Brutality and Treachery in Shakespeare’s Macbeth

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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The father of English drama, better known as William Shakespeare wrote Macbeth to view a perspective of ambition and bloodlust in exchange for a goal. Some great themes of Macbeth include great ambition or lust for power ultimately brings ruin, difference between kingship and tyranny and guilt haunts the guilty throughout the story progression Macbeth demonstrates the worst of what he and Lady Macbeth can become following these themes. With the themes being very prevalent as the story progresses make up what our character, Macbeth is facing with feelings of bloodlust, ambition and paranoia. All emotions from the occurring events prove to be fatal to the character because of a series of fate and malicious decisions. Shakespeare mainly summarizes the theme of great ambition or lust for power ultimately brings ruin in Acts 1, 4 and 5 of Macbeth. When Macbeth was announced King of Scotland, Banquo, Angus and Ross all supported him ultimately leading to him having a mindset that he could take over the throne. (honor eventually turns into greed as Macbeth starts to fantasize about royalty) While Macbeth is captivated at his newfound title Banquo seems to be encouraging him with sayings such as: Good sir, why do you start and seem to fear,/ Things that do sound so fair?/ L’th’ name of truth, Are ye fantastical, or that indeed which outwardly ye show?/ My noble partner/ You greet with present grace and great prediction/ Of noble having and of royal hope,/ That he seems rapt withal./ To me you speak not. (Act 1 Sc 3 pg 17)

After Banquo supporting Macbeth to be King; Ross also says: And,/ for an earnest of a greater honor,/ He bade me,/ from him,/ call thee Thane of Cawdor: In addition hail,/ most worthy Thane,/ for it is thine. (Act 1 Sc 3 pg 21) With these thoughts exciting Macbeth, he mentions his thought of killing King Duncan and blames his feelings of confidence/ambition on fate. He plans to keep these violent ideas close to him as he rules out his time as King and keeps Lady Macbeth also very close in with detail to how he wants to overturn the throne in his favor with his capability of violence. Through Macbeth forcefully ruling the throne others have come to see what he has truly become this entire time with Lady Macbeth, the strong and passionate queen assisting him to be corrupt and rule with an iron fist. Flourishing thoughts of future King and Queen harness with a theme of difference between kingship and tyranny almost similar to how Macbeth’s thoughts fell together in the first Act. Loving his position he attacks physically instead of verbally just how he and the mistress have planned in both Act 1 and 3. As Macbeth rules problems get worse and worse among the castle because he is so motivated to stay in control as King but everyone has had foul thoughts of getting rid of him such as Macduff visiting King Edward to tell him that Macbeth is ripe for a shaking in hopes to get him out of the throne or kill him.

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Macbeth still shows everlasting greed in the first thought of being King as to later when he says: All causes shall give way. I am in blood Stepped in so far that,/ should I wade no more,/ Returning were as tedious as go o’er. (Act 3 Sc 4 pg 109) Greed overtakes Macbeth as he rules unaware of anybody else’s plan besides Macduff and King Edward’s. Stirring thoughts of the mistress and her King soon reach the maximum with endless nights without sleep, haunting memories and role in the royalty and what they had to do to get there from the beginning. With these consequences of the killings they both suffer in a mental world of torment and this being a very prevalent example of guilt haunts the guilty in Shakespeare’s writing. Macbeth envisions a levitating dagger and even at that moment he knows his state of mind is slipping from him as he continues to be king: Is this a dagger which I see before me,/ The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee/ I have thee not, and yet I see thee still/ Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible To feeling as to sight? Or art thou but A dagger of the mind, a false creation,/ Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?/ (Act 2 Sc 1 pg 51) The dagger could be seen as a type of symbolism of violence/betrayal for Macbeth killing King Duncan and giving himself the throne and also telling the murderers to kill Banquo. As Macbeth suffers Lady Macbeth also sees the same fate as in having a bad habit of constantly washing her hands because of the blood that was once covered from the betrayal of murders. Out, damned spot! Out, I say!”One, two. Why,/ then, ’tis time to do ‘t. Hell is murky!”Fie, my lord,/ fie! A soldier, and afeard? What need we fear/ who knows it, when none can call our power to/ account?”Yet who would have thought the old/ man to have had so much blood in him. (Act 5 Sc 1 pg 163)

Lady Macbeth is haunted by her guilt of committing murders and helping Macbeth be where he was and now they both suffer from the supernatural occurrences that are happening. As these strange supernatural tormentings occur guilt is literally haunting the guilty with their own crimes and sensory visions they’ve experienced. Macbeth and his royalty ultimately got the better of him in the conclusion of his death, a classic by William Shakespeare, with each theme revealing various times. Macbeth had a true appetite for hunger and ruling over his peers including the whole town and once he achieved that goal in a foul manner he betrayed the King that protected him while Macbeth was a commoner (the difference between kingship and tyranny) and was haunted by his actions (guilt haunts the guilty) in the end leading to his death. (great ambition or lust for power ultimately brings ruin) In the end when Macduff told King Edward about their town and how Macbeth rules; Macbeth soon knew his fate and what was in store for him with his acts against the kingship, the guilt and his ruin in general, primarily all themes tie together through Macbeth’s actions. The mistress and King’s paranoia takes over and leaves them in a fog of thought and feelings that gives them no direction to go besides to meet their fate. Shakespeare best categorizes the story Macbeth in a whole as ambition; all along Macbeth had the ambition to strive to become King and obtain the royalty he wanted but he wanted to take it quickly rather than lawfully as he should have. Physical power corrupted the man that was haunted yet, gifted the quality of having an ambitious power to accompany the physical power.

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Brutality and Treachery In Shakespeare's Macbeth. (2019, Jan 04). Retrieved from