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Macbeth Macbeth(c.1607), written by William Shakespeare, is the tragic tale of Macbeth, a virtuous man, corrupted by power and greed. This tagedy could in fact be called “A Tale of Two Theories”. One theory suggests that the tragic hero, Macbeth, is led down an unescapable road of doom by an outside force, namely fate in the form of the three witches. The second suggests that there is no supernatural force working against Macbeth, which therefore makes him responsible for his own actions and inevitable downfall. It must be remembered that Macbethis a literary work of art, and as a peice of art is open to many different interpretations, none of them right and none of them wrong.

But the text of the play seems to imply that Macbeth is indeed responsible for his own actions which are provoked by an unwillingness to listen to his own conscience, the witches, and his ambition. First, Macbeth ignores the voice of his own psyche. He knows what he is doing is wrong even before he murders Duncan, but he allows Lady Macbeth and greed to cloud his judgement. In referring to the idea of the murder of Duncan, Macbeth first states,”We will proceed no further in this business”(I.vii.32). Yet, after speaking with Lady Macbeth he recants and proclaims,”I am settled, and bend up/Each corporal agent to this terrible feat”(I.vii.79-80).

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There is nothing supernatural to be found in a man being swayed by the woman he loves, as a matter of fact this action could be perceived as quite the opposite. Second, the witches have to be dispelled as a source of Macbeth’s misfortune before the latter theory can be considered. It is admittedly strange that the weird sisters first address Macbeth with,”All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee Thane of Cawdor!”(I.iii.49), a title which not even Macbeth is aware he has been awarded. Even stranger is the third witch calling to Macbeth,”All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!”(I.iii.50). However as stated by Bradley,”No connection of these announcements with any actions of his was even hinted by [the withches]”(232).

Some are still not convinced though of the witches less than supernatural role; nevertheless, Macbeth appears throughout the play to be completely aware 3 of his actions, as opposed to being contolled by some mystic force. The effect of the witches on the action of the play is best summarized by these words: ..while the influences of the Witches’ prophecies on Macbeth is very great, it is quite clearly shown to be an influnce and nothing more.(Bradley 232) Most important to the theory that Macbeth is reponsible for his own actions would be a point that the infamous witches and Macbeth agree upon. Such an element exists in the form of Macbeth’s ambiton. In the soliloquy Macbeth gives before he murders Duncan, he states, “..I have no spur/To prick the sides of intent, but only/Vaulting ambition,..”(I.vii.25-27). Are these the words of a man who is merely being led down a self dustructive path of doom, with no will of his own? Or are they the words of a man who realizes not only the graveness of his actions, but, also the reasons behind them? The answer is clear, Macbeth is a totally cognizant principal and not a mindless puppet. Later the head witch, Hecate, declares,”Hath been but for a wayward son,/Spiteful and wrathful, who, as others do,/Loves for his own ends, not for you.” (III.v.11-13), which again highlights Macbeth’s ambitious nature. The most significant part of the play is the part that is missing, and that is a conn! ection between Macbeth’s ambition and some spell cast by the weird sisters which might be said to magically cause an increase in his desires.

While purposely played in a mysterious setting, the location is not meant to cloud the true theme of the play with the supernatural. Macbeth simply succumbs to natural urges which take him to a fate of his own making. Everyone has character flaws that he must live with; Macbeth simply allowed those flaws to destroy him. 3 Works Cited Bradley, A.C. “The Witch Scenes in Macbeth.” England in Literature. Ed.

John Pfordesher, Gladys V. Veidemanis, and Helen McDonnell. Illinois: Scott, Foresman, 1989. 232-233 Shekespeare, William. Macbeth.

England in Literature. Ed. John Pfordesher, Gladys V. Veidemanis, and Helen McDonnell. Illinois: Scott, Foresman, 1989. 191-262.


Macbeth Macbeth’s choice of actions are substantially influenced by the various characters he encounters from the very beginning of the play. In the opening of the play Macbeth is portrayed as a good man. Macbeth is described as brave, valiant a good and hardy soldier also honorable, worthy and wise (I.ii.24). Only after Macbeth meets the witches that his character flaws begin to show. The witches prophecy is cause to Macbeth to think selfishly about being king, and then about the murder of Duncan. (QUOTE) Macbeth immediately becomes much more self-involved after hearing the prophecy than he was shown to be before, as the brave and selfless soldier willing to die for his country. (quote) He starts to have constant thoughts about becoming king and has horrible imaginings about killing Duncan (III.iii.137).

