Virtue and Man

For many different characters in Macbeth, Shakespeare entwines the traits, which epitomize a man, none of greater importance than ones honor. Throughout Macbeth, many of the characteristics that embody a man vividly display themselves. However, no individual portrays all of these traits. Malcolm lists many of these desirable traits: The king-becoming graces, As justice, verity, temp’rance, stableness, Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness, Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude. . . (IV iii 106-109) While this list of virtues and traits holds a high mark for any man, many men in Macbeth prove they possess these traits. Malcolm, Banquo, and Macduff exhibit courage, and fortitude in their willingness to shed their own blood in order to overthrow the tyranny of Macbeth. This display of devotion to their country earns them the respect of their countrymen. Furthermore, to earn the title of “man” one must prove himself worthy of the trust of others.

Macbeth himself comments on the value of trust when he says, “The service and the loyalty I owe, / In doing it pays itself” (I iv 25-26). While a man gains respect by earning the trust of others, trust does not come without responsibility. Banquo epitomizes this responsibility as he resists the temptations to succumb to the witches lure: So I lose none In seeking to augment it but still keep My bosom franchised and allegiance clear, I shall be counseled (II i 34-37). Macbeth acts irrationally upon the predictions of the witches, yet Banquo does not fall prey to the false hopes they promise.

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Each of the traits previously mentioned serves a man well; however, a man has little without honor. Lacking that crucial trait prevents one from attaining many things, including that of reaching one’s full potential. To impress upon Duncan the importance of this quality, Macbeth remarks, “Which do but what they should by doing everything / Safe toward your love and honor” (I iv 29-30). Yet Macbeth, a man once honorable, strays from his good heart and begins to entangle himself into a web of deception and evil.

By abandoning his most precious characteristic, honor, Macbeth has all but committed himself to a tragic downfall. Feared as a tyrant, Macbeth’s struggle with temptation afflicts many men. Many a man, once noble in their ways, have unfortunately chosen a road of evil and paved their own destruction. Macbeth laments, “And that which should accompany old age, / As honor, love, obedience, troops of friends, / I must not look to have . . . ” (V iii 28-30). At this point near the end of Macbeth’s life, he realizes the fatal mistakes he has made, yet his realization comes too late.

Though once an honorable and respected man, the road he has chosen proves to be one of no return. Although Macbeth ruinously, fell to the hands of evil, the triumph of good directly correlates to the traits of those men who put and end to his tyrannical rule. Macbeth’s destruction ideally reiterates the words said by Mr. Lincoln and impeccably proves his point. God’s architecture of everyman skillfully shows how vital specific traits and characteristics are to the make-up of a man. Yet he empowers us to choose how we use them.



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