This drama is one of the great tragedy-themed plays by William Shakespeare. The themes illustrated in the play include ambition, fate, deception, and treachery. Probably composed in late 1606 or early 1607, Macbeth is the last of Shakespeare’s four great tragedies. The others are Hamlet, King Lear, and Othello.
It is a relatively short play without a major subplot. It is considered, by many scholars to be Shakespeare’s darkest work. Lear is an utter tragedy in which the natural world is amorally indifferent toward mankind. Whereas, in this play, Shakespeare adds a mystical dimension that purposively conspires against Macbeth and his kingdom.
William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a tragic play about the lust for power. In the play, we see the downfall of the once great Macbeth, as he succumbs to his own ambition and greed.
The play begins with the three witches prophesying that Macbeth will become king, and his wife Lady Macbeth urging him to kill Duncan in order to secure the throne. Fleance, Banquo’s son, escapes and Macbeth kills Duncan. Banquo’s ghost haunts Macbeth and the weird sisters are killed.
Macduff and Malcolm flee to England, and eventually return to lead an army against Macbeth.
After the death of King Duncan, Macbeth ascends to the throne as Scotland’s new leader. However, his reign is plagued by guilt and paranoia, largely due to his involvement in Duncan’s murder. In an effort to secure his power, Macbeth hires assassins to kill Banquo, a fellow general and former friend who he believes poses a threat to his rule. This act sets off a chain of events that leads to further bloodshed and destruction, ultimately resulting in Macbeth’s downfall.
The witches play an important role in Macbeth as they provide the motivation for many of the characters’ actions. They first prophesy that Macbeth will become king, which leads him to murder Duncan in order to claim the throne. They also predict that Banquo’s descendants will one day rule Scotland, prompting Macbeth to have him killed in order to prevent this from happening. The witches also play a significant role in Lady Macbeth’s mental decline, as she is driven mad by guilt over her involvement in Duncan’s murder.
The ghost of Banquo also appears to Macbeth and reminds him of the witches’ prophecy that his descendants will one day rule Scotland. This drives Macbeth to further paranoia and bloodshed as he attempts to secure his position on the throne.
In the end, it is Macduff and Malcolm who lead the charge against Macbeth and his reign of terror. They are successful in defeating him and restoring order to Scotland.
Macbeth – He is one of the chief generals of King Duncan and his closest advisor in the military.
Lady Macbeth- She is the wife of Macbeth and had a horrible and criminal type of nature who plans to murder a king to make his husband the next king.
The Witches- There are three witches who make prophecy and misguides Macbeth. His spells were the reason for the murder of Banquo and Duncan.
Banquo – He is the second chief general after Macbeth in Duncan’s army. He was present when three witches said their prophecy to Macbeth. Although ambitious, he did not take any bad actions like Macbeth
Duncan – He is the ruler of Scotland and later became the opponent of Macbeth to be termed as a king. He was a brilliant leader, virtuous and kind.
Macduff – He was a gentleman who opposed the ascension of the Macbeth’s throne. He was one of the reasons that Macbeth left the throne and had to give it away to Malcom
Malcom – He was the eldest son of the two son’s of King Scotland. He fled away from Scotland after his father’s murder. Later he regained the throne and restored Scotland’s Order as was in his father’s reign.
Donalbain – The second son of Duncan and younger brother of Malcom.
Fleance – He lived through the murder of his father and also from his attempted murder by Macbeth. He played an important role in the prophecy.
The Murderers – They were the hired men by Macbeth to kill Banquo, his son, and family of Macduff. However, they failed to kill Fleance.
Summary of Macbeth
The play opens with the appearance of trio of witches and then later moves towards the military camp where King Duncan gets to hear that his two chief generals Macbeth and Banquo have defeated the Norway army in the war against them. In the tragedy of Lear, the distraught king summons the goddess of Chaos, Hecht. In Macbeth, Hecate appears as an actual character.
