Macbeth English 11 Honors Paper on MacBeth Due Feb 22nd The tragedy of MacBeth is a story of courage and honor. It gives an interesting mix of love, Machiavellianism, and has a good storyline. MacBeth is a loyal subject to his king, Duncan, but goes terribly wrong when he listens to 3 witches that tell him he will rule someday. MacBeth wishes to get to power quickly with the help of his wife, Lady MacBeth, he kills Duncan, and everyone else in his way. He takes his throne but is soon overturned by his former subordinates. In MacBeth, Shakespeare creates characters who parallel other characters either through their words and actions, or through similarities in characters lives. Each character in the story has a double, through either their similarities, or through their differences. Each character also has something about them that makes them unique. MacBeth and Lady MacBeth are the epitome of an interesting parallelization.

At the beginning of the story, the two characters are complete opposites. MacBeth takes the feminine role, while Lady MacBeth is masculine: Lady MacBeth Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full Of direst cruelty! Make thick my blood, Stop up th access and passage to remorse That no compunctious visitings of nature Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between Th affectand it! Come to my womans breasts, And take my milk for gall, you murdring minis- Ters, Wherever in your sightless substances You wait on natures mischief! Come thick night, And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, That my keen knife not see the wound it makes, Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, To Cry hold, Hold! (I,v,41-54) Lady MacBeth basically states here that she wants the gods to make her a man. She wants to kill Duncan herself. On the other hand when MacBeth hears of Lady MacBeths seriousness in her actions he comes back with: MacBeth We will proceed no further in this business: He hath honored me as of late, and I have bought Golden opinions from all sorts of people, Which would be worn now in their newest gloss, Not cast aside so soon. (I,vi,31-34) Nearing the end of the story, Lady MacBeth and MacBeth switch roles.

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Lady MacBeth becomes feminine and MacBeth becomes masculine. Lady MacBeth becomes week and pitiful while MacBeth, carrys out his plans to help him remain king: Lady MacBeth 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 powr to accompt? Yet who would have though the old man to have had so much blood in him? (V,I, 36-41) MacBeth is now fully masculine and trying to keep the kingdom together. When Lady MacBeth commits suicide near the end of the story, he pushes it off and continues with his plan to remain king: MacBeth She should have died hereafter; there would have been a time for such a word.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Lifes but a walking shadow, a poor player That strits and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury Signifying nothing. (V,v, 17-28) The second pair is also interesting. This pair deals with time frames during the story (i.e.

MacBeth from the Beginning, Macduff throughout). MacBeth from the beginning of the story is the loyal thane of Glamis. He protects the king and is awarded a second territory called Cawdor. The king trusted him, and MacBeth was a loyal servant. Then, he met the three witches, which pumped prophecies or, seeds of evil into his head.

These prophecies are very tempting but are ultimately destructive. Macduff on the other hand, is faithful and loyal to Duncan and his heir Malcolm. MacDuff knew what MacBeth was plotting and he went to Malcolm to help him stop MacBeth: Malcolm Let us seek out some desolate shade, and There Weep our bosoms empty. MacDuff Let us rather Hold fast the mortal sword, and like good men Bestride our down-falln birthdam. Each new morn New widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows Strike heaven on the face, that it resounds As if it felt with Scotland and yelled out Like syllable of dolor. What Macduff is basically saying her is that Malcolm should not run and hide.

Macduff is saying that they should gain some allies and go and fight the enemy. They should find allies that have, or did have the same problem as themselves and go and fight MacBeth. Here, Malcolm is testing MacDuff to make sure he is loyal. This next pair, is directly related to the last one. King Duncan had one fatal flaw.

He could not distinguish between a loyal subject and a disloyal subject. This is how he was killed. He trusted MacBeth when MacBeth was a traitor. Malcolm, however, does not have this flaw. He is able to easily tell between a loyal, and a disloyal person.

In the last pair, Malcolm was testing MacDuff for loyalty, so this same mistake that Duncan made with MacBeth would not happen again. Finally not a pair, but, triplets. MacBeth, Lady MacBeth and the three witches all parallel each other. Each characters calls upon some type of supernatural force, or godly influence to help them, or hide them. The witches refer to a Graymalkin, which seems to be their god. MacBeth and Lady MacBeth seem to call to the stars to help them: MacBeth For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires: The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see.

(I,iv, 50-53) Lady MacBeth uses Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark. Each character has their own place in MacBeth. Thats what makes it such a good story. None of the characters conflict at any given time. This is what has made the story last throughout the years.