The witches are the first influence on Macbeth, but they are certainly not his last. His own wife, Lady Macbeth is very influential on the descions Macbeth makes. As soon as she receives the letter describing the weird occurrences, and the prophecy of the witches that Macbeth has sent to her, Lady Macbeth begins to plot and plan how Macbeth can become king. She decides to pour my[her] spirits in thine[his] ear, and chastise with the valour of my[her] tongue all the impeded thee[him] from the golden round (I.v.23). Lady Macbeth even goes as far as to call upon the spirits to unsex her, and make her more strong, and powerful, so that she can help her husband succeed in his desires (I.v.37) She only gives him encouragement to murder Duncan, and doesn’t allow Macbeth to question his thoughts for even one moment.

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When he does ask the question: If we should fail?” Lady Macbeth quickly responds ..screw your courage to the sticking place..,( Macbeth does not even come up with his own murder plan, it is of his wife’s. Lady Macbeth even teases her husband about his courage, and his desire to be king, which entices him listen to her. Macbeth has so many outside influences, that it is impossible to determine if he would have continued with his thoughts to kill Duncan without the influence other characters made on him. Shakespeare.


Macbeth There are many forms of imagery in the world today. They usually take on two main forms, those being visual and mental. Word means different thing to different people. The Websters Dictionary defines it as, in rhetoric, representations in writing or speaking; lively descriptions which impress the images of things on the mind; figures in discourse. This once again goes back to the idea of mental imagery and the different ways people interpret things.

In William Shakespeares Macbeth. Imagery is connected to both character development as well as theme and are patterned throughout the play. From the beginning of the play we are introduced to image of darkness. It was called upon by Banquo, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. In his aside to Macbeth “But tis strange: And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, The instruments of darkness tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles, to betray us In deepest consequence” (I, II, 131-135) Banquo shows that he is immediately aware that the witches are associated with darkness.

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He chooses not to act on the witches prophecies, but rather to be wary and reluctant. He is not ready to involve himself with the witches, as he sees them as a dark force. However Macbeth is on opportunist and the image of darkness reveals his deepest, darkest desires. This is shown in Macbeth’s aside. “The Prince of Cumberland! that is a step On which I must fall down or else o’ver-leap, For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires” (I, IV, 55-58) It becomes apparent that, it bothered Macbeth a great deal to hear that Malcolm was named successor to King Duncan, he then calls on darkness to hide his evil thoughts. Lady Macbeth does the same, she conjures up the forces of darkness, to make sure the heavens don’t see her having these thoughts. “Come, thick night, And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, That my keen knife see not the wound it makes, N’or heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, To cry, “Hold, hold!” (I, V, 53-57) By the end of Act I, we can see that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have sided with “Darkness”. By listening to the prompting of the witches they have given in to them and side with the forces of evil.

But, Banquo, is still cautious about the idea of even and darkness. He shows us that the witches ae only tell partial truths that look pretty at first, but, will hurt you in the end. This also brings to us to the theme of evil and how it does the same thing. It comes across as being very tempting but, will definitely bring you down in the end. Another strong image in the play is “blood”.

It is perhaps the most powerful image of Macbeth’s character change. One such image is portrayed just before Macbeth visits the witches for the second time. He says to his wife, Lady Macbeth that “For mine own good All causes shall give away; I am in blood Stepp’d in so for, that, should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o’er:” (III, IV, 166-169) This says that he is no longer concerned with who is in his way as long as he gets to the top. He is being driven by evil once again. The blood image shows that once Macbeth sided with the forces of darkness, killing Duncan, he was overwhelmed and would never escape evil’s ugly grasp.

Thus changing his character forever. It also effects the them of the play. In Elizabethan times, to be named King you were appointed by God. So, to kill a King you are going against God, thus once again siding with evil. So when Macbeth murdered King Duncan it was almost like a “cardinal sin”.

