Macbeth Themes

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Macbeth Themes by Mind Map: Macbeth Themes

1. Power

1.1. After the murder of Duncan, Macbeth starts to go mad. Lady Macbeth attempts to regain control my manipulating him again by attacking his weakness: "Infirm of purpose!". This make s Lady Macbeth appear to be stronger; however, Shakespeare conveys that that L.M. is not weighed down by the guilt, yet later in the play the remorse swallows her whole despite her flimsy mask of bravery

1.2. pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, that my keen knife see not the wound it makes, nor Heaven peep through the blanket of the dark to cry, 'Hold, hold.'" - Lady Macbeth - She calls upon the smoke of Hell to rise and cover the entire castle so their deed can remain covert and so that not even the power of Heaven can hold them back. - Further enhances the idea of the Macbeths' large egos and the power they feel they possess. - Use of the adjective "keen" suggests she has a complete lack of ambivalence (hesitation/uncertainty), again showing her as evil and power-hungry. - Use of the possessive pronoun "my" shows she feels she is capable and willing to do it. This contrasts with Act 2, Scene 2 in which we see signs of her wavering courage ("Had he not resembled my father as he slept, I had done't.").

1.3. After seeing Banquo's ghost in the banquet scene, Macbeth states: "For mine own good All causes shall give way" which is poignant and evokes pathos as Macbeth has chosen his own egotistical and evil path where even his wife, Lady Macbeth, will be pushed aside if it comes to his well being.

1.4. Before we meet Macbeth, he is introduced as "brave Macbeth" who fought in the war against Norway he "unseamed" the traitor "from the nave to th'chops". Shakespeare illustrates to the reader that Macbeth is very physically powerful and is capable of extreme brutality which foreshadows how Macbeth will act in the future.

1.5. "I have given s*ck and know how tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, have plucked my n*pple from its boneless gums and dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this" - Lady Macbeth - This horrific imagery shows how murderous, evil and unstable she is. - This perhaps suggests that she is of greater evil that Macbeth as she swears to murder, without the witches' manipulation yet Macbeth is reluctant. Shakespeare wants to convey how the witches prophecies and promises to power has corrupted the integrity of lady Macbeth

1.6. Lady Macbeth is presented as psychologically powerful as she is able to manipulate Macbeth into killing king Duncan to fulfill their ambition of ruling Scotland: "When you durst do it, then you were a man". She challenges Macbeth's masculinity which provokes him to doing her bidding which shows her influence over Macbeth as a strong female character.

1.6.1. "I fear thy nature, it is too full o'th'milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way" - Lady Macbeth - This shows that Lady Macbeth has a seemingly weak perception of Macbeth. In juxtaposition to the respect Macbeth shows for his wife, this shows Lady Macbeth to be domineering and overpowering.

1.7. "unsex me here" - Lady Macbeth - She asks for the "spirits" to remove her of her femininity: "take my milk for gall". This suggests toward a rejection of her expected demure and caring, motherly, submissive qualities. She wishes to be more powerful, ruthless and without remorse like a man who would be stereotypically expected to be in Jacobean Times.

1.8. After Lady Macbeth is queen, in self reflection she recognises: "Nought's had, all's spent, where our desire is got without content." These phrases show how she has been tormented by this regret. - Use of the verb "spent" illustrates all her energy is depleted shows how she feels this torment is caused by self sabotage. - Rhyming couplets give a gloomy undertone and show how depression may be developing.

2. Ambition

2.1. "What, quite unmanned in folly?" - Lady Macbeth - Lady Macbeth says that Macbeth's foolishness has taken away his manhood. Note!: This is the last scene in which the Macbeths appear on stage together. The distance between as ambition has driven them apart shows how their relationship has broken down as Macbeth has become more ruthless and Lady Macbeth is driven mad by guilt.

2.2. Macbeth contemplates whether or not to kill Duncan, before Lady Macbeth manipulates him into committing regicide (the most unholy and dammed sin) he states: "I have no spur... only vaulting ambition which o'erleaps itself".

2.3. After the Banquet scene, Macbeth states: " I will tomorrow ... to the Weyward Sisters". The unequivocal declarative verb:"will" suggests that there is no turning back for Macbeth, he is completely indulging himself in evil and he is abusing his authority. As in Jacobean times, any contact with a witch was criminal but what make it worse is Macbeth is doing it for his own egotistical thirst for power.