Three witches decide to confront the great Scottish general Macbeth on his victorious return from a war between Scotland and Norway. They predicted a prophecy to Macbeth that how will he become the Thane of Cawdor and then later the King of Scotland. They also prophesized to Banquo that although he will never become the king he will engender the line of all Scottish King.
Meanwhile, the Scottish king, Duncan, decides that he will confer the title of the Thane of Cawdor on the heroic Macbeth. They were presented with this announcement when they are about to arrive at the camp.
This made Macbeth think about how he might become the king. He decided to invite Duncan to dine and then kill the king. Macbeth’s wife agrees to his plan as she was very sure of the witch prophecy.
They planned to make chamberlains of Duncan drink heavily so that they don’t remember any of the events and can blame them for the murder of the king. And when the body will be found he will kill the so-called culprits and will then assume to be the Crowned King.
He then murders Duncan assisted by his wife who smears his blood of Duncan on the daggers of the sleeping guards. Macduff discovers the murdered body. As per the plan Macbeth kills the guards insisting that their daggers smeared with Duncan’s blood are proof that they committed the murder. Meanwhile, the Sons of Duncan fled away from their country being afraid for their lives.
The crown then passes to Macbeth. He felt insecure about the prophecy which led to the planning in the murder of Banquo and his son Fleance. However, Fleance was not killed and escaped.
He was now incited with paranoia. To overcome his fears, he again visits the witches who said him more prophecy. They said that Macbeth must be aware of his opponent Macduff who also wishes to take the throne. They confronted that Macduff cannot be harmed by any man born of a woman and he is secured until Dunsinane Castle is visited by Birnam Woods.
When he returns home, he comes to know that Macduff has flown away and has joined his hands with Malcolm. In fury, Macbeth takes over the castle of Macduff and later orders to kill his wife and children’s
Meanwhile, more murders ensue and the bloodied ghost of Banquo appears to him. Lady Macbeth’s conscience now begins to torture her and she imagines that she can see her hands covered with blood. She commits suicide and this leads Macbeth to go into more despair and depression.
Later Macduff reaches under the security of boughs from the Birnam woods and then defeats Macbeth and becomes king. He also announced that he was not born from his mother but rather was “ripped apart from his mother’s womb” which made the last two prophecies of the witches true.
Macduff then returned the crown to its rightful heir, Malcolm.
Analysis of Macbeth
Shakespeare uses a lot of imagery in this play to develop atmosphere, mood, and characters. The images are clearly thought out and give and make a certain impression on the mind of the audience.
Often, the images foreshadow something in the future. For example, the image of the bloody knife before him in the second passage foreshadows the brutal murder that follows.
Blood is a recurring image in this play to denote guilt. Lady Macbeth feels terribly guilty about the murder and couldn’t get the blood off her hands. She frets in her sleep. The images of the bleak sky continue through the play displaying the lack of order and peace within the kingdom.
Both She and Macbeth suffer from visions of blood after the murder. She was driven insane by it.
Shakespeare uses a lot of symbolism in this play. The most often used is that of blood that is stained on Macbeth’s fictional knife before the murder. The only way to get out of it is by justifying this crime with their own deaths.
Another symbol used in the play is the raven symbolizing ill omen. The raven is often referred to as a storm crow since it tells of an upcoming storm. It served the same purpose in the play being seen before tense parts.
One more symbol in the play is the sleep which represents innocence. Those who cannot sleep, are so because they have lost their innocence and are overcome with guilt.
Macbeth is not Shakespeare’s most complex play, but it is certainly one of his most powerful and emotionally intense plays. Whereas Shakespeare’s other major tragedies, such as Hamlet and Othello, accurately explore the creative predicaments faced by their subjects.
With the fine nuances of their subjects’ characters, Macbeth tumbles madly from its opening to its conclusion. It is a sharp, jagged sketch of theme and character. It has shocked and fascinated audiences for nearly four hundred years