Macbeth themes

reality VS. illusion Macbeth only seems honorable; at heart he is a man who will do anything to be king. He hides his intent from Duncan with fine words, while he is planning his murder. [False face must hide what the false heart doth know. (I.vii.93)]In the beginning of the play when the witches introduce the quotation, “fair is foul, and foul is fair,” or what seems good is really bad—Macbeth; and what seems bad is really good—Malcolm flees Scotland when his father dies and looks guilty, but he is only trying to protect himself.When the witches deliver their predictions to Macbeth, he sees only the possibility of being king, and loses sight of the true nature of the witches: they are evil, even if they seem to bring good tidings. Lady Macbeth welcomes Duncan with all due respect, but she, too, is hoping to kill him so she can be queen.Macbeth reminds Banquo about the banquet—”hoping” he’ll come, but he is already planning not only Banquo’s death, but that of his son, Fleance, as well. Macbeth convinces the murderers that Banquo is to blame for the bad fortune they have recently experienced—that it wasn’t Macbeth as they men had believed.[Know That it was [Banquo], in the times past, which held you So under fortune, which you thought had been Our innocent self? (III.i.81-84)]The witches’ second set of predictions promise Macbeth a long reign. They tell half-truths to give him a “false sense of security.” Though the first prediction is true (“Beware Macduff”), the other two predictions make Macbeth believe he can’t be killed. The appearance of the predictions lures him, and the reality behind them destroys Macbeth.When Macduff meets with Malcolm in England, Malcolm believes that Macduff is working for Macbeth; in that Macduff has left his family alone, and they have been safe from Macbeth, causes Malcolm to be suspicious of Macduff. The truth is that Macduff has come to ask for for Malcolm’s help to defeat Macbeth.During this same scene, Malcolm tests Macduff by saying that if Malcolm ever becomes king, he will bring more evil to Scotland than Macbeth. He says he is lustful and greedy, but Macduff believes there are more than enough women to satisfy Malcolm, and enough wealth as well. However, when Malcolm says that all he wants to do is destroy Scotland, causing war and discord, Macduff starts to mourn Scotland’s imminent destruction.[These evils thou repeat’st upon thyself Have banish’d me from Scotland. (IV.iii.126-127)]In reality, none of this is true. When Malcolm knows that Macduff cares so much for Scotland, he is sure he can trust Macduff.At the play’s end, appearance vs reality is found in what the witches have told Macbeth regarding his future success, and the actual manner in which the predictions come to pass. Because all men have mothers, Macbeth is sure he is in no danger—but Macduff was a C-section baby; and Birnam wood cannot actually move to Dunsinane hill, but it appears that way. He knows the witches have lied:[And be these juggling fiends no more believed, That palter with us in a double sense, That keep the word of promise to our ear, And break it to our hope. The predictions which bring Macbeth great comfort actually lead him to his death. (V.viii.23-26)]
natural order VS. unnatural occurrences In Macbeth the word “nature” usually refers to human nature, and one might say that the whole play is about Macbeth’s unnaturalness. He kills his king, his friend, and a woman and her children. In the end he is destroyed when nature itself appears to become unnatural: trees walk and Macbeth has to fight a man not of woman born.The witches show us what the unnatural looks like. “What are these / So wither’d and so wild in their attire, / That look not like the inhabitants o’ the earth, / And yet are on’t?” (1.3.39-42), wonders Banquo when he first sees them. He also tells them, “You should be women, / And yet your beards forbid me to interpret / That you are so” (1.3.45-47). The witches are not fiends that only visit this world. They are inhabitants of this world who look like they should be human, but in them the human form is unnaturally distorted. Later in the scene, after he has received news that he has been named Thane of Cawdor, Macbeth asks himself “why do I yield to that suggestion / Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair / And make my seated heart knock at my ribs, / Against the use of nature?” (1.3.134-137). “Suggestion” means “temptation,” so Macbeth is asking himself why he feels himself giving into temptation, especially a