Macbeth In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, one of the reoccurring themes throughout the play was Fair is foul and foul is fair. This is used to explain that people and events may seem either good or bad, but after some inspection, turn out to be the opposite. In my opinion, Nothing is but what is not, is similar to Fair is foul and foul is fair, because it is declaring how things are, in fact, what people believe they are contrary to. First, throughout the play, many people end up being the opposite of how their peers actually perceive them. In the play’s opening act, the Thane of Cawdor is discovered as being a leader of the rebel forces after Duncan had previously believed in his loyalty.

In act one, the same can also be said for Macbeth. As soon as the witches tell Macbeth of his new title and then foretell that he will be king, he too begins to turn his once loyal thoughts against the beloved king. In addition to Macbeth, his wife is also a good example. She is busily making her castle ready for Duncan’s visit. When he arrives, he gives her gifts and thanks her for being his host, when she was actually planning his murder. It is a popular reoccurrence in a number of the Shakespearean plays for people to appear to be one thing, but on the inside, to be completely different.

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Not only does this theme apply to people, but it also applies to different events during the play as well. There are comments made to how the day is Foul and fair. This simply relates someone’s emotions to the weather. They could be personally having a terrible day, but the weather outside is simply gorgeous. The same was said for Macbeth’s castle when Duncan and his followers arrived for their visit.

Duncan himself commented on how nice the castle appeared. Little did he know that it would be the shelter for his demise. Next, and possibly the greatest example of Nothing is but what is not, is Macbeth’s will to become the king. He so badly wants to become the king that he finally takes a man’s life for it, eternally condemning him in the eyes of God. What Macbeth was not aware of, was that even though he was the most important man in Scotland, the evil he had caused in Scotland was so great that it would cause the holy position to be looked at as a curse.

Just as people can be foul and fair, so too can be nonliving things. One of the reasons that Macbeth is still popular today is because of its universal themes such as Nothing is but what is not. This great theme still applies to life in the twenty-first century. There are many evil people who are looked up to, and many lonely or unpleasant jobs or positions that people desire because they do not see the real substance behind the attractive gold covering. Throughout Macbeth, Shakespeare uses different forms of imagery to add to the effectiveness of the characters’ actions in the play.

Specifically though, I feel that the supernatural usage of imagery is the most effective form that Shakespeare used. The supernatural imagery told us a great deal about the personal troubles that the characters were dealing with. The first example in the play comes when Macbeth is visited by the bloody knife in his soliloquy. The fact that the knife had blood on it and the was pointed toward Macbeth did a great deal in foreshadowing the upcoming events. This hallucination came at a time when Macbeth was having a rough time deciding whether or not he would in fact take the life and the throne of Duncan.

I feel that the bloody knife was Macbeth’s will and desire for the throne of Scotland giving hem the last nudge he needed to push him to become a murderer. The blood on the knife was of course the soon to be slain Duncan, and the fact that the knife was right in front of him, easily accessible for him grab, perhaps convinced Macbeth that the murder conspiracy would, in fact, not be that difficult to perform. The first supernatural use of imagery served as a catalyst to the upcoming events that would shape the rest of the play. In addition to the bloody knife, Banquo’s ghost appearing in the king’s throne was another great use of imagery. It began to show us the great internal struggle going on inside of Macbeth.

He knew that Banquo was his friend and he would greatly benefit his cause, but he also felt that he was suspicious of Macbeth’s involvement in Duncan’s murder. He knew that if Banquo were to rival Macbeth, it would mean his definite demise. He also was worried about the witches prediction that Banquo’s descendants would be kings. In order for Macbeth to stay in power he would have to kill both Banquo and Fleance. In my opinion, Macbeth felt so guilty for killing his friend that the hallucination of his ghost was his conscience’s was of getting even with him. At this point in the play, imagery was used show the repercussions caused by Macbeth going more and more against the will of God and his own mind and beliefs.

Out of all the imagery in the Shakespearean plays we have read thus far, this supernatural imagery in Macbeth is by far the most effectively used. It is used to jump-start the events that will shape the characters’ lives, as well as the path of the play itself. It is also used to show the consequences that can result by going against one’s own conscience and morals, perhaps the most important part of who a person is. This style of imagery immensely adds to the greatness of this play. The Murder of King Duncan was perhaps the single most important event that took place in Macbeth.

