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The story of “Macbeth” can be broken down into three separate identities: individual identity, dual identity, and social identity. Individual identity is Macbeth independently thinking he knows himself. Dual identity is Macbeth and, his love interest, Lady Macbeth being united and acting as one during the play. Social identity is social groups–the three witches and Macbeth–being joined as one with each other and then divided at the end of the play.
The first identity in Macbeth is Macbeth’s individual identity. In the beginning of the play, when the witches meet Macbeth and prophesize he will become Thane of Cawdor and King, he believes he knows himself. After the witches’ prophecy, Macbeth becomes very pompous and arrogant. Later, when he arranges Banquo’s murder and Banquo’s son Fleance escapes, Macbeth becomes unsure of his own future because the witches also prophesized: “Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none” (1.3.65). This means that Banquo will be the father to a line of kings. Macbeth orders Banquo and his son Fleance to be killed, but Fleance escapes. When Macbeth sees the witches again they warn him to beware of Macduff and that no man born of woman can defeat him. They also show him a vision of Banquo’s ghost with eight kings, which makes Macbeth nervous again: “Now I see ’tis true, for the blood-bolter’d Banquo smiles upon me, and points at them for his” (4.1.121-123). When Macbeth orders Macduff’s family to be murdered, Macduff joins the English army and kills Macbeth ending Macbeth’s life and his identity.
The second identity in Macbeth is the dual identity between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. They are one with each other in the beginning of the play. Lady Macbeth is the brains and the will while Macbeth is greedy and arrogant. They draw from each other’s strengths. They also work in harmony while they plot and execute the murder of Duncan, including moving the evidence to make it appear as if Duncan’s servants committed the crime: “If he do bleed, I’ll gild the faces of the grooms withal, for it must seem their guilt” (2.2.58-60). However, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth begin to separate when Macbeth omitted telling her that he arranged to have Banquo murdered. Lady Macbeth eventually becomes insane through her guilt. She is constantly remembering the night she moved the evidence of Duncan’s murder. When she commits suicide, Macbeth is not shocked or surprised and states: “She should have died hereafter” (5.5.16). Since Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are both dead by the end of the play, they are permanently separated thereby ending the dual identity.
The third identity in Macbeth is the social identity between the three witches and Macbeth. The witches have a bond with Macbeth because they are constantly prophesizing Macbeth’s future throughout the play: “All hail Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter” (1.3.58). The witches’ goal is to destroy Macbeth’s life, but Macbeth thinks that they are trying to help him: “He shall spurn fate, scorn death, and bear his hopes ‘bove wisdom, grace and fear. And you all know, security is mortals’ chiefest enemy” (3.5.30-33). When Macbeth is killed, he is separated from the witches and their goal is complete. Their social connection is severed due to Macbeth’s death.
Breaking Macbeth down into the three identities makes it easier to understand the story’s plot and to understand Macbeth’s motive. Macbeth’s arrogance and surety were the factors that led to his rise and fall. Lady Macbeth’s strong willed nature and lust for power led to her suicidal death and Macbeth’s eventual death because she persuaded and manipulated Macbeth into murdering Duncan. In this play, Lady Macbeth aided and abetted Macbeth while Macbeth was the perpetrator. The witches’ prophecies that came true made Macbeth very arrogant, which was the eventual cause of Macbeth’s death. In Macbeth, all three identities unfold showing the corrupting nature of unchecked ambition, the relationship between cruelty and masculinity, and the difference between royalty and tyranny.