Minors Pave The Path For Plot Advancement
Imagine a novel with only five characters. Imagine the play Macbeth with only Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Banquo, The Three Witches, and Macduff. How boring can the story be with only these characters? Just by reading these names we often fight about other characters who deserve to be in this top 5 list of major characters. Although the plot revolves around the major characters and we see them more often, other parts of the story are just not fit for them to play in it and they can’t fully describe who they are in the story. How can a story’s framework be complete without these minor characters that fill up the spaces of the pillars to keep the entire work standing on its own?
Let’s first define what roles do the major and minor characters portray in the story. Major characters are those who we encounter and read up on more often. They have huge parts in the story that give their actions the power to impact the storyline. These characters are usually the protagonists, antagonists, and supporting characters in the story. These supporting characters are the sidekicks and extra characters that we see but not that much compared to the major characters.
One example is Lennox that Macbeth converses with once in a while in the story (Macbeth 2.3; 3.4; 4.1). They are not considered to be minor because they have too many appearances and also have an impact on supporting Macbeth’s entire role. Minor characters are the characters that we don’t expect nor look for while we are reading. They are little steps that complete a ladder on which the major characters have to climb on. They are essential in developing the plot of the story since it influences the actions of the major characters, adds depth to the scene and even stirs us away from the drama.
The murderers played a very important role in the story: they killed Banquo and Macduff’s family with the command of Macbeth. Without thinking too much about it, we often disregard and take the actions of the murderers for granted. These murderers are referred to as assassins who take commands in exchange for money. But have we ever thought about what the story would look like without them? They killed the rivals of Macbeth who served as an essential role in the development of the story. They did what Macbeth can’t do which is going around killing people himself because that might spoil his evil plan. In Act 3 Scene 3, the murderers went on to kill Banquo but his son, Fleance, escaped. When Macbeth heard the news about the death of Banquo and the escape of Fleance, his thoughts were dramatically affected (Macbeth 3.4). After every slain made by these murderers, Macbeth becomes more confident of him reigning all over the kingdom. On the other hand, after every failed mission, Macbeth becomes more obsessed with killing everyone who comes in his way. The killings not just affected Macbeth but also Lady Macbeth. Upon learning about the death of Macduff’s family, she started sleepwalking and her mental state became worse (Macbeth 5.1). She felt like she is sharing the responsibility of people getting killed in his husband’s hands, making her hands as dirty as Macbeth’s. This incident led to Lady Macbeth committing suicide later in the story (Macbeth 5.5). The role of the murderers seems useless but without them, the flow of the story would be different. Their actions influenced the outlook of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth throughout the story.
Another important minor character is Hecate, the queen of the witches. Her role adds depth to the witches by proclaiming that she is the source of all the evil things showing that supernatural events are controlled by her (Mac 3.5.5-8). She also makes a foreshadowing prophecy saying that Macbeth will be the cause of his failure by the illusions they are about to make him think that he is invincible (Macbeth 3.5.27-29). Although the main purpose of why Hecate showed up in Act 3 Scene 5 was to scold the witches for mishandling their powers, she thought of something that would make their powers used in the right thing and that is by using the self-confidence of Macbeth himself against him. Hecate is the root of all the wicked actions made by the witches that set up the plot and pushes Macbeth towards acting upon their prophecies. In Act 4 Scene 1, she reappears praising the three witches for using their powers correctly and disappears with music. With short screen times, Hecate showed how she influenced the plot with her prophecies and highlighted how often supernatural events occur in the story.
In Act 2 Scene 3, we can see Porter showing up with a couple of lines. His role in this story is to talk to the audience as if they were part of the play. With the influence of alcohol, his usage of words becomes comedic. The Porter showed up right after Macbeth killed Duncan (Macbeth 2.3). The purpose of this scene is to remove the tension of the previous scene and to stir us away from the drama. The mood is highly influenced by this scene and this is the only scene that tried to do so. This is some sort of trick to play with the emotions felt by the ones who are watching by setting the intensity of the scene very high with the assassination of Duncan and drop it so low with the help of the drunk Porter then finally, bringing it back up by letting other characters discover Duncan’s body. This technique allows people to be more engaged with the story. Porter played an essential role in comedic relief when the story started giving out intense scenes. His playfulness naturally came out because of the alcohol he drank that served as an equivocator.
These are some of the minor characters that had an impact on the entire story. We could think of it as a meal being cooked: we don’t just need the meat, we also need the spices for flavor and sensation. The murderers in Macbeth influenced the actions of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth that made their character bloom their inner wickedness. Hecate added depth to the Three Witches whom we see a couple of times in the story that helps prove to the audience about the supernatural powers they possess and on point foreshadowing prophecies. The Porter took us all away from the drama and put the fire out in our hearts with his comedic words that we didn’t know we needed until the intense scenes came out. The main lead does play an important role but the sidekicks play an even more important role altogether without whom the story can’t grow. Just like how a rose becomes prettier with the thorns and leaves, the main lead can’t thrive and luster without the sidekicks. It is the harmony and interactivity that make the story so special.
- Shakespeare, William, and Wim Coleman. Macbeth. 3rd ed., Perfection Learning Corp., 2004.
- “Macbeth Main Characters” Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. www.shakespeare.org.uk/explore-shakespeare/shakespedia/shakespeares-characters/macbeth/
- “Macbeth by William Shakespeare.” Enotes.com, Enotes.com, www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-significance-porters-scene-act-2-scene-3-140317.
- Study.com, Study.com, study.com/academy/lesson/hecate-in-macbeth.html.