William Shakespeare
[revised by Thomas Middleton?]

MACBETH

1606–1611
[revised circa 1619?]

a synoptic, alphabetical character list

ANGUS

A thane of Scotland. Angus, along with Ross, is sent by Duncan to escort Macbeth to meet with the King. They also inform Macbeth that Duncan has made him Thane of Cawdor as reward for his bravery, loyalty, and skill in battle. Later, after Macbeth usurps the throne, Angus joins with Menteith, Caithness, and Lennox in leading the Scottish forces in the revolt against Macbeth.

APPARITIONS

Visions Macbeth sees during his second encounter with the Witches:
  • The first Apparition is an armed head that warns Macbeth to beware of Macduff;
  • the second takes the form of a bloody child and claims that no one born of a woman shall harm Macbeth;
  • the third is a vision of a crowned child holding a tree. This vision claims Macbeth shall not be overthrown until Birnam Wood marches to Dunsinane, the seat of Macbeth's kingdom.
  • Finally, Macbeth sees Banquo standing with eight kings, the last holding a mirror that reflects many more.
The final vision signifies the line of kings descending from Banquo, culminating in England's King James I, for whom the play was written. He would be the ninth king in the line and first reflected in the mirror. In this manner Shakespeare has paid James a compliment and skirted the ban against presenting a living Christian monarch on stage.

BANQUO

A thane of Scotland and, with Macbeth, a captain of the Scottish army that puts down Macdonald's and the Thane of Cawdor's rebellion against Duncan. The witches predict that Banquo shall father a long line of kings, which incidentally will include England's King James I (for whom the play was written). Macbeth, feeling that his hold of the Scottish throne is threatened, orders Banquo and his son Fleance murdered. After the murder, Banquo's ghost appears to Macbeth during his coronation banquet, throwing Macbeth into a fit of fear.

CAPTAIN

A wounded commander of the Scottish army that puts down Macdonald's and the Thane of Cawdor's rebellion. The Captain reports to the Scottish king, Duncan, Macbeth's skill and valor in battle.

CAITHNESS

A thane of Scotland. Loyal to King Duncan's son Malcolm, Caithness joins Angus, Menteith and Lennox in leading the Scottish forces in the revolt against Macbeth.

CHAMBERLAINS

Servants to Duncan, the two Chamberlains are drugged by Lady Macbeth. Their daggers are used by Macbeth to kill Duncan. After the murder, Lady Macbeth smears them with Duncan's blood to implicate them in the deed. When the murder is discovered, Macbeth kills them to prevent them telling their story.

DOCTOR OF PHYSIC

Summoned by Lady Macbeth's Waiting-Gentlewoman, the Doctor witnesses Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking and hears her reveal her guilty secrets in her sleep.

DONALBAIN

The younger son of King Duncan and brother to Malcolm. After Duncan's murder, Malcolm and Donalbain believe that their own lives are in danger and flee, Malcolm to England and Donalbain to Ireland.

DUNCAN

The king of Scotland and father to Malcolm and Donalbain. When the wounded Captain reports Macbeth's heroism to him, Duncan makes Macbeth the Thane of Cawdor as reward. Duncan later proclaims Malcolm the Prince of Cumberland, the title of the Scottish heir apparent. Duncan and his court then travel to Macbeth's estate at Inverness, where Macbeth murders Duncan in his sleep.

FLEANCE

The son of Banquo, Fleance is destined to become ancestor to a long line of kings, culminating in England's King James I. When Banquo and Fleance are ambushed by the Three Murderers, Fleance manages to escape.

GRIMALKIN

One of the Witches' familiars, an attendant evil spirit in animal form. Grimalkin is generally believed to take the form of a gray cat.

HECATE

Queen of the Witches. Hecate helps conjure the Apparitions for Macbeth. Scholarship has suggested that the Hecate and latter witch scenes may be contributions (or appropriations) from Thomas Middleton.

KING OF ENGLAND

A "ghost character." Known for his goodness, the King of England is believed to be able to cure maladies by touch and to see the future. He allows Malcolm to raise an army in England and supports the revolt against Macbeth.

