Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for Macbeth by William Shakespeare that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in Macbeth and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of William Shakespeare's Macbeth in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from Macbeth at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Power of Power
One of the most profound and disturbing themes in Shakespeare’s Macbeth involves the power that power exerts over an individual who has ascended to a post of authority. Under the influence of unchecked power, Macbeth takes actions that have serious and devastating consequences for himself and for other characters in the play. Once Macbeth has committed an act in which he uses power for negative ends, he finds it increasingly difficult to restrain himself from resorting to the perverted use of power. Ultimately, it his inability to distinguish the adaptive and maladaptive functions of power from one another that prevents him from realizing his potential greatness.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Role of Witches in Macbeth
Macbeth introduces an element of fantasy into the normal tragedy narrative through the characters of the witches. The witches are important figures in the play, as their function is both to predict Macbeth’s fate and to signal to the reader what is to come. Far from serving as a distracting element, the witches help focus the reader on some of the darker and more sinister aspects of the play. Shakespeare’s use of this fantasy element is effective as a narrative technique.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Role of Lady Macbeth
Lady Macbeth is a character who makes an easy reading and interpretation of the play impossible. Like many female characters, Lady Macbeth was cast into a role not entirely of her own choosing; however, like her husband, she finds that once she is on the path of darkness, it is impossible for her to turn back. In fact, Lady Macbeth becomes even more bloodthirsty than her husband, and she encourages him to use his power to perpetrate violence against others. A character analysis of Lady Macbeth reveals that she is a complex character who adds depth to an otherwise straightforward play about power dynamics.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #5: Blood Imagery in Macbeth
Violence and the bloodshed that results are important symbols in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. While the blood that is shed is a tangible reminder of the outcomes of misused power, it also serves as an image that provokes Macbeth to reflect upon his deeds, even if he does not change his behavior. Macbeth becomes obsessed with the blood on his hands. Unfortunately, this reminder of his guilt does not prevent him from continuing violent acts.
This list of important quotations from Macbeth by William Shakespeare will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Macbeth listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of Macbeth by William Shakespeare they are referring to.
“Let not light see my black and deep desires…." (I.iv.51)
“Yet I do fear thy nature. It is too full o the milk of human kindness….Thou wouldst be great, Art not without ambition, but without The illness should attend it." (I.v.16-20).
“Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe
topful of direst cruelty!" (I.v.41-43).
“…We but teach bloody instructions, which, being taught, return To plague th’ inventor" (I.vii.8-10)
“O horror, horror, horror! Tongue nor heart Cannot conceive nor name thee!" (II.iii.63-64)
“[B]lood will have blood." (III.v.121)
“I have a strange infirmity, which is nothing To those that know me." (III.v.85-86)
“Something wicked this way comes." (IV.1.45)
“The spirits that know All mortal consequences have pronounc’d me thus: ‘Fear not, Macbeth, no man that’s born of woman Shall e’er have power upon thee.’" (V.iii.6-7)
“The time approaches That will with due decision make us know What we shall say we have, and what we owe." (V.iv.17-19).
Reference: Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. In Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. In The Riverside Shakespeare. Eds. G. Blakemore Evans and J.J.M. Tobin. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. 1360-1390.
Blood Symbolism in Macbeth
by Sean Lowe
Symbolism is the practice of representing peoples, places, objects, and ideas by means of symbols or of attributing symbolic meanings or significance to objects, events, or relationships. Most great works of literature seem to include some degree of symbolism. Accordingly, Shakespeare’s Macbeth exhibits a great deal of symbolism. One heavily used symbol is that of blood. In Macbeth, blood symbolizes murder and guilt, and Shakespeare uses this symbol to characterize Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
Blood reveals Macbeth’s feelings about murder. For example, blood symbolism exposes the apprehensiveness of Macbeth before he kills . Macbeth hallucinates a dagger floating before him, guiding him towards ’s room. “And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood, / Which was not so before.—There's no such thing: / It is the bloody business which informs / Thus to mine eyes” (IIi 21). Macbeth’s brain is so “heat-oppressed” (IIi 20), or feverish, about the murder that it projects a symbol of murder, the bloody dagger. After killing , Shakespeare uses the blood symbol to express Macbeth’s horror and guilt over his crime. Macbeth says, “What hands are here! Ha! they pluck out mine eyes” (IIii 24). Macbeth says that the sight of the blood, the idea of murder, is so awful it metaphorically rips his eyes out, indicating the magnitude of his shock. Macbeth not only is horrified by the murder, but also feels extreme guilt:
Will all great 's ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No; this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red (IIii 24)
Macbeth also suffers guilt for murdering Banquo. When Macbeth meets with the Thanes at a banquet, Banquo’s ghost appears. Macbeth indicates that the ghost haunts him in accusation. Macbeth protests “Thou canst not say I did it: never shake / Thy gory locks at me” (IIIiv 45). Gory locks indicate that Banquo is bloody. Banquo’s appearance, then, is a projection of Macbeth’s guilt. His conscience is self-accusatory. Shakespeare also uses the blood symbol to illustrate Macbeth’s acceptance of his guilt. He tells Lady Macbeth, “I am in blood / Step't in so far that, should I wade no more, / Returning were as tedious as go o'er” (IIIiv 48). In this metaphor comparing guilt to a pool or marshland, Macbeth says he has waded so far into this pool that it would be as difficult to turn back as it would be to “go o’er,” to continue. This metaphor elucidates Macbeth’s “no turning back now” attitude towards murder and evil. Macbeth seems to feel that he is already so guilty that he might as well accept it. The blood metaphor reveals a fundamental attitude change in Macbeth. He goes from remorseful guilt to dry acceptance.
Blood symbolism also reveals much about Lady Macbeth’s attitude towards murder changes. Initially, she is a beguiling instigator of murder, and her first reaction to blood displays this nonchalant attitude. She tells Macbeth, “My hands are of your colour, but I shame / To wear a heart so white” (IIii 24). Lady Macbeth effortlessly washes off this blood with water, disregarding the guilt. Lady Macbeth’s second reaction to blood, however, exhibits shock over her husband’s free acts of cruelty. She sees the guards her husband has slain and faints. Covered in blood, the murdered guards underline Macbeth’s malice and cruelty. Therefore, when Lady Macbeth faints at the sight of these symbols, she makes obvious her change from plotting instigator to shocked observer. Blood continues to symbolize guilt, and eventually, just as Macbeth wants to remove blood from his hands, Lady Macbeth wants to cleanse her hands of blood and guilt. She visualizes a spot of blood on her hands and perpetually tries to wash it off. “Out, damned spot! out, I say!” (Vi 72). The stigma of guilt, however, cannot be removed, which reveals Lady Macbeth’s haunting, incurable guilt over the murders during Macbeth’s reign. Lady Macbeth continues in woeful guilt, saying “The Thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now? / What, will these hands ne’er be clean? No more / o’ that, my lord, no more o’ that: you mar all with / this starting” (Vi 72). She says her hands will never be clean, indicating that this guilt will remain indefinitely. Comparing Lady Macbeth’s reactions to blood in the beginning of the play to her final reactions reveals her metamorphosis from guilt-free to guilt-ridden.
Blood symbolism serves as a continuous indicator of characters’ emotional progression. Macbeth’s and Lady Macbeth’s reactions to blood underline their inverse attitude changes. Macbeth moves from immeasurable guilt to callous killer, while Lady Macbeth starts as the callous killer and falls to a state of despair. Thus, the blood symbol allows the reader to not only see the character changes of Macbeth’s two main characters, but also compare and contrast these changes.