2.3.1. Shakespeare clearly wants to show that Macbeth is resolute in completing his murderous rampage and scare any opposition trying to dethrone him using fear in his tyrannical powers. He tells his wife "I am in blood stepped in so far that, should I wade no more". It shows Macbeth is trapped as he has gone too far that he is at the point of no return.

2.4. Macbeth becomes enraged when he hears Malcolm is the Prince of Cumberland through the law of tanistry - a custom in celtic tibes in Scotland in the 11th century - which means Malcolm was elected to become the next King. Macbeth's selfish arrogance still desires to be king and he states: " Stars,hide your fires; let not light see my black and deep desires". Since the witches prophesied that he would be king, his arrogance is slowly driving him to becoming a megalomaniac and he will even kill to get his way.

2.5. Lady Macbeth believes Macbeth is "Art not without ambition, but without the illness that should attend it." Lady Macbeth believes Macbeth isn't capable to be king as he is "too full o'th milk of human kindness" which is strange because she is ambitious for Macbeth, but describes Virtues like kindness as obstacles, blocking his way; therefore, it is clear that shakespeare is trying to highlight L.M. Ambition for Macbeth but also that she sees the world for an augmented reality like the witches which suggests the witches may have supernatural control over her too.

2.6. When macbeth first hears the witches prophecies he states: "My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical ".The witches evoked a deep embedded thirst for ambition within Macbeth; furthermore, he believes that murder is "fantastical" which illustrates the the audience that Macbeth's ambition leads him to aberrant paths, even murder to get what he desires.

3. Supernatural/Witchcraft

3.1. The witches speak in Trochaic tetrameter which signifies how they're different to any other characters; furthermore, this highlights to the audience that they're extraterrestrial and have supernatural powers.

3.2. After Macbeth murders duncan, he believes he hears a voice cry: "Sleep no more! Macbeth does murther sleep". The personification of sleep being murdered makes makes it seem for scary for Macbeth like he'll never be able to sleep again which could be because of the witches punishing him or his pained conscience with the weight of murder impressed upon it.

3.2.1. Macbeth's ambition leads to guilt and his demise; in addition, the fact that he can't sleep could almost suggest that God is angry with him and is tormenting him for killing the king who was believed to have been chosen by God.

3.2.2. CONTEXT: In Jacobean times, people believed in the Great chain of being which was to do with spiritual nature with God at the top with the king below him, then men, then women and at the bottom rocks. To commit regicide (to kill a king) would've been the worse sin possible and would've disrupted the great chain of being which is why Macbeth "is being punished"by the supernatural.

3.3. When Banquo first sees the witches he is very shocked and confused: "That not look like th'inhabitants o'th'earth". The way he describes their look is like extraterrestrial beings which emphasises their unnatural aura which instantly highlights to a Jacobean audience who were very superstitious that they were evil witches.

3.4. CONTEXT: This would've particularly interested King James the I of England and VI of scotland who was obsessed with witches and even wrote a book on the called "daemonology" which wasd about how to spot a witch and how they should be dealt with. It was estimated that 4,400 witches in scotland were executed in the 17th century so it is obvious Shakespeare included the witches to delight King James I who was his patreon.

3.5. Shakespeare presents the witches in an ambiguous way "Supernatural soliciting" which would've thrilled the Jacobean audience who were terrified and mesmerized by the witches ungodly powers. A modern more cynical audience today isn't as interested as we have scientific knowledge to explain things like earthquakes; however, it is clear to see why he made the witches as ambiguous and evil as possible.

3.6. To open the play, the witches chant: "fair is foul and foul is fair" which suggests their immorality from the start as they believe foul play and evil is superior to integrity. Furthermore, when the audience first meets Macbeth, he ecos the words of the witches: "so fair and foul a day i have not scene". Shakespeare could be implying that the witches already have Macbeth under their influence which highlights theire supernatural powers; in addition the witches leads him into a downward spiral to his ultimate demise.

3.6.1. The witches do not force Macbeth into murdering all his opponents; however, they lead him into temptation "the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray's in deepest consequence." Macbeth gets won over by the witches small fraction of truths which lead him to hunt for the others, therefore completing it himself, but leaving a bloodied trail behind him...

3.6.2. Before Macbeth goe to murder Duncan, he has an internal struggle where he starts to hallucinate: "Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle towards my hand?" Shakespeare is suggesting to his audience that Macbeth's mind could be deteriorating from the weight on his conscience, or the effect of the supernatural are taking influence over him.

