Grade 10: English – Macbeth (themes, motifs, symbols etc.)

Theme: The Corrupting Power of Unchecked Ambition – Brings out the worst within people- Drives people to do horrible acts without checking themselves- Macbeth & Lady Macbeth are examples of the corrupting power because of their ambitions
Theme: The Relationship Between Cruelty and Masculinity – Throughout the play, genders are brought up to manipulate characters- Lady Macbeth does this to Macbeth (saying hes less of a man etc.)- In this play, women are seen as more cruel/ capable then men (Ex. Lady Macbeth & The Witches)- At the time there was strict gender rules & men were seen as stronger- Cruelty was associated with men not women but Lady Macbeth shows a different view
Theme: The Difference Between Kingship and Tyranny – Through the play, Scotland goes from being a civilized country run by King Duncan into a hell hole country run by the tyrant, Macbeth- Scotland becomes an unlivable place with people scared for their lives
Theme: Deception – In the play, characters deceive each other to benefit themselves (Lady Macbeth & Macbeth)- Characters use equivocation to deceive one another- Appearances vs. Reality
Theme: The Abuse of Power – Macbeth & Lady Macbeth abuse their power by using it for only themselves & harm others unnecessarily – Macbeth uses his power as king to become a tyrant
Theme: Guilt – The feelings of guilt lead to extreme torment & can even lead to tragic downfalls (Lady Macbeth)- Guilty conscience can be disruptive & self-destructive
Theme: Influence of the Supernatural – Leads to destruction of characters & the downfall- Pushes & influences characters to commit crimes- Witches, apparitions & ghosts
Theme: Role of Fate vs. Free Will – Internal vs. External conflict – Fate is the development of events beyond a person’s control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power- Free will is the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion- Fate is what Macbeth couldn’t control vs. free will, something Macbeth could control
Theme: Nature & Order (Elizabethan Era) – Characters cause distruption to the natural order during the Elizabethan era (Macbeth & Lady Macbeth)- Macbeth jumps the ranks & creates chaos to the universe – Macbeth kills the king & goes against the very law of nature & God – Scotland & the nature of things become twisted & everything turns chaotic- Violations of the natural order reflect corruption in the moral and political orders
Motifs: Halloucinations Macbeth & Lady Macbeth constantly sees or hears strange things
Motif: Violence Macbeth & Lady Macbeth are extremely violent throughout the play, killing numerous people (the king, Banquo, servants etc.)
Motif: Prophecy The witches prophecies encourage Macbeth to act horribly & pursue his ambition of being King
Motif: The Supernatural The witches are supernatural entities, casting spells & curses & prophesying
Motif: Good vs. Evil Macbeth chooses between good & evil & his character along with Lady Macbeth evolve from being a hero into becoming a villian + MacDuff (good) fights Macbeth (bad) in the end
Symbols: Blood Blood symbolizes violence & guilt
Symbols: Babies Babies symbolizes innocence, purity, responsibility & what is to come
Symbols: Bad Weather Bad weather symbolizes tragedies, chaos, violence & unbalanced hierarchy (violations of the natural order reflect corruption in the moral and political orders)
Symbols: Sleep Sleep symbolizes innocence, purity, and peace of mind
Vocab: Harmartia A fatal flaw leading to the downfall of a tragic hero or heroine
Vocab: Hubris Describes a personality quality (extreme or foolish pride or dangerous overconfidence, often in combination with arrogance) that results in the downfall of a character

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