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English essay: Macbeth and today’s society Among Shakespeare’s highly successful oft quoted dramatic works is the tragedy themed play Macbeth. The themes illustrated in the play include ambition, good vs. evil, superstitions, deception and treachery. In brief, the play is about Macbeth’s encounter with three witches and how this meeting eventually brings him to killing the king of Scotland. General Macbeth is just returning from a victorious war between Scotland and Norway, when he and another General called Banquo happen upon three witches.
The three witches predict that Macbeth will one day become king and Macbeth starts to think out a murder on the Scottish king, Duncan. Meanwhile, Duncan has heard of Macbeth’s brave fight in the war and Duncan decides for this reason to confer the title of traitorous Cawdor on Macbeth. Macbeth tells his wife, Lady Macbeth about his evil plans and Lady Macbeth, being very greedy herself, agrees to his plan. He then murders King Duncan assisted by his wife who smears the blood of Duncan on the daggers of the sleeping guards.
Before long, the nobleman, Macduff discovers Duncan’s dead body but Macbeth is quick to blame the two guards for Duncan’s murder and he kills them on the spot. The crown is passed to Macbeth and, for a short while, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are living a happy life in affluence. More murders ensue, and from this moment things start to go downhill for the couple. Lady Macbeth’s conscience starts to torture her and she imagines that she can see her hands covered with blood. She commits suicide and the story ends, however, with Macduff killing Macbeth and becoming king.
Looking at the themes in Macbeth, we find that they can in so many ways be related to today’s society. As a matter of fact, the story of Macbeth still strikes a chord in modern audiences. Shakespeare was known to write stories that revealed universal truths about the human condition and this was done in a way we can all relate to: whether it is the tragic outcome of unchecked greed and ambition, and unrelenting desire for revenge or the pursuit of love. Hence, his representation of human nature is just as real and as relevant today, as it has been through the centuries.
Today, many bloggers have decided to blog about this very topic which, as a result, has started endless conversations on various blog websites. Take for instance, the blog post, January 7, 2011 in which Melinda Tran comments, “Similar to Macbeth, many people will go great lengths in order to achieve their goals in life. Some are consumed with ambition to the point where it doesn’t matter what the consequences are for their actions as long as they are satisfied. ” Truly, ambition is one among many important themes in Macbeth and as Melinda Tran says, it is seen in the play as Macbeth’s driving force.
Macbeth is driven by ambition but like many other passions and impulses, ambition can be both foul and fair. Through Macbeth, we see that it can be fair when put to good uses, and when it is kept in check by one’s sense of right and wrong. On the other hand, ambition is foul when it becomes so powerful that it destroys a person’s morality. Tran compares Macbeth’s over ambitiousness with modern day’s business people as she says, “An example of this is seen when our economy fell into a deep recession as a result of ambitious business people. To put the story of Macbeth into perspective, many dictators including Hitler have, like Macbeth, used ambition foully thereby driving their countries into the ground. We have seen numerous examples on this through time. Melinda Tran’s idea is supported by Mike Paskas who claims that Macbeth had gone great lengths only to satisfy himself and this brings me to yet another theme: Good vs. evil. The theme good versus evil is at the heart of Macbeth. The witches set the tone at the very beginning: fair is foul and foul is fair.
Macbeth was left to choose whether to act fairly or foully but since it lies in the saying that good must exist side by side with evil; he was fair and foul at the same time. Good versus evil can also be seen in the light of our justice system. In this case, it is the constant battle between the police and criminals that keep our society at balance. Another significant theme is superstitions. Macbeth believed in superstitions which is not uncommon for people of our time. Just like Macbeth, Tran assures that modern day people follow superstitions that are put in their minds even when they’re wrong.
This is, perhaps, due to their fear of bad fortune or just in order to keep out of danger. Themes such as deception and treachery come to play in Macbeth when Macbeth purposely deceives King Duncan by literally backstabbing as a result of his power-hungry and greedy mind. In today’s society this is seen in the sense that “too many people look out for themselves, not for others as a whole” says Mike Paskas. One can also view it as most evil leader’s way to power. Evil leaders would play falsely and act in an extraordinarily kind manner just to win the audience’s attention.
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Then as soon as they come to power, they carry out their evil plans. The fact that one can draw parallels between Macbeth and modern day society makes Shakespeare so peculiar and unique in his writing. Shakespeare was clearly a little ahead of his time when looking merely at his use of the English language but, nevertheless, human nature will always remain the same. In this way, Shakespeare’s writing, however, suited his time. Human beings will be ambitious, good, evil, superstitious, deceitful and treacherous, come what may.
Author: Cari Minns
English Essay – Macbeth
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1. The fantastical and grotesque witches are among the most memorable figures in the play. How does Shakespeare characterize the witches? What is their thematic significance?
2. Compare and contrast Macbeth, Macduff, and Banquo. How are they alike? How are they different? Is it possible to argue that Macbeth is the play’s villain and Macduff or Banquo its hero, or is the matter more complicated than that?
3. Discuss the role that blood plays in Macbeth, particularly immediately following Duncan’s murder and late in the play. What does it symbolize for Macbeth and his wife?
4. Discuss Macbeth’s visions and hallucinations. What role do they play in the development of his character?
5. Is Macbeth a moral play? Is justice served at the end of the play? Defend your answer.
6. Discuss Shakespeare’s use of the technique of elision, in which certain key events take place offstage. Why do you think he uses this technique?
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Macbeth (No Fear Shakespeare)
Macbeth (SparkNotes Literature Guide Series)