Macbeth, great warrior though he is, is ill equipped for the psychic consequences of crime. Before he kills Duncan, Macbeth is plagued by worry and almost aborts the crime. It takes Lady Macbeth’s steely sense of purpose to push him into the deed.
Macbeth is a courageous Scottish general who is not naturally inclined to commit evil deeds, yet he deeply desires power and advancement. He kills Duncan against his better judgment and afterward stews in guilt and paranoia. Toward the end of the play, he descends into a kind of frantic, boastful madness.
Lady Macbeth learns of the witches' prophecies, and she worries Macbeth won't take the steps necessary to make himself king. Duncan is coming to spend the night at the castle, so she plots Duncan's death. Lady Macbeth welcomes Duncan to the castle. Macbeth has second thoughts about murdering Duncan.
Macbeth is a brave soldier and a powerful man, but he is not a virtuous one. He is easily tempted into murder to fulfill his ambitions to the throne, and once he commits his first crime and is crowned King of Scotland, he embarks on further atrocities with increasing ease.
Set in medieval Scotland and partly based on a true historical account, Macbeth charts the bloody rise to power and tragic downfall of the warrior Macbeth. Already a successful soldier in the army of King Duncan, Macbeth is informed by Three Witches that he is to become king.
Macbeth represents a classic tragedy in that its protagonist travels down a dark path of treachery and violence that inevitably leads to his own downfall and death. Like the protagonists in other classic tragedies, Macbeth is a politically noteworthy figure.
Macbeth is named king and things are gravy. Prophecies fulfilled! Except, wait. Macbeth starts to worry about the witch's prophecy that Banquo's heirs will be kings. Macbeth's not about to let someone bump him off the throne so, he hires some hit-men to take care of Banquo and his son, the unfortunately named Fleance.