Macbeth – Themes

Ambition The weird sisters’ prophecies spur both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to try to fulfil their ambitions, but the witches never make Macbeth or his wife do anything, they act on their own. Macbeth allows his (unhealthy) ambition to overwhelm him. Lady Macbeth is also crushed with guilt. They both sacrifice their morals to achieve power.
Fate The Weird Sisters tell Macbeth and Banquo their prophecies. By trying to master fate once, Macbeth puts himself in the position of having to master fate always. At every instant, he has to struggle against those parts of the witches’ prophecies that don’t favour him. Macbeth becomes so obsessed with his fate that he becomes delusional: he becomes unable to see the half-truths behind the witches’ prophecies. By trying to master fate, he brings himself to ruin.
Violence It begins in battle, contains the murder of men, women, and children, and ends not just with a climactic siege but the suicide of Lady Macbeth and the beheading of its main character, Macbeth. Every violent act, even those done for selfless reasons, seems to lead inevitably to the next. “Blood will to Blood”
Nature vs The Unnatural If there was political order, then there would be natural order. Macbeth shows this connection between the political and natural world: when Macbeth disrupts the social and political order by murdering Duncan and usurping the throne, nature goes haywire. The unnatural events of the physical world emphasise the horror of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s acts, and mirrors the warping of their souls by ambition.
Manhood Lady Macbeth challenges Macbeth when he decides not to kill Duncan, Banquo refuses to join Macbeth in his plot, Lady Macduff questions Macduff’s decision to go to England, and on and on. ‘Macbeth’ questions and examines manhood itself. Does a true man take what he wants no matter what it is, as Lady Macbeth believes? Or does a real man have the strength to restrain his desires, as Banquo believes? All of Macbeth can be seen as a struggle to answer this question about the nature and responsibilities of manhood.

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