temptation that makes his heart race and his hair stand on end. The “use of nature” means the way things usually and naturally are, so Macbeth means that he is not used to feeling this way. It’s as though his body is warning him against what his mind is thinking.After Lady Macbeth receives her husband’s letter, she is eager to talk him into doing the murder she knows that he has in mind. To prepare herself, she calls upon evil spirits to “Stop up the access and passage to remorse, / That no compunctious visitings of nature / Shake my fell purpose” (1.5.44-46). “Compunctious visitings of nature” are the messages of our natural human conscience, which tell us that we should treat others with kindness and consideration. Lady Macbeth wants to be unnatural, so that she can be “fell,” deadly. In the next breath, she calls upon those evil spirits — the “murdering ministers” — to “Come to my woman’s breasts, / And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers, / Wherever in your sightless substances [invisible bodies] / You wait on nature’s mischief!” (1.5.47-50). “Take my milk for gall” means “take my milk away and put gall in its place,” and “wait on” means “assist,” not just “wait for,” so she seems confident that somewhere in nature there are demons with the power to make nature itself unnatural. Just before Macbeth murders King Duncan, Banquo is preparing to go to bed, and says to his son, “A heavy summons lies like lead upon me, / And yet I would not sleep: merciful powers, / Restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature / Gives way to in repose! (2.1.6-9). Banquo doesn’t say just what thoughts are disturbing his sleep, but we can guess that they have to do with the witches’ prophecies. He certainly suspects that Macbeth intends evil to King Duncan, and he may also have some doubts about his own ambition or his own safety. In any case, such thoughts of evil are not natural; they are what human nature “gives way to” when we are going to sleep.After Banquo has gone to bed, Macbeth hallucinates, seeing a bloody dagger in the air, and then he tells himself that it is the time of night for such a hallucination: “Now o’er the one half-world / Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse / The curtain’d sleep” (2.1.49-51). “Nature seems dead” because it’s dark and quiet out, but as people fall asleep human nature seems dead, too, and then wicked dreams can take control. As Lady Macbeth waits for Macbeth to murder King Duncan and return to her, she says of the king’s grooms, “I have drugg’d their possets, / That death and nature do contend about them, / Whether they live or die” (2.2.6-8). Here she uses the word “nature” in the sense of life, which struggles with death.Later in the scene, after Macbeth has killed the king, he frets that he has murdered sleep and that he will never sleep again. He speaks of sleep as “great nature’s second course, / Chief nourisher in life’s feast” (2.2.36-37). The second course of a meal was the main course, not the appetizer or the dessert, and so the “chief nourisher.” Macbeth feels that he will never again be nourished by kindly nature. When Macbeth explains why he killed King Duncan’s grooms, he describes the horrifying sight of the dead king’s body: “And his gash’d stabs look’d like a breach in nature / For ruin’s wasteful entrance” (2.3.113-114). Macbeth is lying about his motives, but his sense of horror may be genuine. Perhaps the king’s wounds did indeed look like a great, gaping hole in life itself, a hole that lets in death and destruction. Immediately after the scene in which King Duncan’s body is discovered, there is a dialogue entirely devoted to the unnaturalness of the night of the murder. Ross is speaking with an Old Man. The Old Man’s memories go back seventy years, but nothing he can remember compares to what has happened during this night: “I have seen / Hours dreadful and things strange; but this sore night / Hath trifled former knowings” (2.4.2-4). Ross replies “Ah, good father, / Thou seest, the heavens, as troubled with man’s act, / Threaten his bloody stage” (2.4.4-6). The “heavens” are the heavens above, where God lives, and they are also the upper regions of Shakespeare’s Globe theater. Ross is saying that the heavens frown angrily (“threaten”) as they look down upon man playing his part on the stage of life, which has been made bloody by the murder of King Duncan.King Duncan should have been honored and loved, so his murder was unnatural, and Ross and the Old Man go on to tell each other of all