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Justin Higgins

Mr. Clark

Honors British Literature

20 November 2018

The Morality of Trust

Trust is a fundamental part of any relationship. Without trust, friends or partners are not

very close, and a lack of trust can even lead to jealousy and manipulation. Trust is also very

fragile, as it takes long periods of time to build, and it can be quickly broken. Each person differs

in how they choose to trust others, but one of the best ways to judge one’s trustworthiness is by

their actions. Every action can be judged morally, so, generally, one is trustworthy if their

actions are moral. In Macbeth, Shakespeare shows his audience that people are trustworthy when

their actions are moral.

Throughout the play, Lord Macbeth shows that he is not trustworthy because he acts

immorally on many occasions. Although he is first shown in good light, Lord Macbeth quickly

falls into immorality. This begins with the first time the audience meets Lord Macbeth and he

sees the witches. Instead of seeing the witches as the evil they are, Lord Macbeth commands

them to “Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more” (I.iii.70). Lord Macbeth is entranced with

what the witches prophesize, and he attempts to gain knowledge from them. The witches are

clearly evil, since they led Lord Macbeth to murder, so it is immoral for him to work with them

for information. After speaking to the witches, Lord Macbeth commits several murders. He first

murders King Duncan and Duncan’s guards. Lord Macbeth then orders the murder of his close

friend Banquo and the family of Lord Macduff. These murders are all especially terrible because
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each of these victims is a good, innocent person. These deaths are very different than if Lord

Macbeth were to kill them on a battlefield. The murders are immoral because Lord Macbeth kills

these men out of self-improvement and revenge. He murders Duncan and Banquo to become

king and stay king. Lord Macbeth murders Lord Macduff’s family to punish Lord Macduff for

fleeing to England and revolt against Lord Macbeth. Because Lord Macbeth commits these

extremely immoral acts, he cannot be trusted.

The three witches are clearly not to be trusted, as they act only immorally throughout the

play. The main role of the witches is to lead Lord Macbeth to his self-destruction. They begin by

pushing Lord Macbeth to the murder of King Duncan. The witches go on the deceive Lord

Macbeth throughout the play. They convince Lord Macbeth that he is safe by telling him that

“none of woman born shall harm Macbeth” (IV.i.80-81). Because of this false prophesy, Lord

Macbeth believes he cannot be killed, leading to his death in battle against Lord Macduff.

Because the witches planted the idea that Lord Macbeth would be king and led him to believe

that he could not be killed, the witches are responsible for everything that happens throughout

the play. Their actions cause the death and destruction of many innocent people, and without

their large influence, there would be almost no conflict within Macbeth.

Although many of the main characters in Macbeth are very immoral and untrustworthy,

there are also several who have strong morals and are, therefore, very trustworthy. The first

moral character introduced into the play is the King Duncan. The audience does not get to see

Duncan for very long, but other characters talk about him a few times. When Lord Macbeth is

contemplating killing Duncan, he says that “[Duncan’s] virtues will plead like angels trumpet-

tongued against the deep damnation of his taking-off” (I.vii.18-20). From other parts of the play,

it is clear that Duncan is widely loved and a great ruler. From what Lord Macbeth says and the
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opinion of the rest of Scotland, Duncan was definitely a very moral man. The next moral man the

audience meets in Banquo, the general who works alongside Lord Macbeth. Banquo’s strong

moral principles are shown the most with the witches. Unlike Lord Macbeth, Banquo

immediately recognizes that the witches are evil, saying “The instruments of darkness tell us

truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray ‘s in deepest consequence” (I.iii.124-126). Banquo

knows that the witches are only trying to win the trust of Lord Macbeth and Banquo to destroy

them later. Since he recognizes this, Banquo is able to resist any temptations from the witches.

Banquo later refuses to side with Lord Macbeth, telling Lord Macbeth that he will only help

Lord Macbeth if his “bosom franchised and allegiance clear” (II.i.28). Here, Banquo tells Lord

Macbeth that he will only help Lord Macbeth if he is acting morally, showing that Banquo has

strong moral principles. The heir to the throne after Duncan, Malcolm, is likely the most moral

person in this play. When Lord Macduff first speaks to Malcolm, Malcolm pretends that he is

extremely immoral and unfit to rule Scotland, but Malcolm soon reveals that he was lying.

Malcolm tells Lord Macduff that he has never committed any of the sins he had used to convince

Lord Macduff that he would be a bad king. Malcolm even says “My first false speaking was this

upon myself” (IV.iii.130-131). He tells Lord Macduff that the very first time he told a lie was

when he pretended to be so immoral. Malcolm presents himself to Lord Macduff as completely

moral, so much that he had not lied once before they met. All three of these men are shown to

have very strong moral principles, and, because of this, they are all clearly very trustworthy.

Lord Macbeth is not trustworthy because he murdered innocent people and worked with

the evil witches. The witches are not trustworthy because they lied to and deceived Lord

Macbeth. Duncan, Banquo, and Malcolm are trustworthy because they were good men with

strong moral principles. These characters can be seen as examples for the audience as to how to
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be trustworthy and moral. Although the acts of these characters are more extreme than the acts of

day to day life, the fundamentals of their actions can be applied to the lives of ordinary people.