Macbeth’s arch-villain, Macduff, is in fact Macbeth’s fourth antagonist. Macbeth is preceded by three equally malevolent characters: the witches of Act 1 and 2 (particularly the latter), and Tarquin, the Roman general who raped Lucrece, from The Rape of Lucrece . It has been suggested that Macbeth and Tarquin both represent one aspect of Shakespeare’s own self, the psychological division within the playwright, who was at this time engaged in a bitter and destructive marriage break-up. Macduff and Macbeth also share a number of similarities: Macduff is like Macbeth in his way of life, ambition, and single-minded ruthlessness.
Macbeth is the weaker character for this reason. Macduff can be likened to Macbeth’s animus, his inner male will which makes him do what he wants instead of what he should. The idea of Macduff as Macbeth’s animus reflects an ancient belief in the duality of man: his body was mortal flesh controlled by physical appetites, while his anima or soul was immortal and often good. When Macduff kills Macbeth in Act 5, Scene 8 it signifies that Macduff has triumphed over himself-he has overcome the animal part of himself (Macbeth) by means of his higher thinking (the conscience represented in Macduff) (Sitar 63).
Macbeth’s role is like that of a Greek tragic hero: he, as Macduff points out, has committed a serious crime for which he must be punished. The Rape of Lucrece was often used as a source for Shakespeare’s history plays and tragedies. The circumstances surrounding Tarquin and Lucrece are inverted in Macbeth. In the play, Macbeth is an innocent victim of evil forces beyond his control-his downfall is brought about by the witches from whom he sought prophecies, not vice versa-while Macduff is Macbeth’s diabolical counterpart who uses oracles to destroy Macbeth.
Nevertheless, some critics have concluded that there is no character in Macbeth who corresponds with Tarquin of The Rape of Lucrece . Macduff is Macbeth’s antithesis, but he never speaks the lines that would identify him with Tarquin. It is true that Macduff has no dialogue which reflects Tarquin’s speeches in act 3 of The Rape of Lucrece , but Macduff does resemble Tarquin through his actions. He kills Macbeth at the end of Act 5 to avenge what Macbeth did to Duncan and Banquo, out of lust for power and knowledge, just as Tarquin rapes Lucrece out of lust for possession more than passion.
Macbeth contains one of the most notorious villains in all of English literature: Macbeth, the ruthless and ambitious thane who murders his king and seizes power for himself. Macbeth’s “villainy” is made even more striking by its contrast to Macduff, Macbeth’s counterpart as a noble man crushed by fate; Macduff rises against Macbeth and defeats him in battle because Macduff cannot accept things as they are and strikes back. Macduff is a hero through and through—a rarity in Shakespearean tragedy where villains are often far more memorable than heroes.
Macbeth contains another villainous character besides Macbeth himself—Tarquin , the son of King Cymbeline of Britain. Like Macbeth, Tarquin is a ruthless murderer who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Unlike Macbeth, though, Tarquin gets his comeuppance in the end— Macduff kills him during Macbeth’s invasion of Scotland, although Macduff spares Macbeth himself . Macduff also reveals that Macbeth had murdered Macduff’s entire family , which Macduff only learns of during the invasion of Scotland. During Cymbeline , Cymbeline has two sons: Guiderius and Arviragus.
The play opens with both princes missing; it turns out they have run away from home because they disapprove of their father’s latest marriage to the wicked Imogen. The princes were raised by a sympathetic nobleman named Polydore and his wife, who hid the boys from their father because he had ordered them murdered as infants after learning of their existence from an oracle . It turns out that this supposed oracle was actually Belarius , the brothers’ own grandfather, disguising himself to prevent Cymbeline from murdering his grandsons.
When Guiderius and Arviragus run away, they are found by Imogen’s wicked husband Cloten, who wants to use them as pawns in a plot to murder his own mother-in-law , Cymbeline’s queen. Tarquin sees an opportunity here: If Macbeth uses Tarquin to kill Macduff’s wife and children , Macbeth may be able to fulfill the Three Witches’ prophecy that Macbeth will be king after Macduff is dead. Macbeth agrees, so Tarquin murders Macduff’s family in England while Macbeth invades Scotland. However, Macduff discovers that he has been tricked into killing his own family.
He then joins forces with Prince Lucius of Britain to overthrow Macbeth and kill both him and Guiderius—the true heir to the British throne. Shortly thereafter, Arviragus returns home and fights at the side of Lucius until they can overthrow Macbeth and place Guiderius on the throne as King of Scotland. So Tarquin gets his comeuppance, Macbeth gets a rather unhappy ending , and Macduff is left to carry on Macbeth’s legacy by actually being a hero, albeit in more successful plays.
Tarquin’s only other appearance is in the opening scene of Cymbeline, where he convinces Macbeth that he can get Macbeth into King Duncan’s court by murdering Macduff’s family. After Macbeth agrees, Tarquin murders Macduff’s wife and children in England while Macbeth invades Scotland . At the end of both plays, Tarquin dies at the hands of Macduff or Prince Lucius. Although Tarquin appears in only two scenes in two separate Shakespearean tragedies , he is certainly memorable.
Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies, with Macduff being one of the only heroes in the play. Macbeth also kills Macduff’s entire family , which Macduff learns about during Macbeth’s invasion of Scotland; this makes Tarquin all the more loathsome for arranging Macbeth’s attack on Scotland and killing Macduff’s wife and children against their will, especially since Tarquin does this solely to aid Macbeth rather than out of some personal hatred for Macduff.
This assists in making Tarquin a forerunner for Shakespearean villains that are not necessarily “bad guys” but act as tools for stronger characters who later kill them off or trick them into doing things they never would have done of their own volition. Macbeth and Cymbeline both end in rather unhappy ways for Macbeth; Macduff becomes the hero that Macbeth should have been, and Tarquin gets his comeuppance when Macduff kills him .
Overall, Tarquin receives a far more important role than most characters in Shakespearean tragedies, especially bad guys such as Caliban or Aaron. He seems to exist solely to aid Macbeth or further the plot of the play he’s in, but ends up being detested by most audience members regardless. His lack of personal vendettas against other characters makes him different from many Shakespearean villains and may be the key to his continued functionality in Macbeth and Cymbeline, the only tragedies in which Tarquin appears.