the unnatural things that have been happening lately. They do not know that Macbeth is the murderer, but as they speak we can see the parallels to Macbeth’s unnatural acts.Ross points out that though the clock says it’s time for the sun to shine, it’s still dark. Ross thinks that maybe this terrible night is stronger than day, or maybe the day is ashamed to see what has been done in the night. We are reminded that Macbeth wanted a very dark night for the murder, one in which he wouldn’t have to look at what he was doing, and he got such a night. Now that night has lingered into the day. The Old Man comments, “‘Tis unnatural, / Even like the deed that’s done” (2.4.10-11).The Old Man goes on to say that other unnatural things have been happening, too: “On Tuesday last, / A falcon, towering in her pride of place, / Was by a mousing owl hawk’d at and kill’d” (2.4.11-13). The falcon’s “pride of place” is the highest point of its flight. And the owl, which usually catches mice on the ground, went up instead of down, and killed a falcon. Also, a falcon is a day creature, and a royal companion, while the owl is an untamable bird of night and death. If things in nature stands for things in human life, King Duncan was the falcon, and Macbeth the owl.Even worse, King Duncan’s horses, “Beauteous and swift, the minions of their race, / Turn’d wild in nature, broke their stalls, flung out, / Contending ‘gainst obedience, as they would make / War with mankind.” (2.4.15-18) A “minion” is someone’s favorite. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were King Duncan’s minions. The King showered them with honors and gifts, but they turned wild and made war on their master.All of this unnaturalness is self-destructive. In the end, the horses ate each other. At their ends, both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are eaten up from inside, Macbeth by despair and Lady Macbeth by madness.After the discussion of the unnaturalness of the night, Macduff enters and Ross asks him if it’s known who killed King Duncan. Macduff delivers — probably without believing it — Macbeth’s official version of the story, which is that the king’s grooms, bribed by the king’s sons, did the murder. Ross then comments, “‘Gainst nature still!” (2.4.27). Ross means that it’s just as unnatural for the king’s servants and sons to turn against him as it is for an owl to kill a hawk or horses to eat one another.Just before he has Banquo murdered, Macbeth justifies the deed to himself by saying that Banquo has “royalty of nature” (3.1.49), and that “under him, / My Genius is rebuked” (3.1.54-55). A man’s “Genius” is his guardian spirit, and Macbeth means that he feels that Banquo is naturally superior to him. Later in the scene, as Macbeth is giving the murderers a kind of pep talk, he points out that every dog and every man has different characteristics, “According to the gift which bounteous nature / Hath in him closed” (3.1.97-98). In both of these statements there is a sense that an individual’s nature is a given, something determined by nature in general.After he has arranged for the murder of his friend Banquo, Macbeth tells his wife that he is determined to do everything it takes to secure his position as king. He says that he will “let the frame of things disjoint [fall apart], both the worlds [heaven and earth] suffer” (3.2.16), rather than continue to “sleep / In the affliction of these terrible dreams / That shake us nightly” (3.2.17-19). This is an implicit admission that he knows what he’s doing is against both heaven and nature.A little later Macbeth reminds his wife that they are in danger because Banquo and Fleance still live. She answers, “But in them nature’s copy’s not eterne” (3.2.38). “Eterne” means “eternal,” and “nature’s copy” is nature’s copyhold, the lease on life that we all receive when we are born. We all die sometime or other, so none of us has an eternal lease on this life, and Macbeth is glad of it, because it means that Banquo and Fleance can be killed.Although Fleance escaped, First Murderer assures Macbeth that Banquo is dead, saying, “safe in a ditch he bides, / With twenty trenched gashes on his head / The least a death to nature” (3.4.25-27). He means that even the smallest of Banquo’s wounds would be enough to kill anyone. Using the word “nature” in another sense, Macbeth replies, “Thanks for that / There the grown serpent lies; the worm [Fleance] that’s fled / Hath nature that in time will venom breed, / No teeth for the present” (3.4.29-30).A little later, when Banquo’s