Shakespeare\'s Comparisons and Contrasts

Throughout Macbeth Shakespeare uses comparison and contrast to bring
out characteristics of his main character, Macbeth. Shakespeare uses
comparison with Duncan, Lady Macbeth, and Banquo to bring out aspects of
Macbeth\'s character.
After hearing of Macbeth\'s courageousness on the battlefield, Duncan, a
good and honest king, bestows the tittle of Cawdor on Macbeth. The king
then proclaims his son Malcom to be Prince of Cumberland, in effect
designating him as successor to the throne of Scotland. This dramatic
announcement of Duncan\'s chosen successor marks the beginning of an ironic
story. It is at this point in the play that we, the audience, become fully
aware of Macbeth\'s intentions to murder the king. Duncan hails Macbeth as
his "worthiest cousin" and blindly entrusts his fate to one whom he considers
his "peerless kinsman." Shakespeare concentrates on Macbeth\'s courage so
that he can contrast it later on with the terror and panic of Macbeth\'s
psychological anguish.
Lady Macbeth will stop at nothing -not even murder- to satisfy her
driving ambition. She worries that Macbeth is "too full of the milk of human
kindness" to go after the throne. She wants to be tough and begs the spirits
to "unsex me here." Macbeth, on the other hand, hesitates to murder Duncan
for several reasons. Among these reasons the earthly consequences frighten
him the most. How would his new subjects react? Would the kingdom disrupt
in chaos? Furthermore Macbeth cannot escape present punishment if he fails.
We see Lady Macbeth\'s persuasiveness producing a new courage in her
husband and that courage is manly enough to perform murder. Therefore,
Macbeth has no reasons for murdering Duncan except for his "vaulting
ambition," his lust for power. Throughout the play we see Lady Macbeth\'s
and Macbeth\'s conscience, or lack of, change places. Macbeth transformed
from having a guilt ridden conscience to having no conscience what so ever.
However, Lady Macbeth changes from having no conscience at all to becoming
so guilt ridden that she took her own life.
Like Macbeth, Banquo is courageous. The sergeant who reports to
Duncan regards Banquo as being Macbeth\'s equal in physical bravery.
However, after Macbeth murders Duncan he fears Banquo. For Banquo,
besides being Macbeth\'s brave and courageous friend is an honorable man;
Banquo will avenge the king\'s murder. Macbeth struggles with a guilty
conscience and a fear of Banquo\'s retribution.
After contrasting Macbeth with these three characters it is easy to see
how Shakespeare created within his hero a growing fear of both the physical
and moral consequences of murder.