What is the Theme of Macbeth?
How it works
Macbeth is one of the finest and bloodiest pieces of art written by the famous William Shakespeare. Unlike most of Shakespeare plays that mostly focus on love and trust, this play uniquely takes a dark approach for the worst. Upon reading the dark and mysterious literature of Macbeth, us as readers can conclude and take out a handful of themes. However, one that particularly stands out the most is ambition and corrupt power. More specifically, power corrupts you, makes you ambitious and affect your human moral. When Macbeth finds out the witches prophecy, Macbeth plants a seed in his mind of the thought of being king. Soon it sprouted for a deep thirst for power and a rampant ambition. That same ambition leads Macbeth to commit atrocious actions such as killing Duncan (with the help and coaxing of Lady Macbeth) and Banquo. Until finally the uncontrollable ambition would become so overwhelming that it would cause Macbeth to lose his human morality and lead to Macbeth’s own undoing.
At the beginning of the play, we follow Macbeth, our main character, and first see him as normal Scottish general. However, throughout the play, three witches appear claiming a prophecy that Macbeth will first become the Thane of Glamis, then Thane of Cawdor and finally becoming king. At first, Macbeth seemed a bit skeptical about it, but once the prophecies started to become true, Macbeth started to ponder whether becoming a king was possible. Macbeth finds this possibility appealing and he himself knows that he will have to perpetrate violent acts if he ever wishes to become King. In this, we start to see the first signs of ambition start to appear in Macbeth. We see that Macbeth is not satisfied with just being a general and greedily wants more than that. We also start to notice that Macbeth will do just about anything to get the position as king and that his ambition will control Macbeth.
How it works
In order for Macbeth to become king, he must get rid of Duncan, former king of Scotland. At first, Macbeth seems a bit hesitant and doubtful about killing Duncan. In that, we see Macbeth’s unwillingness to go on with his plan and Macbeth realizes that his own ambition is leading him on a dangerous path. Upon seeing this, Lady Macbeth decides to step in and give Macbeth a little push. Knowledgeable about the three witches’ prophecy, Lady Macbeth wants to see Macbeth succeed and wants to fulfill her own ambitions. However, she knows her husband very well that Macbeth is capable of having power-hungry dreams but lacks the mercilessness and capacity of achieving those dreams. Therefore, Lady Macbeth has a conversation with Macbeth to give courage to kill Duncan. Upon battling his ambition, Macbeth gives in and kills Duncan. This part of the play proves that ambition can control your actions and that it can influence you to commit the wrong deed. This also shows that Macbeth’s ambition is growing stronger because of Lady Macbeth’s interference.
Now that Duncan is dead, Macbeth was finally able to become king. He was finally able to complete his goal yet, Macbeth felt insecure. Firstly, Macbeth does not seem at peace with giving in to his ambition and feels guilt in killing Duncan. Secondly (and most importantly), Macbeth is afraid that he might lose his position as king since there are potential threats to the throne such as Fleance, Macduff, and Banquo. Even though the witches’ prophesized that Banquo would not become king, they did say that his children would become future heir to the throne. Upon hearing the news, Macbeth is determined to kill Banquo in order to prevent his children from being the next kings. In addition, with Macbeth’s guilt of killing Duncan, it pushes Macbeth to commit another heinous crime. Even though Macbeth is already king, he still motivated to eliminate his enemies and ambitious to obtain more power. It just proves even more that all the corrupt power and ambition has made Macbeth lose his sense of right and wrong and commit a chain of crimes. We see Macbeth blinded by his own ambition and takes over all together.
Overall, we can clearly see that the main theme of Macbeth is ambition and corrupt power. We follow the story of Macbeth, in which we see that he started out as a good and honorable general. But upon hearing the witches’ prophecy of becoming king, it makes Macbeth crave for power and ambition starts to build up. Macbeth tries to control his ambition by telling himself not to kill Duncan, but Lady Macbeth pushes her own ambition onto Macbeth. As a result, Macbeth becomes clouded by his own ambition, kills Duncan and Banquo, and completely loses his human morality. It goes to show that if you possess too much dark ambition, it can grow into a monster that will destroy you if you give in.