3.7. When Banquo's ghost appears on stage, Shakespeare illustrates that Macbeth has been driven into hysteria by his guilty conscience; however, a Jacobean audience could've interpreted this as the witches supernatural powers haunting Macbeth and further driving him into madness to do the Devil's bidding by delving into deeper depths of evil.

3.8. "raven" + "spirits" + "blood" + "gall" + "murd'ring" + "smoke of hell" + "knife" + "dark" + "cry" - Lady Macbeth - The semantic field of dark, evil and threatening images shows her as such and also, links her to the witches.

4. Gender

4.1. Macbeth first lines to his wife in the play are: "My dearest partner of greatness". The superlive "dearest" highlights that Macbeth sees his wife as an equal if not better which was very juxtaposed to the 17th century doctrine where women were believed to be inferior.

4.2. "Hie thee hither, that I may pour my spirits in thine ear and chastise with the valour of my tounge all that impedes thee from the golden round." - Lady Macbeth - Use of the word "spirits" links Lady Macbeth to the supernatural and thus the witches. This associates Lady Macbeth's nature with the manipulative methods of the witches. - Imperative verbs show her to be commanding Macbeth which is, again, a rarity in relationships of the time. - The phrase "chastise with the valour of my tounge" also suggests that she is braver and more ruthless than Macbeth and that she believes he needs her assisstance to be able to kill Duncan.

4.2.1. Power

4.2.2. Supernatural

4.3. CONTEXT: Clearly, gender is out of its traditional order. This disruption of gender roles is also presented through Lady Macbeth's usurpation of the dominant role in the Macbeth's marriage; on many occasions, she rules her husband and dictates his actions.

4.4. At the start of the play she defies the contemporary fear of witchcraft and calls on evil spirits to "unsex me here" and "take my milk for gall". On the one hand, Shakespeare’s use of imperatives highlight her strength and determination. On the other, they illustrate a desperation in the character. This need to change herself and remove the caring, maternal ‘milk’ may in fact foreshadow her inability to ‘stop up th’access and passage to remorse.’

4.5. Lady Macbeth is able to manipulate Macbeth using emasculation and putting fictionalising promises: "What... made you break this enterprise to me? When you durst do it, then you were a man". Shakespeare clearly wants to show that unlike most wonen in the Jacobean era, Lady Macbeth is not placid and maternal like most women, but fierce and powerful which is juxtaposed to the end of the play were the remorse inside her fills her with guilt till she deteriorates into weakness and depression.

5. Appearance vs reality

5.1. "honoured hostess" - Duncan - Duncan shows great kindness toward Lady Macbeth, making her intention to kill him all the more atrocious and highlights her deceptiveness to gain power .

5.2. In this play apparent 'fair' is often 'foul', hosts are murderers, women are not 'gentle' and men are 'not of woman born'.

5.3. "Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand?" suggests that Macbeth is unsure about whether the dagger is actually there or not and the audience are unsure about whether the witches have created the hallucination or if Macbeth's state of mind has deteriorated to insanity.

5.4. Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth to "look like th'innocent flower but be the serpent under't". The phrase embodies the theme of duality like the biblical allusion of Adam and Eve where the devil disguised as the snake tricked them into eating the forbidden fruit which lead to unseen and terrible consequences.

5.5. This theme is established as a key theme at the very start of the play with the paradox "Fair is foul and foul is fair" suggesting that things are not what they seem to be .

5.5.1. "There's daggers in men's smiles"

5.6. After Duncan's dead body is found, Macbeth asks questions like "What's the matter?" and "What is't you say, the life?" and Lady Macbeth asks "What, in our house?" as they pretend to not know of Duncan's murder and pretend to be shocked and confused.

5.7. After the thane of Cawdor is executed for being a traitor to Scotland, he states: "There's no art to find the minds construction in the face: He was a gentleman on whom i built an absolute trust" This is ironic as he thinks he can trust the new thane of Cawdor; however, behind closed doors, Macbeth is just as duplicitous and deceitful just to get what he wants.

5.8. As Lady Macbeth "sells her soul" to the evil "spirits" she asks them " Come, thick night,and pall thee in the dunnest smoke of Hell". She uses the verb "pall" to ask the evil spirits to conceal from heavens eyes under a black sheet used to wrap up dead bodies; furthermore, the superlative "dunnest" highlights that she wants to be covered by the darkest smoke so that her egregious sins are even hidden from God in "hell". "Nor Heaven peep through the blanket... to cry "Hold, hold!" suggests that her sin is so dire and evil that heaven can't see through her blanket of malice and stop her.