Human nature is a topic which has caused division of opinion between groups throughout the course of history. Some, such as the Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, argue that man by nature is inherently good. Others, like Rousseau’s counterpart Thomas Hobbes, believe that humans are born with an inclination towards doing bad (sin nature). Regardless of the specific position on human nature, all beliefs fall within this outlined spectrum of good or bad.
In Macbeth by William Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s view of human nature is one that has a natural inclination towards doing bad, and moreover, evil. At the beginning of the play, Macbeth seems to be the ideal subject; loyal and honorable, he fights with his most gallant effort to protect the king and keep him in power. Upon defeating the traitor Macdonald, the captain describes his efforts: “For brave Macbeth—well he deserves that name— … carved out his passage / Till he faced the traitor Macdonald … he unseamed him from the nave to th’ chops, / And fixed his head upon our battlements.” (Macbeth 1.2.16-24) The captain of the Scottish forces is not the only one who views Macbeth as good-natured; Macbeth’s wife, Lady Macbeth, says that Macbeth’s “nature .
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. . is too full o’th’ milk of human kindness / To catch the nearest way” (1.5.15-17).
However, once we actually encounter Macbeth and his companion Banquo, there are contrasts which immediately stand out from the valiant hero previously described. His first words “So foul and fair a day I have not seen” (1.3.36) directly link him to the witches’