Ghost appears and then disappears, Macbeth tries to justify himself. He says that men have been killing men for a long time, since before there were even laws against it: “Blood hath been shed ere now, i’ the olden time, / Ere human statute purged the gentle weal” (3.4.74-75). It’s a natural thing to shed blood; what’s not natural is that now the dead “rise again, / With twenty mortal murders on their crowns, / And push us from our stools” (3.4.81).At the end of the same scene, after the appearance of Banquo’s Ghost has broken up Macbeth’s feast and made Macbeth half-crazy, his wife says to him, “You lack the season of all natures, sleep” (3.4.140). A “season” is a preservative; she means that everyone needs sleep, and that his problem is just a lack of sleep. But his human nature has been so twisted by his crimes that he can no longer sleep. When Macbeth goes to the witches to learn his fate, he requires answers to his questions, even if it means that winds knock down churches, waves swallow ships, crops are lost, or palaces and pyramids crumble into nothing. He demands that, “though the treasure / Of nature’s germains tumble all together, / Even till destruction sicken, answer me” (4.1.60). “Nature’s germains” are the seeds of all nature (we might call them “the building blocks of life”), and “destruction” is imagined as a person that would destroy so much that it would become sick of itself. In short, Macbeth wants his answers, even if it means that nature will turn unnatural.Later in the scene, after Macbeth hears the prophecy that he shall never be defeated until Birnam wood come to Dunsinane, he tells himself that the prophecy means that “high-placed Macbeth / Shall live the lease of nature, pay his breath / To time and mortal custom” (4.1.100). A simpler way to say it is that Macbeth is sure that he will live out his life and die in his bed, but Macbeth’s way of saying it may remind us that he canceled Banquo’s “lease of nature,” and that he expects to get the benefits of nature by unnatural means. When Ross informs Lady Macduff that her husband has fled to England, the lady is both fearful and angry. She exclaims, “He loves us not; / He wants [lacks] the natural touch: for the poor wren, / The most diminutive of birds, will fight, / Her young ones in her nest, against the owl” (4.2.11). Her bird metaphor shows that she knows that Macduff, by himself, wouldn’t have much of a chance against Macbeth and all the powers a king can command. In such a fight Macduff would be the wren and Macbeth the owl, the bird of night and death. Even so, she’s angry with her husband because she wants him with her. In her mind, the natural thing for him to do is stay and protect her and their children.When Malcolm tests Macduff’s intentions , Macduff protests that he is not treacherous, but Malcolm answers that Macbeth is treacherous and that A good and virtuous nature may recoil / In an imperial charge” (4.3.19-20). He means that under pressure from a king, a good man may not be able to live up to his own virtuous nature. When Lady Macbeth’s waiting-gentlewoman tells a doctor of the lady’s sleepwalking, the doctor comments, A great perturbation in nature, to receive at once the benefit of sleep, and do the effects of watching!” (5.1.10). (“Watching” means staying awake.) Near the end of the scene, after Lady Macbeth says things that implicate her in the murder of King Duncan, the doctor guesses at the reason for her “great perturbation in nature”: Foul whisperings are abroad: unnatural deeds / Do breed unnatural troubles: infected minds / To their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets: / More needs she the divine than the physician” (5.1.71-74).
fate From the moment the weird sisters tell Macbeth and Banquo their prophecies, both the characters and the audience are forced to wonder about fate. Is it real? Is action necessary to make it come to pass, or will the prophecy come true no matter what one does? Different characters answer these questions in different ways at different times, and the final answers are ambiguous—as fate always is.Unlike Banquo, Macbeth acts: he kills Duncan. Macbeth tries to master fate, to make fate conform to exactly what he wants. But, of course, fate doesn’t work that way. 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 favor him. Ultimately, 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.If chance will have me king, why, chance maycrown me Without my stir.Rather than so, come fate into the list, And champion me to th’ utterance.