So bad in fact than he would never be able to clean his hands of the blood. If he were to try to clean his hands there would be so much of it that it would turn the oceans red with the blood of the King (God). This point is made clear by Macbeth when he says. “Will all great Neptune’s oceans wash this blood Clean from my hand? No; this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, Making the green one red.” (II, II, 77-80) Thus this show us just how much of an impact the image of blood has over the characters and plot. Finally, through the use of clothes, Shakespeare reinforces the theme that Macbeth is never comfortable with his newly appointed roles in the kingdom, and that his character was never meant to be more than a brave loyal subject.

When Macbeth is named Thane of Cauder he asks the question “The Thane of Cauder lives: why do you dress me in borrowed robes?” (I, IV, 115) Even when he is given a new title the clothing image shows he is never comfortable. This idea is shown again with Banquo says “New honours come upon him, Like strange garments, cleave not to their mould, But with the aid of use,” (I, III, 157-159) Banquo is comparing this idea to ill-fitting clothes. He is stating that at first all clothes are binding and uncomfortable, but with time and use they work themselves in and become snug. This clearly helps develop the idea that Macbeth will never be satisfied with his changing roles. He will always be wearing tight fitting clothes in his mind.

The imagery of clothing helped to develop a picture of a character (Macbeth) who never fit in and was never comfortable with a role he obtained by evils means. When we look back at the play so far we can clearly see that his images are not only connected to his characters and theme he also give a moral message. He is telling us don’t get caught up in the pool of blood and darkness and do not wear borrowed robes. You will never be satisfied with where you end up because you got there by unholy means. Also, this process might keep repeating itself and you never know how much you will change or how many people will get hurt on your climb to the top.

Which makes the success you were striving for worthless. The only real way to achieve self gratification for your successes is to go about them honestly, because honesty is the best policy. These were just a few of the hundreds of images in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, those of which make his play structurally sound as well as didactic Works Cited 1] Shakespeare, William, Macbeth, Toronto: Harcourt Brace and Company, Inc, 1988. 2] Webster, Noah, New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language, New York: Rockville House Publishers, Inc, 1965.


The play Macbeth by William Shakespeare contains many interesting themes; Shakespeare has taken a time of great change in Scottish history and used it to suit his of purposes. He uses the rise to power of a man to examine issues and ideology of Elizabethan times.

The people of the Elizabethan timer believed in the divine right of kings, to put simply the king is gods chosen representative on earth, he speaks to god, to kill a king would bring about horrendous repercussions an turn a peaceful world into chaos.

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A good example of this chaos is when Macbeth kills Duncan; the day after Ross tells us
That the day became as dark as night, a falcon was killed by an owl and that Duncan’s horses turned wild and ate each other.

Another theme from Macbeth, which is linked to the idea of divine right of kings, is Individuals disrupting the natural order of events. Unnatural acts such as murder and witchcraft are linked to unnatural events in nature. Using the example of duncan’s horses, we see, after Macbeth committed an unnatural act (killing Duncan) we learn that his horses ate each other an act that is not natural to horses.

Considering both of these, Macbeth had to decide whether it was right for him to change events, but also if he kills Duncan will it mean he, himself may fall victim to someone’s vaulting ambition.

“Bloody instructions which, being taught, return to plague the inventor”
Macbeth Act 1 scene 4
Macbeth is also plagued with the idea of kingship. A bad leader will always equal unhappy times. When Maclom lists the qualities in a king ( Act 4 scene 3)he lists Justice, Verity, Temperance, Stableness, bounty, Perseverance, Mercy, lowliness, Devotion, Patience, Courage, Fortitude. How many of these qualities do we see in Macbeth?
The role of good and evil, another major theme in Macbeth is important, because although Macbeth and lady macbeth are comsidered evil, they show weaknessess. It is clear they have got in to deep. I consider the witches to be evil as they corrupted a good man leading him from the values he was brought up to respecthowerve, I do not see Banquo as good. For the reason he did not voice his beliefs that macbeth was the killer, nor Macduff, although he appears as a good man he did abandon his family, leaving them to the wrath and injustice of Macbeth
Macbeth, the real Macbeth, was said to be a good king who ruled Scotland for over 20 years before passing away naturally. The real Macbeth would not have suited Shakespeare’s purposes so he made minor changes that are only detected by close examination of Scottish history.

William Shakespeare effectively uses this part of Scottish history to show themes. Shakespeare uses his gift of writing so effectively that after reading the play I can see that many of the themes still apply today.


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