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Macbeth Literary Analysis Timed Write

Christina W. (9th grade)

Throughout the tragedy Macbeth, Macbeth expresses insecurity and doubt in voicing his fears and feelings. This insecurity leads to him committing murder and being pushed into power by his wife, Lady Macbeth. On the contrary, Macduff is a minor character and he plays a strong role as the opposite power of Macbeth. While Macbeth goes along a path of wrongdoing and unjust acts, Macduff is the prime example of the traits Macbeth lacks. 

Macduff is the foil that possesses traits and emotions that contradict Macbeth’s own emotions and actions; his beliefs on what masculinity is and his contrasting relation with Macbeth highlights the message Shakespeare is trying to indicate through the play. From the very beginning, Shakespeare purposely places the two characters in the position where they can be compared by the audience; the tension and rivalry between the two people illuminate Macbeth’s evil thoughts and deeds. While Macduff is a character of integrity and has a strong belief in expressing emotions freely, Macbeth and his wife’s definition of manhood is the ability to not feel anything. More importantly, Macduff's good traits make Macbeth’s bad traits stand out. While Macbeth is viewed as a man who has done many wrongdoings and is evil, Macduff is written as a holy character. Lennox, a scottish thane, says, “Some holy angel fly to the court of England… may soon return to this our suffering country under a hand accursed” (Shakespeare Under the reign of a cruel and guilty dictator, Shakespeare writes and portrays Macduff as an angel in order to lengthen and deepen the gap between him and Macbeth. By doing this, the entire play can be split into two sides: Macduff and his comrades, who want to take back the throne for the rightful heir, Malcolm, and Macbeth, who is drowning in his own ambition and desire. This comparison between holy vs. evil, illustrates the concept of the tragedy. 

Unlike Macbeth, Macduff is unafraid to express his concern and fears and this leads to vast differences between the two characters and their standpoints. Macbeth’s uneasiness to express his fear of commiting the murder, leads to his wife convincing and manipulating him into killing Duncan for power. Macbeth’s insecurity is clear when he doubts his ability to commit the murder, he decides, “we will proceed no further in this business. He hath honoured me of late” (Shakespeare I.vii.31-32). Although Macbeth’s discomfort is clear, Lady Macbeth accuses him and mocks him for being weak and feminine, and this is what ultimately leads to his decision to the deaths of King Duncan Banquo, Macduff’s family, and his own death. 

On the other hand, when Malcolm tests Macduff’s loyalty, by acting like a worse tyrant than Macbeth, it reveals that Macduff has no fear in speaking his worries , Macduff responds, “Fit to govern? No, not to live” (Shakespeare IV.iii.103-104). His ability to express his concern and own fears leaves the audience to laugh upon Macbeth’s own decision and deeds. The clear relation between Macduff and Macbeth is that their definitions differ and just like how the colors black and white make each other pop out against everything, the same thing goes on in these two characters’ relationship. Lord Macduff gives the audience a different take on masculinity compared to Macbeth’s reaction to his wife’s death and his inability to express emotion. Macduff sees nothing wrong with expressing his sadness and shock for his wife and his children’s deaths. In fact, he thinks it is not shameful to reveal true, heartfelt emotions as a man. When Macbeth discovers his wife’s death, he concludes, “She should have died hereafter; there would have been a time for such a word. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow… [Life] is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing” (Shakespeare V.v.16-27). These words indicate Macbeth’s inability to mourn even at the expense of his wife’s death. His decision to place his power over a loved one gives the audience the idea that his ways are already completely ambition-driven. However, when Malcom tells Macduff to react to the death of his family like a man, Macduff responds saying, “I shall do so; but I must also feel it as a man: I cannot but remember such things were that were most precious to me” (Shakespeare IV.iii.223-226). 

Shakespeare uses Macduff to convey the ideal balance of emotion and also illustrates him as a righteous and dignified man who has every right to express sadness over his family’s death. By revealing Macduff’s emotional thoughts and actions, the audience will then see the very different morals that play out in the entire work and look upon Macbeth in new light. By creating two very contrasting characters both emotionally and morally, Shakespeare indicates that in order to stay true to oneself, Macduff remains honourable and honest. Or in other words, there must be distinct times where it is better to express and other times where it is better to act upon these feelings. Because Shakespeare writes Macduff as a better man, this puts him over Macbeth and leads to the main character’s downfall. This reveals the message of the work: there must be a proper balance between femininity and masculinity.

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