Shakespeare’s powerful play Macbeth effectively explores the nature of evil and its effects and costs. He examines what causes people to commit evil acts such as ambition, greed and lust for power through themes, characters, language and dramatic techniques.
The theme of the play is that uncontrolled ambition can make people do evil things but that evil never wins in the end. The play shows the battle between good and evil and the cost of evil. Macbeth breaks the great chain of being by killing the king. Shakespeare provides a lesson for the audience by showing the cost of evil deeds. Macbeth loses the respect of his friends and countrymen, loses interest in life and is killed, while Lady Macbeth’s guilt causes her to commit suicide.
In the play there are several motifs which illustrate the theme, including guilt blood. For example, when Lady Macbeth wants to become brave enough to go through with the murder of the king, she says “Make thick my blood”. Also when Macbeth is about to kill the king he sees an imaginary dagger which has “gouts of blood” on it.
The play’s characters also portray evil and its effects through their actions and words. For example, Macbeth becomes corrupted by his “vaulting ambition” which turns him from “noble Macbeth” into an “untitled tyrant”. The witches know Macbeth has been overtaken by evil they say “something wicked this way comes” when he approaches them. To get what he wants Macbeth is prepared to do anything. This involves evil deeds like violence and deception. He even kills his friend Banquo when he realizes that Banquo suspects that he killed the king. He says, “our fears in Banquo stick deep”. Banquo by contrast is not corruptible so Macbeth must kill him.
The cost of evil for Macbeth is that he has no peace after his evil deeds. He loses everything he valued – the crown, friendship, respect and his wife and his own life. Along the way he becomes paranoid as we see in the banquet scene where Banquo’s ghost appears as a “horrible shadow”. This shows us that his conscience is torturing him and is giving him no peace. He also loses interest in life which is shown in his word,” Out, out, brief candle!/Life’s but a walking shadow”
Shakespeare uses a range of figurative language to illustrate that evil deeds can’t bring rewards, Shakespear uses a metaphor “Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown” which show that even after he kills to get the crown it is an empty victory as he has no children to pass it on to.
The cost of evil for Macbeth is also shown through dramatic devices such as the dagger scene where Macbeth resolves to kill the king. Through a soliloquy we find out the inner thoughts of Macbeth when he tells the audience that he can see a dagger floating in the air leading him to the king’s chamber. We are not sure if it’s real which adds to the ghostly and creepy atmosphere. He says, “I have thee not and yet I see thee still” and we can see that he indeed has a “heat oppressed brain’.
Lady Macbeth badly wants to become queen and is prepared to do evil to get it. Ambition also corrupts her. She is the one who persuades Macbeth when he has second thoughts about killing the king by questioning his masculinity by saying, “Be so much more the man” and “To wear a heart so white”. She would have killed the king herself but he resembled her father. This shows how ruthless she has become.
Lady Macbeth badly wants to become queen and ambition corrupts her. She is the one who persuades Macbeth to kill the king. She is concerned that M is too full of the “milk of human kindness” to carry out the murder of the king so she pushes him to do the deed by shaming his sense of manhood, “Be so much more the man .” She hatches the plot to kill the kill. Her evil is shown through her desire to stop being female. She says is calling to dark spirits to , “unsex me” and “fill me” with “direst cruelty” which means she actually wants to embrace evil completely.
Shakespeare uses Figurative language to show Lady Macbeth’s deceitful character, for example he uses the symbol of blood to show her evilness and her guilt. She says “Out damned spot” while sleepwalking.
This scene also reflects the use of very good dramatic technique, the soliloquy to show the audience that although she does evil when awake, Lady Macbeth is bothered by guilt underneath. In this way Shakespeare further shows that evil cannot win over good and that nothing can hide evil. For example she says, “all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.”
But she knows “what’s done cannot be undone”. In the end she can’t stand the guilt and kills herself. She pays the ultimate price with her life.
The witches are introduced right at the start which tells the audience the play is about evil as witchcraft was considered very real and considered evil in Shakespeare’s times. The witches choose Macbeth to bring evil to life. They know he is corruptible and confirm this by saying “Something wicked this way comes”.
The literary language used by the witches that makes it clear they are evil, for example, “We hover through the fog in the filthy air” They also say, “Eye of newt and toe of frog” which tells the audience they are cooking up a supernatural potion. The evil effect is also show in the rhythmic chant, “Double, double toil and trouble. Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.”
All this creates a creepy and sinister atmosphere that suggests evil.
The dramatic devices Shakespeare used to portray the witchcraft includes the setting which was a desolate place, the use of the cauldron and its evil ingredients like human body parts “Nose of Turk”. Shakespeare also uses apparitions which are conjured up as part of the prophecies of Macbeth’s future including a head in armour; the bloody child; and a child wearing a crown, holding a tree, which illustrate the witches’ prophesies.
Macbeth by Shakespeare clearly shows the audience that it is not worth doing evil. He does this through exploration of themes, characters, language and dramatic techniques and convinces the audience that evil never wins in the end.
Gives the audience the clear message that evil can never win over good. In the play Macbeth he shows the audience what drives people to commit evil deeds and shows the cost of those actions. He also shows that evil can never bring any good. illustrates the attraction and cost of evil throughout the play through its plot, theme, characters, language and dramatic devices. Shakespeare shows us that evil cannot win and in the end goodness is restored.
Courtney from Study Moose
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