Macbeth" is a play about the fall of man and his recovery from that fall. Macbeth is a nobleman, a good soldier, but these qualities are a mere surface in comparison with what we learn of his mind. Macbeth's murder of King Duncan is a violation of all the laws of hospitality, kingship and human decency. Even a good man is pathetically vulnerable to the seductive and destructive possibilities of power
Macbeth: “brave Macbeth”. Lady Macbeth plays on his weakness and persuades him to murder Duncan. Cowardice. By the second part of the play he has become a tyrant, from now on there is not a good word uttered about him. "dead butcher". His hand seems to do a deed independently of his troubled mind. He steps so far into blood that there is no turning back and he is soon isolated he will not surrender and we cannot but admire his affirmation that he “will try the last”.
Lady Macbeth: MB’s evil inspiration. No indication of doubt, suspicion, or hesitation in her reaction she acts “like the innocent flower”, in the private ones we see the “serpent under 't”. Like MB, we are morally paralyzed by her power of will, her control of the situation. She is ambitious, single-minded and apparently unscrupulous, her and she is punished with madness. Her suicide is the final desperate act of the mind seeking to cleanse itself.
The Witches: They are the embodiment of disorder, darkness and chaos. MB hears them voice the desires of his mind: he only wants to hear what favors himself. The Witches never lie. The equivocation theme is central to the play: the Witches do not make promises, they utter riddles which MB in his weakness interprets in his own apparent interest.
Duncan: he is full of dignity and virtue. He is perhaps too generous. He is perhaps also too trusting. Malcolm is encouraged to add the quality of caution to his already admirable character.
Macduff: he is the first to have suspicions. Too honest and chivalrous himself to imagine the possibility of the callous murder of his wife and children after he has gone to England for help. Honorable and loyal nature; the terrible anguish he feels at his family’s massacre is MB’s doom
Malcolm: values the loyalty and bravery of Banquo and Mb. He is quick to sense the danger after his father’s death. Has the intelligence to use the trees of Great Birnam Wood as camouflage, last speech in the play, of gratitude, hope and faith, convinces the audience that Scotland once again has a virtuous king.
Porter: The porter-at-the-gate-of-hell routine was an old favourite in the theatre. The vulgar, music-hall humor of his dialogue with Macduff would be sure to amuse and keep the attention of the more down-to-earth members of the audience.
Fleance: whose existence haunts Macbeth. Highlights the humanity of Banquo compared with Macbeth. Banquo’s only thought is for the safety of his son.
Lennox and Ross message-bearers. They seem vaguely aware that something is wrong. They will not serve a tyrant.
Good and Evil: Loyalty, generosity, honesty and courage. Treachery, dishonesty, cowardice. It is difficult to say whether characters are good or evil. Macduff leaves his family defenseless and flees to England. Very few people are totally bad or totally good. How they cover up, excuse or equivocate about their actions.
Appearances often hide reality: theme of equivocation. "the use of words in one sense while meaning the opposite in order deliberately to mislead or confuse". The witches. Lady Macbeth advises her husband to “look like the innocent flower But be the serpent under it”. The truth is often disguised or hidden.
Reversal of values: “Fair is foul, and foul is fair.” At the beginning of the play the forces of good, represented by Duncan, are overthrown by those of evil, represented by the Macbeth and the witches. The price she must pay for denying all that is good within her is madness and suicide.
The overthrow of the natural order: Unnatural acts such as murder and witchcraft are always accompanied by unnatural events in nature. Darkness seemed to cover the earth and that his horses ate each other; and storms, lightning and thunder accompany the witches’ meetings.
The importance of loyalty and honor in society: Ironically, just as Macbeth’s reputation as a loyal and honorable subject is at its height, he plans to murder Duncan and usurp the throne. Loyalty and honor are necessary for the health of the kingdom. Banquo’s sense of honor. Lady MacBeth’s ambition results in many “good vs. evil” conflicts within herself, with her husband and with Duncan. Duncan has been appointed King by Divine Right, to murder him is to kill God's chosen ruler. Shakespeare's constant themes is that if the natural order of society is overthrown, chaos results.
Ambition / greed for power: this promotion is the reward for good service in Duncan's army. MB ambition is carried to obsessive excess, a greed for power that is uncontrollable, even by himself.
Violation of order leads to chaos: the king, who was God's representative on earth. If this natural order was upset, then chaos would result. Killing a king is treason, an act against the state, but it is also sacrilege, an act against God. Macbeth becomes suspicious of all around him and paranoid. He also becomes secretive, nor sharing his plans with his wife. The coronation banquet shows the confusion in the land. His old friends desert him. His troops flee to join Malcolm, and it is only when Malcolm becomes king and order is restored, that people can smile again, trust each other and prosper.
Every action has its consequence: psychological repercussions. The loving husband becomes a distracted egoist, a‘butcher’.
Things are not always what they seem to be: The witches seem to be women,but they have beards. They seem to be ‘corporal’ , but they vanish into the air. Their predictions sound favorable, but they turn sour. Macbeth has condemned himself to living a lie. He is tired of living in a confusing world, a world full of horrors.