We first meet Duncan behind the battle fields of two battles (against the rebel MacDonwald and an invading Norwegian army) waiting anxiously for any news. From this time until his brutal murder, he is presented as a noble King of Scotland. Duncan is pictured as the perfect, impartial king in the play. Shakespeare shows Duncan to be an example to others. Duncan’s love for his country is one of the main qualities of Duncan. We can see this when he eagerly seeks for any news from the captain who has returned from the front lines.
When Duncan hears of Macbeth’s bravery in battle, he rewards Macbeth for his heroism by naming him the Thane of Cawdor while punishing disloyalty of the treacherous previous Thane of Cawdor by having him hanged. Duncan also vows that his royal blessings will continue to fall on Macbeth. Here we see the king executing his power righteously by rewarding who are loyal and punishing disloyalty.
Duncan acts responsibly in naming an heir to his throne – his son Malcolm. He did this so that the line of ascension to the throne is clear and that Scotland will remain politically stable. Duncan was preventing the very political chaos that resulted when Macbeth murdered him.
Unfortunately Duncan is too trusting and dependent of his Thanes. As the King, he does not lead his men into battle directly, but heavily relies on his Thanes to act on his behalf. He is a very poor jude of character. He completely misjudges Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as loyal friends while they were plotting his downfall.
Even Macbeth recognised the noble character of the King before murdering him in his sleep. Macbeth speaks of Duncan’s goodness and loyal nature and considered the consequences of his death. He states that even the angels will mourn for Duncan and that “tears shall drown the wind” when he dies.