Themes in Shakespeare’s Macbeth Essay

MacBeth is one of the most renowned plays in history, written by famous playwright William Shakespeare. It is a story of betrayal, tyranny, murder and deadly ambition. These four themes make this tragedy a great resource for studying the darker side of humanity, and why we resort to such measures. While studying the play, I gained many insights into humanity, and will highlight three in-depth. Firstly, I saw the negative effects of uncontrolled ambition. MacBeth, the valiant warrior, hero of Scotland and the idol for young warriors, turned into a murderous, despised tyrant.

Secondly, I learnt that murder changes people.There are two instances in MacBeth where murder changed the murderer. And thirdly, I learnt that there is no point to being a leader if it is gained by dishonourable actions. When MacBeth became king of Scotland, he was not respected or liked by his people, because of his less than honourable ascent to kingship. Why is uncontrolled ambition such a bad thing? Isn’t ambition a good thing? (Act 1, Scene 4) “Macbeth: (Aside) The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step on which I must fall down, or else o’erleap, for in my way it lies.

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Stars, hide your fires;let not light see my black and deep desires.The eye wink at the hand; yet let that bewhich the eye fears, when it is done, to see. ” Like all good things, ambition is great in moderation. There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, as long as it doesn’t consume you and control your everyday life. Macbeth was happy with his position in life, until three witches turned up and prophesised that he would be thane (lord) of Cawdor, and eventually ascend to the throne.

Macbeth didn’t believe the witches at first, but as soon as the witches disappeared, two messengers from King Duncan meet Macbeth and pronounce him thane of Cawdor.He began pondering the possibilities, and sent a letter home to Lady Macbeth, who became over ambitious and started plotting to murder the King. This example is the clearest cut evidence in the play that uncontrolled ambition is a bad thing.

The act goes on, and Lady Macbeth corrupts Macbeth into becoming an overambitious murderer. Already, the play has shown that not only does ambition cause temptation, it also turns people to selfish acts, in this case regicide, to get to where they want to be. This leads on to my second insight, why does murder change people? (Act 3, Scene 4) Macbeth: […] For mine own good all causes shall give way. I am in blood stepp’d in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er.

” In the play, Macbeth is a noble warrior at first, accustomed to killing for his country and in self-defence. But when the witches hint that he will be king, he begins to think about murdering the king. When he writes home to Lady Macbeth, recounting the prophecies and his promotion to thane of Cawdor, and telling her of King Duncan’s pending visit, she begins planning to murder the king. When Macbeth commits the murder later that night, he comes out shell-shocked.He walks out with the daggers still in hand, and babbling to himself. When Lady Macbeth consoles him in the Shakespeare Company’s stage adaptation, he seems unable to focus on anything, staring blankly ahead.

After his first murder, he puts his guilt and morality away, and plots many more murders, like that of Banquo and Macduff’s family. When he finds out Lady Macbeth commits suicide, he brushes it aside, saying she would’ve died someday and that life is an illusion written by an idiot. Here we can see that murder has changed Macbeth from a noble, caring warrior, into a murderous, heartless tyrant.News that would’ve usually destroyed him has become nothing more than a whisper in the wind. His actions from the witches prophecies to the battle at Dunstinane have lost him respect and trust, which he had very little of when people started doubting his ascent to kingship. Which leads me on to my third and final insight: a leader is only as strong their people’s respect for them. (Act 3, Scene 6) “Lord: The son of Duncan—from whom this tyrant holds the due of birth—lives in the English court and is received of the most pious Edward with such grace that the malevolence of fortune nothing takes from his high respect.

This quote shows the difference in respect of the people for the two kings. King Edward of England is well respected and well liked, whereas Macbeth is looked upon as a throne stealing tyrant, and is not very well liked by his people When Macbeth became King of Scotland, the majority of people had heard of his conquests for Scotland, and were happy to have him as King. But it was the minority he had to worry about. The thanes of Scotland and the deceased king’s two messengers, Ross and Lennox, are all suspicious about Macbeth’s involvement in Duncan’s death.When the English army started moving out of Birnam woods, Macbeth’s army didn’t want to fight for him, because they thought of him as a cruel leader who wasn’t deserving of their protection. As a result, it left the castle unguarded and Macbeth was exposed to the leaders of the army, to whom he eventually fell to.

This part of the play highlighted to me that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Metaphorically interpreting this quote into the play symbolises Scotland as the chain, with Macbeth being the strongest link, but being held back by the weakest link, his people.In conclusion, Macbeth is a great play to watch and enjoy, but it also teaches us a lot about ourselves and the people around us.

To really get full value out of reading Macbeth, it must be read with an open mind, to find all of Shakespeare’s subtle comments on humanity and the supernatural. But I think the best thing about Macbeth is that it still teaches us valuable lessons today, even though it was written in the 1600s. The timelessness of the play, and the way it can still be related to modern society is a true measure of how good an author Shakespeare was.


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