supernatural forces The use of the supernatural in the witches, the visions, the ghost, and the apparitions is a key element in making the concept of the play work and in making the play interesting. , it is noticed that the supernatural is definitely a major factor on the play’s style. The use of the supernatural occurs at the beginning of the play, with three witches predicting the fate of Macbeth. This gives the audience a clue to what the future holds for Macbeth. “When the battles lost and won” (Act I, Scene I, l.4) was said by the second witch. It says that every battle is lost by one side and won by another. Macbeth’s fate is that he will win the battle, but will lose his time of victory for the battle of his soul. After the prophecies of the witches’ revealed the fate of Macbeth, the plan in which to gain power of the throne is brought up. The only way to gain power of the throne was for Macbeth to work his way to the throne, or to murder King Duncan. Murdering the king was an easier plan since the motivation in his dreams urged him on. Lady Macbeth also relied on the supernatural by her soliloquy of calling upon the evil spirits to give her the power to plot the murder of Duncan without any remorse or conscience (Act I, Scene V, ll.42-57). The three sisters are capable of leading people into danger resulting in death, such as the sailor who never slept (Act I, Scene III, ll.1-37). Lady Macbeth has convinced her husband Macbeth to murder King Duncan. On the night they planned to kill Duncan, Macbeth is waiting for Lady Macbeth to ring the signal bell to go up the stairs to Duncan’s chamber. He sees the vision of the floating dagger. The interest of the dagger is that it leads Macbeth towards the chamber by the presence of evil of the dagger being covered with blood. Then the bell rings and Macbeth stealthily proceeds up the staircase to Duncan’s chamber. Once the murder has been committed, eventually Banquo has his suspicions about Macbeth killing Duncan to have power of the throne. There is constantly more guilt and fear inside Macbeth and his wife that they decide to have Banquo killed. Macbeth and his wife attend a banquet in which a ghost appears. Once the murderer notified Macbeth that the deed was done, he observed the ghost of Banquo sitting in his regular seat. This caused Macbeth to act in a wild manner, making people suspicious of his actions. (Act III, Scene VI, ll.31-120). The use of the supernatural has increased the suspense now that Macbeth is constantly relying on the prophecies of the three witches. Hecate, the Queen of witches is angry with the three sisters for not involving her in their encounters with Macbeth. The witches plan to lead Macbeth to his downfall by making him feel over-confident. (Act III, Scene V, ll.1-35). Further on in the play, Macbeth finds his way to the witches’ cave and demands to know what lies ahead for him. The three witches predict what he is going to ask and produce the first apparition which is an armed head. “Macbeth!, Macbeth!, Macbeth!, beware of Macduff; beware thane of Fife. Dismiss me: enough.” (Act VI, Scene I, ll.77-78). The first apparition tells Macbeth to beware of Macduff. Then the second apparition appears (a bloody child), and says: “Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn the power of man, for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth.” (Act IV, Scene I, ll.85-87). This apparition informs Macbeth that no man born from a woman can harm him. finally, the last apparition appears and is a child crowned, with a tree in his hand. The apparition is saying that he will never be defeated until Great Birnam wood shall come against him to High Dunsinane Hill. “Be lion melted, proud, and take no care who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are: Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until Great Birnam wood to High Dunsinane Hill shall come against him.” (Act VI, Scene I, ll.98-102). These apparitions convinced Macbeth that this was his fate and became over confident, and lead him to his death. The use of the supernatural in Macbeth results quite well with the respect of the unknown. Without the witches, the ghost, the visions, and the apparitions, “Macbeth” would have been a dull and tiresome play. Even today’s readers need motivation to read, and this ancient superstition of spirits enhanced the play dramatically.
choices to consequences Lady Macbeth goes to great lengths to convince her husband to go through with the murder, when he has second thoughts.【What beast was’t, then, That made you break this enterprise to me? When you durst do it then you were a man;And, to be more than what you were, you would Be so much more the man. Nor time nor place Did then adhere, and yet you would make both” (Act I, Scene VII)】Macbeth chooses ambition over everything else in life. After he kills Duncan, he loses everything a little at a time. The ability to eat, sleep, the comfort of family and friends.【”Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleepno more! Macbeth does murder sleep,’ the innocent sleep, Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care, The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath, Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s secondcourse, Chief nourisher in life’s feast,” Act II, Scene II) “Blood hath been shed ere now, i’ theolden time,Ere human statute purg’d the gentle weal; Ay, and since too, murders have been perform’d Too terrible for the ear: the times have been, That, when the brains were out, the man would die, And there an end; but now they rise again, With twenty mortal murders on their crowns, And push us from our stools: this is morestrange Than such a murder is.” (Act III, Scene IV) 】After Banquo’s murder, Macbeth sees his ghost and starts to lose his mind.In the end, both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are swallowed up by fatal consequences to their actions.

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