Macbeth is an ambitious man, fated to be king. He starts the play as Thane of Glamis, but is told by the witches that he will soon be declared Thane of Cawdor and later King.

His ambition is awakened by Lady Macbeth who suggests he should seize his destiny by murdering Duncan. Immediately after killing Duncan, he seems terrified that he cannot be forgiven for his actions. However, he becomes more and more willing to do anything to achieve his ambitions, even having his former friend Banquo killed. He becomes more arrogant and tyrannical after being told by the witches that he cannot be killed by anyone “of woman born”.

His arrogance proves to be his downfall, and he is finally killed by Macduff.


I dare do all that may become a man

— Act I, scene 7

Need to know

• Married to Lady Macbeth

• Is told the future by The Witches

• Murders Duncan

• Initially friends with Banquo but then sees him as a threat

• Orders The Murderers to kill his enemies

• Defeated in battle by Macduff

Key quote

mock the time with fairest show: False face must hide what the false heart doth know.

— Act I, scene 7

Also called

brave Macbeth
— Act I, scene 2

O valiant cousin! worthy gentleman!
— Act I, scene 2

this fiend of Scotland
— Act IV, scene 3

— Act V, scene 8

this dead butcher
— Act V, scene 9


Thane of Glamis
— Act I, scene 3

Thane of Cawdor
— Act I, scene 3

King hereafter
— Act I, scene 3