LADY MACBETH

Wife of Macbeth. When Macbeth writes to her regarding the Witches' claim that he will be king, Lady Macbeth urges him to murder Duncan. She would do it herself, she says, except that Duncan resembles her father. She drugs Duncan's Chamberlains to allow Macbeth to kill him without witnesses. After the murder, when Macbeth brings the bloody daggers with him instead of leaving them at the scene, she returns them and smears the Chamberlains with Duncan's blood to implicate them. From this point, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth grow apart, he becomes cold and tyrannical while she grows troubled and guilt-ridden over their crimes. Her guilty conscience causes her to sleepwalk, trying to wash invisible blood from her hands. She dies off-stage, reportedly a suicide.

LADY MACDUFF

Wife to Macduff. When Macbeth is warned by the first apparition to beware of Macduff and is informed that he has fled to England, Macbeth orders Macduff's household murdered. A messenger goes to Lady Macduff to tell her to flee with Macduff's Son, but the Murderers arrive before she can do so. Consequently, she and the boy are killed.

LENNOX

A thane of Scotland. Although initially loyal to Macbeth, his tyranny drives Lennox to join Angus, Menteith and Caithness in leading the Scottish forces in the revolt against Macbeth.

MACBETH

Son of Sinel and husband to Lady Macbeth, Macbeth is initially the Thane of Glamis and is, with Banquo, a captain of the Scottish army that puts down Macdonald's and the Thane of Cawdor's rebellion against Duncan. After ending the rebellion, Macbeth and Banquo encounter the Witches, who predict that Macbeth will be made Thane of Cawdor and will become king. When Angus and Ross arrive to escort Macbeth and Banquo to Duncan and confirm that Macbeth has indeed been named Thane of Cawdor, Macbeth speculates how he might fulfill the second part of the Witches' prophecy and become king. Lady Macbeth persuades him to murder Duncan, which he does, causing Duncan's sons Malcolm and Donalbain to flee Scotland thus allowing Macbeth to assume the throne. To secure his kingship, Macbeth becomes a tyrant, ordering Banquo and his son Fleance murdered, along with Macduff and his household. Finally, English and Scottish forces fight a revolt against Macbeth until he is killed in battle by Macduff and his severed head is delivered to Malcolm, who is then named king.

MACDUFF

The Thane of Fife. Loyal to Duncan, Macduff discovers the murder when he comes to Macbeth's castle to escort Duncan back to court. After Malcolm and Donalbain flee from Scotland and Macbeth is named Duncan's successor, Macduff refuses to attend the coronation or the banquet that follows, causing Macbeth to grow suspicious of him. Macduff follows Malcolm to England to persuade him to return to Scotland and claim his rightful throne. While Macduff is away, Macbeth has Macduff's household, wife and son killed. Macduff, with Malcolm and Siward, leads the English forces in the revolt against Macbeth, and finally confronts Macbeth. Initially, Macbeth does not fear Macduff; while one of the Apparitions told him to beware of Macduff, another claimed that Macbeth cannot be harmed by one born of woman. However, Macduff, as he informs Macbeth, was delivered from his mother by Caesarian section, and therefore was not born to her. The two battle with each other, and Macduff prevails, decapitating Macbeth and delivering his head to Malcolm, who becomes king.

MACDONALD

A "ghost character." Along with the Thane of Cawdor, Macdonald leads a rebellion against Duncan's rule. A wounded Captain relates to Duncan how Macdonald was killed in battle by Macbeth.

MACDUFF'S SON

The young son of Macduff, he is murdered with Lady Macduff at Macbeth's order.

MALCOLM

Eldest son of Duncan's and brother to Donalbain. After Duncan rewards Macbeth by making him Thane of Cawdor, he makes Malcolm the Prince of Cumberland, the heir apparent. Upon the discovery of Duncan's murder, Malcolm and Donalbain, believing their own lives in danger, flee Scotland, Malcolm goes to England and Donalbain to Ireland. This flight causes suspicion to be cast on them as the masterminds of the murder. When Macduff joins him in England, Malcolm tests Macduff by falsely claiming to be a greater tyrant than Macbeth. Satisfied that Macduff sincerely wants what is best for Scotland, Malcolm explains that he has raised an army. They, along with Siward, lead the English forces in the revolt against Macbeth. After Macduff defeats Macbeth, he delivers Macbeth's severed head to Malcolm, who is pronounced king. As his first official act, he transforms the Scottish thanes into earls.

