Characters in Macbeth – A Quick Guide for New & Busy Teachers

Overwhelmed by all the characters in Macbeth? This is my Macbeth character analysis rundown for new and BUSY English teachers!

A Quick History of the Play

Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. It is believed to have been written in 1606, and is based on the historical account of Macbeth, King of Scotland. 

Macbeth is a tragedy and explores the themes of ambition, temptation, and guilt. The play tells the story of Macbeth’s rise to power and eventual fall from grace.

Read more about the background & historical context of Shakespeare’s Macbeth or watch this video summary.

Macbeth is a powerful and compelling character, but his thirst for power ultimately leads to his downfall. Shakespeare also uses Macbeth as a cautionary tale, warning against the dangers of greed and ambition.

The Three Key Characters in Macbeth

The three most important characters in Macbeth are Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, and Banquo.

Macbeth is the title character and the play’s protagonist. Lady Macbeth is Macbeth’s wife and a powerful figure in her own right. Banquo is a friend of Macbeth’s and a key figure in the play’s early scenes. 

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth provide a clear example of the dangers of greed and ambition. Both are driven by their desire for power and wealth, which leads to their eventual downfall. Macbeth is incredibly guilty of this, as he is easily manipulated by Lady Macbeth and allows his thirst for power to consume him.

#1 Macbeth

Macbeth is a tragic hero who started out as a valiant soldier and ended up a murderous villain.

He is a victim of his own ambition, and his story is one of the most famous in all of literature. Macbeth is a highly complex character, and he has been interpreted in many different ways.

Some people see him as a pure evil figure, while others see him as a victim of fate.

Grab your own set of Macbeth Character Visuals to use in your classroom or view these stunning laser-cut paper illustrations of Macbeth.

Lady Macbeth Character Card for the Play Macbeth
Characters in Macbeth for the Play Macbeth

#2 Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth is a complicated lady!

She is fiercely ambitious and determined but also deeply troubled. She has a strong sense of self-awareness and is fully aware of her capacity for evil.

She is not afraid to use her manipulation powers to get what she wants and is even willing to kill if it means furthering her ambitions.

However, Lady Macbeth is also racked with guilt and self-doubt, leading her to become increasingly unstable.

#3 Banquo (both living and dead)

Characters in Macbeth Banquo and the Ghost of Banquo Character card

Banquo is one of my FAVORITE characters in Macbeth!

A loyal friend to Macbeth, Banquo supports him even when others do not. However, Banquo is not immune to fear; after seeing the witches, he worries about what Macbeth might do.

Despite his fears, Banquo does not hesitate to stand up to Macbeth when he thinks he is wrong.

Banquo is ultimately killed by Macbeth, but his death has a lasting impact on Macbeth.

Banquo’s ghost haunts Macbeth throughout the play, causing him to doubt his sanity and contributing to his eventual downfall.

In the Macbeth Character cards, two versions are included, one of regular Banquo and one of Banquo as a ghost.

Other Key Characters in Macbeth

King Duncan

King Duncan is a kind and generous man, easily swayed by others’ opinions. He is also somewhat gullible, not always questioning what he is told. Duncan is a good king, but he is not a strong one; he relies on others to make decisions for him, which can sometimes lead to trouble. He loves his family dearly and wants only the best for them, even if that means giving them more power than they may be ready for.

Macduff

He is a nobleman from Fife and is portrayed as a man of integrity and honor. Macduff is introduced in Act 2, Scene 3, where he discovers the murder of King Duncan in his room. 

Throughout the play, Macduff is characterized as being forthright and honest. He is astute and able to see through Macbeth’s façade, which makes him a significant threat to the tyrant’s reign. Macduff is also shown to be wise and rational, as he is cautious when taking action and is not impulsive like some of the other characters.

Macduff’s role as a patriot and warrior comes to fruition in the play’s final battle, where he leads the charge against Macbeth and emerges as the victor.

 

 

The Weird Sisters // Witches

The Weird Sisters are one of Macbeth’s most mysterious and intriguing characters. We know very little about them, but we do know that they are powerful witches who strongly influence Macbeth.

They seem to be able to read minds and see the future, and they use their powers to manipulate Macbeth and push him toward his destiny as King of Scotland.

The Weird Sisters are cold and calculating and never show any emotion or pity. They are dark, sinister beings who enjoy causing pain and misfortune for others.

 

Hectate

Hecate is a powerful and mysterious figure. A king of “goddess of witchcraft” and the ruler of the three witches who first reveal Macbeth’s fate to him.

Characters Who Play a Minor Role in the Play

Fleance

He is the son of Banquo, a good friend of Macbeth’s who is eventually murdered by him. Fleance, however, manages to escape Macbeth’s assassins and goes on to play a small but important role in the play.

 

Lennox

Lennox is a Scottish nobleman, and one of the thanes who initially supports King Duncan but later joins the rebellion against Macbeth. Lennox is depicted as a loyal and courageous man, who remains committed to his principles even in the face of great danger.

Ross

He is a Scottish nobleman and cousin to Macduff. He is a trusted messenger and is often called upon by the other characters to deliver important news. He first appears in Act 1, Scene 2, where he delivers the news of the Thane of Cawdor’s punishment, and then again in Act 1, Scene 3, where he tells Macbeth of his new title.

Malcolm

Malcolm is the eldest son of King Duncan and the rightful heir to the Scottish throne. In the beginning of the play, he is portrayed as a young, inexperienced prince who is not quite ready to take on the responsibilities of ruling a kingdom. However, as the events of the play unfold and the treacherous nature of Macbeth is revealed, Malcolm’s character gradually develops into that of a strong and capable leader.

Donaldbain

He is the younger son of King Duncan. Donaldbain only appears briefly in the play, and unlike his older brother Malcolm, Donaldbain is not involved in the political intrigue of the Scottish court.

Angus

Angus is one of the Scottish nobles who follows Malcolm to England after Macbeth takes the throne. He is among the few noble characters in the play who refuse to comply with Macbeth’s tyrannical reign.

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So Why Analyze the Characters in Macbeth?

One of the main reasons character analysis is important for students to learn is because it allows them to develop a deeper understanding of literature. By studying the characters in a story, students can better understand their motivations, emotions, and thoughts, which can help them to better understand the story as a whole. Additionally, character analysis can help students to better understand themselves and the people around them, which can be beneficial both academically and personally.

Overall, when teaching the Characters in Macbeth I always like to focus my energy and attention on:

  1. Macbeth
  2. Lady Macbeth
  3. Banquo

YES – there are lots of other characters in Macbeth, but when it comes to literary analysis I find that students waste so much time looking for evidence and quotes for other small characters.

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Carley 📚 Teacher Author @ Visual Thinking Classroom

Carley 📚 Teacher Author @ Visual Thinking Classroom

B.A., B.Ed., Graduate Certificate in Teacher Librarianship // carley@visualthinkingclassroom.com