Macbeth Themes

- Kingship
- Macbeth talks of Duncan as a good king
- Macbeth worries that his "fruitless crown"
means he won't leave a line of kings after
he dies "no son of mine succeeding"
- The witches show Macbeth a line of eight
- Power
- Lady Macbeth's power over Macbeth
- Macbeth's power over Scotland
- Macbeth's loss of power when the rebels
rise up against him
- Power over one's own mind
- Control
- Tyranny
- Consequences of ambition
- Before the murder, Macbeth knows that his
"vaulting ambition" could lead to his
- The Thane of Cawdor is executed for his
ambitious plot to overthrow Duncan
- Context: Is Shakespeare warning ambitious
courtiers against similar plots?
- Context: Shakespeare plays on the
insecurities of the time, writing one year
after the Gunpowder Plot.
Good and Evil
- Supernatural- things that are unnatural are
considered to be evil.
- Witches
- Lady Macbeth summoning the spirits
- Hallucinations
- Deception
- Macbeth's duplicity
- Lady Macbeth encourages him to be
duplicitous "look like the innocent
flower but be the serpent under it"
- Appearance vs reality
- Pretending to be someone you're not "stars
hide your fires; let not light see my black
and deep desires".
- Tyranny
- Macbeth's tyrannical leadership
- Overthrown by Macduff
- Good can triumph over evil
- Good characters are heroic and brave
- Murder and violence
- Macbeth's crimes get darker and darker-
murders Duncan, then Banquo, then
Macduff's children.
- Does Macbeth still have any good in him?
- Witches
- Hallucinations
- Ghosts
- Banquo's ghost appears at the feast-
symbol of Macbeth's guilt. He is haunted by
his actions.
- Apparitions (conjured by the witches)
- Fate and Free Will
- Is Macbeth free to make his own choices?
- Macbeth believes fate drives his actions. He
seems to deny his own free will.
- Context: Jacobean belief in the Wheel of
Fortune- Fortune would determine your
- Context: Christian belief in God's power.
God chooses our paths, though we do have
free will.
Loyalty and Guilt
- Blood symbolises guilt
- Blood on Macbeth's hands- can't be
washed away, even with "all of Neptune's
- Lady Macbeth can't wash the blood off her
hands "out out damned spot"
- Sleep symbolises innocence
- Duncan murdered in his sleep- he is
- "Macbeth doth murder sleep"- Macbeth
can't sleep because of the guilt he feels.
- Lady Macbeth sleep walks and reveals her
- Duncan believes Macbeth is loyal "O
worthiest cousin!", "brave Macbeth",
"noble Macbeth". He was loyal to Duncan
in battle.
- Conscience
- Macbeth's conscience symbolised by the
- Lady Macbeth asks for the spirits to remove
her femininity- her conscience- so that she
can be "Filled from the crown to the toe
top-full of direst cruelty"
- Context: conscience is a Christian virtue.
Having a conscience means you have some
morality. When do Macbeth and Lady
Macbeth lose their consciences?
- Guilt implies they do have a conscience
after all.
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