Macbeth themes, motifs, and symbols

the corrupting power of unchecked ambition throughout the play, destruction is wrought when ambition goes unchecked by moral constraints. in the beginning, Macbeth is not inclined to commit evil deeds, but as the play goes on, his guilt and paranoia descend into a frantic, boastful madness.
cruelty and masculinity Lady Macbeth manipulates her husband by questioning his manhood, and wishes that she herself could be “unsexed”.
the difference between kingship and tyranny in the play, Duncan is always referred to as a king, while Macbeth is referred to as tyrant.
appearances v. reality visions and hallucinations recur throughout the play and serve as reminders of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s joint responsibility for the growing body count (ex/ Banquo’s ghost, blood on Lady Macbeth’s hands).
violence Macbeth is a famously violent play. throughout the play the audience is provided with gory descriptions of the carnage.
prophecy this sets Macbeth’s plot in motion. namely, the witches’ prophecy at the beginning of the novel (Thane of Cawdor, and King thereafter).
blood symbolizes the guilt that sits like a permanent stain on the consciences of both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
weather these violations of the natural order reflect corruption in the moral and political orders.

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