeth into murder by telling him they are presented with an extraordinary opportunity. When Macbeth presents the possibility of failure, Lady Macbeth becomes enraged and attacks his cowardliness and manhood. Nothing will stop Lady Macbeth from achieving her goal of becoming queen. She is completely aware of the consequences of murdering Duncan, but she disregards them. Before the murder she calls night to cover up the murder. Lady Macbeth at least can acknowledge that the murder is wrong and immoral by calling down darkness to hide her murder. She is not completely a ruthless psychotic, and she knows the difference between right and wrong. This, however, further emphasizes the desire and ambition that Lady Macbeth possesses to be queen. She realizes the numerous negative effects of murdering Duncan, but she neglects them because, more than anything else, she wants to be a queen.
Lady Macbeth is plagued by her desire to become a queen. In the pursuit of her ambitions, she will sacrifice everything. She follows this advice in everything she does. When she sees Duncan murdered, she immediately pretends to faint. Unlike Macbeth, who has expressed doubts about becoming king, Lady Macbeth is merciless against anyone who is in the way of the king. Because Macbeth is unsure about murdering Duncan, Lady Macbeth does everything possible to convince Macbeth to carry out their plans. Lady Macbeth’s desires rely on Macbeth’s murders.
In order to accomplish her dreams, Lady Macbeth manipulates and convinces Macbeth to do things that he is against. But because of her intense ambition to be queen, nothing can prevent her from achieving this goal.