The two perpetrators of the murder Macbeth, who actually did the killing, and his wife, who morally bashed him in order to make him kill both played equally important parts in the murder. Both of these characters, though, were affected in entirely different manners. First, Lady Macbeth’s changes took place more subtly and slowly. Before the murder, Lady Macbeth was entirely behind it. If it would not have been for her role, Macbeth would not have killed Duncan at all. She kept egging Macbeth on because she felt he was too nice to murder.

After the fact though, I believe that she began to regret that they had killed Duncan. She quickly became quiet and did not communicate with her husband as much. It is as though she had a complete transformation. Slowly and subtl …


Images of blood and water occur frequently throughout William Shakespeares Macbeth, the significance of which should not be overlooked. Shakespeare uses these images to portray the horror of the central action, Duncans murder. The vibrant images of blood and water also symbolize the unending guilt of the two protagonists, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. The blood and water represents their inability to erase the memory of Duncans murder and the impossibility of ridding their conscience of the unscrupulous deed they committed. The blood of King Duncan becomes too powerful for any amount of water to rinse it clean from Macbeth and Lady Macbeths hands. It overpowers their ability to forget their actions and clear their consciences.

Duncan’s blood on Macbeth and Lady Macbeths hands is symbolic of the evil crime that they had committed. The blood on their hands is also representative of the guilt, which could not be escaped. “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather The multitudinous seas incarnadine, Making the green one red. (II, iii, 61) Illustrates how no amount of water could clean Macbeths guilty conscience. He imagines that all of the water from the ocean could not clean his hands of the burden of guilt that weighed so heavily on his tormented mind. He pictures Duncans blood staining the entire ocean red. Immediately after murdering Duncan, Macbeths guilt is brought on much like a large gaping gash while Lady Macbeths guilt is more like a small cut that in time festers into a massive lesion. Lady Macbeth’s remark “wash this filthy witness from your hand, (I,ii, 47). This illustrates quite clearly that that she has far less immediate guilt for the crime and rather more physical repugnance towards her husbands blood stained hands.

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It will have blood they say; blood will have blood, (III,iv,122) Macbeth says this knowing that the murder he committed must be avenged. The only logical conclusion that can be drawn from this is that foresees his execution as the inevitable conclusion to his evil deeds. This foreshadows his death and highlights how none of his efforts to wash his hands clean of Duncans murder succeed. The same symbol of Macbeth and Lady Macbeths malicious actions not being washed away is brought out very clearly again in (V, ii, 17). Angus says, “Now does he feel His secret murders sticking on his hands”. Angus knows very well that the murders could not just simply be forgotten. He also knows that Macbeth will, in time get what he deserves. He realizes that Macbeth can no more escape his fate than assuage his guilt by washing the blood away.

A little water clears us of this deed(II, ii, 78). Lady Macbeth believes that as soon as Duncans blood is physically removed from their hands that their consciences would be cleansed as well. She urges Macbeth, at all costs, not to think of the murder or they will be driven mad, These deeds must not be thought After these ways:so, it will make us mad, (II, ii,34). Ironically, Lady Macbeth is the one overcome with obsessive thoughts of Duncans murder and these thoughts result in a mental collapse that ends in her suicide.

The bloody hand reappears when Lady Macbeth hallucinates about trying to clean her hands of Duncans blood. She says “Out, damned spot! out I say! …Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?” (V, i, 38-43). Lady Macbeth becomes overcome with grief and is driven mad. She tries to clear the imaginary blood off her hands but all her efforts are in vain, What! will these hands ne’er be clean?” (V, i, 46). When she believes that she has succeeded in ridding herself of the
stains of blood, she smells the odor of blood and comes to the inevitable conclusion that the crime can never be forgotten, “Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh! oh! oh!” (V, i,52). The guilt of Duncan’s gruesome murder, although more present in Macbeth originally, grows in Lady Macbeth until she begins having the same deranged visions of her hands getting bloodier and bloodier and not ever coming clean regardless of how much she washes them.
The blood and water in Macbeth may well play the most significant roll. It very accurately illustrates through symbolism the unsuccessful efforts of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to rid themselves of their guilty consciences. The blood clings to their hands and makes them unable to forget the repulsive crimes they committed. The end of the play carries the blood and water simile to its inevitable finale. Lady Macbeths suicide is directly a result of her inability to rid herself of the guilt and Macbeths execution is directly related to blood will have blood, (III, iv,122).