MESSENGER

When Macbeth orders the murder of Macduff's household, the Messenger warns Lady Macduff to flee with her son. It is unknown who the Messenger is or whom he serves.

MENTEITH

A thane of Scotland. Loyal to King Duncan's son Malcolm, Menteith joins Angus, Caithness and Lennox in leading the Scottish forces in the revolt against Macbeth.

MURDERERS

The Murderers kill Lady Macduff and Macduff's Son on Macbeth's orders. It is unclear if these are also the Three Murderers that Macbeth engages to kill Banquo and Fleance.

PADDOCK

One of the Witches' familiars, an attendant evil spirit in animal form. Paddock is generally believed to take the form of a toad.

PORTER

A servant of Macbeth's, the Porter is the keeper of the castle door at Inverness. The morning after Duncan's murder, the Porter responds to Macduff's and Lennox's insistent knocking and opens the door for them. Before opening the door, however, he makes timely, comic references to participants of the English Gunpowder Plot and observations on the effects of drinking.

ROSS

A thane of Scotland. Ross acts primarily as a messenger in the play. Along with Angus, he is sent by Duncan to escort Macbeth to meet with the King. They also inform Macbeth that Duncan has made him Thane of Cawdor as reward for his bravery, loyalty, and skill in battle. At first loyal to Macbeth, Ross later turns against him. He reports to Lady Macduff that Macduff has fled to England, and later joins him there, reporting the murder of Macduff's household. He returns to Scotland with the English forces, and tells Siward of Young Siward's honorable death at Macbeth's hands.

SEYTON

Servant to Macbeth. Seyton confirms to Macbeth reports of the Scottish and English forces rising against him, and reports to him the death of Lady Macbeth.

SINEL

A "ghost character." Macbeth's deceased father. Macbeth inherits the title Thane of Glamis from him.

SIWARD

The Earl of Northumberland and father of Young Siward. Siward, along with Malcolm and Macduff, leads the English forces in the revolt against Macbeth.

SWENO

A "ghost character." The King of Norway. Sweno aids Macdonald and the Thane of Cawdor in their rebellion against Duncan.

THANE OF CAWDOR

A "ghost character." A thane of Scotland. Along with Macdonald, the Thane of Cawdor leads a rebellion against Duncan, and is captured in battle and executed for treason. Duncan rewards Macbeth's valor by bestowing Cawdor's title and property on him.

THREE MURDERERS

Murderers hired by Macbeth to kill Banquo and Fleance. The First Murderer reports to Macbeth that Banquo was successfully dispatched but that Fleance escaped. The identity of the Third Murderer has long been a source of speculation for scholars, as the Murderer was not hired when the first two were and is not associated with them. Some scholars have indicated that he is Macbeth himself, but it is equally likely that Shakespeare nods here. It is unclear if these are the same Murderers who participate in the later killing of Macduff's household.

WAITING-GENTLEWOMAN

A servant to Lady Macbeth. The Waiting-Gentlewoman summons the Doctor of Physic to witness Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking.

WE¤RD SISTERS

From the Old English "wyrd," or fate, the witches. Their peculiar appearance, bearded like men but with women's breasts, combined with the audience's unfamiliarity with the ancient word "wyrd" succeeded in changing the word's meaning to the modern usage of "weird". There is debate over how much control they exert on Macbeth and events; do they merely predict the future or cause future actions to occur? There are three main Witches, though they are later joined (in scenes often attributed to Thomas Middleton) by three others and by Hecate, the Queen of the Witches. Macbeth and Banquo encounter the three on a heath after putting down Macdonald's and the Thane of Cawdor's rebellion against Duncan. They predict that Macbeth will be made Thane of Cawdor and will become king, and that Banquo will father a long line of kings. Later, after Macbeth usurps the throne, he confronts all of them for guidance. They conjure the Apparitions that pronounce warnings to Macbeth and show him the future.

YOUNG SIWARD

Son of Siward, the Earl of Northumberland. Young Siward accompanies his father to Scotland to fight in the revolt against Macbeth. Young Siward dies honorably by Macbeth's hand in battle.