Macbeth Does the statement “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” thoroughly expresses the many themes of Shakespeares Macbeth? The first time we hear the statement is very early in the play when the witches say the exact line “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” only for Macbeth himself to repeat it very closely two scenes later. This repetition of the lines shows me that the characters themselves believe that there are many foul events taking place. In this essay I will endeavour to prove that the above statement doesnt express Macbeth thoroughly. Firstly I will show the fair Macbeth himself degrading into a foul inhuman monster. Secondly, I will compare the witches to Macbeth to demonstrate the real foulness in these characters. I will then show why I believe that there simply isnt any fairness existing in Macbeth. Then I will point out that there are simply too many themes in Shakespeares Macbeth to be summed up in one line. Macbeth, in the beginning, is a man of valour, honour and nobility.

By his loyal traits he helps maintain Scotlands stability. Macbeth, on the outside, seems to be the fairest man in all Scotland, however we know better. Under the cloaking shadows of his skin, Macbeth hides his one weakness – that is ambition. His wife knows of his ambition and stirs him to act on it. Macbeth struggles with a choice; should he let the witches prophecies realise themself, or should he take steps to the achieve them.

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He knows that the latter choice will involve the murder of his virtuous king Duncan, but even this isnt enough to sway him as he, after urging form his wife, chooses the latter. In doing so, Macbeth unrobed himself of all that is good in the human soul – kindness, courage, honour and love. Macbeth becomes so obsessed with his chase of glory that he turns away from all that he once cherished, even his wife. Macbeth becomes so blinded by his new robes of kingdom that he doe! snt even notice his wife slipping away into insanity. In the beginning Macbeth had great trouble with the concept of murder, he regrets killing Duncan – “Wake Duncan with thoust knocking, I would if I could.” However, by the end of the play Macbeth shows no sign of his human qualities, he has in fact become quite inhuman, quite foul.

Sometimes if we dont look carefully we only see things skin deep. Take the scene when Macbeth and Banquo first see the three witches. If we dont look carefully we see the fair Macbeth talking to the foul witches. However, are the witches really the foul ones? I think Macbeth is really the foul one of the party. This doesnt say that the witches are fair, but it does say that they are not foul.

The real blackness lies deep within Macbeth. So, who are the fair ones? I cant really say. I mean Macbeth is not because we know he is a cold murderer in the end, and I dont think that the witches are either. I have trouble in saying the witches are fair, because, they are witches. I would go as far to say that neither of them are fair.

However, I need to point out that those who dont look deeply enough would call Macbeth fair and the three witches foul. Beauty is only skin deep, but the will to do evil is deep to the bone. This doesnt mean that the witches are not fo! ul. In fact I think they are, witches are said to be the lovers of Satan, they carry with them images of darkness and death, how could these supernatural beings not be described as foul? As you can see I havent identified any fairness in Macbeth. This is because I believe there is none. Macbeth has been described as the “Most profound and mature vision of evil.” How can there be anything fair in a play based on evil, murder and treachery? People may argue that Macduff, the eventual victor of Macbeth was the true and good man in the play, but I would say that by winning the crown in violence, Macduff has repeated Macbeths act. Its true that Macduffs cause was more wholesome, but to coin an old phrase He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. Who can say that Duncan came into the crown by inheritance? Shakespeare has hatched a vicious circle of deception and treachery.

Perhaps its simply the witches that keep the circle in motion. If you read into Macbeth you can see many themes. Most of them can be found in Macbeth himself. For example, Macbeth shows us that evil doesnt pay and that ambition is blind. The play Macbeth contains so much imagery of evil, darkness, blood, supernatural, untimely death and murder.

I find it inconceivable that so many themes can be well summed up in “Fair is foul and foul is fair”. The principle behind Macbeth is a simple human truth, and that is of human frailty – Man can be destroyed by inner and outer circumstances. This statement is so powerful and indeed meaningful that “fair is foul and foul is fair” simply doesnt match up. The repetition of the line “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” could simply be attributed to coincidence. There was only ever one man who really knew what the above line meant, and this essay has barely scratched at the surface of his Macbeth.

I recall someone saying that without sorrow we can not know joy, so perhaps the fact that I can see evil in Macbeth shows there is also good. There are so many layers to the tragic play, Ive found it impossible to consider them all here. I may be entirely wrong in this essay, however, I believe that I followed the right path to be able to come to my conclusion – “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” does not completely summarise every theme in Shakespeares Macbeth.


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