Theme


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Shakespeare plays are still relevant since his themes are universal (love, hate, war, ambition, racial prejudice)
The story of Macbeth might be old but ideas are very modern
There are four main themes in Macbeth

Ambition:

-play seen as about the consequences of too much ambition
-dreadful crime driven by ambition haunts Macbeth and his wife
-led to their downfall and eventual death
-Macbeth realizes the power of his ambition (I. vii.), he sets forth all reasons he has for not killing Duncan
-Lady Macbeth is even more ambitious
-she is so single-minded in her purpose that she can sacrifice all her femininity and all human feelings in her lust for power
-Shakespeare?s message is - obsessive power or ambition not achieved through our own abilities is fated to lead to total disaster

The Supernatural

-witches, ghosts, and disturbances of nature appeals to the fascination of human nature
-mood set in first scene with three witches
-important to realize that audiences in Shakespeare?s day would have taken witches seriously
-Shakespeare intended the witches to be evil
-we also see that supernatural powers need not be bad. King Edward of England (good king) can perform ?a most miraculous work...? healing sick subjects by touching them-contrast this to Macbeth whose touch seems only to bring misery to his people

Appearances Vs. Reality


-we are constantly reminded that things are not what they seem in the play
-Lady Macbeth advises Macbeth to look like a flower but be a serpent underneath
-witches provide Macbeth with a stream of information which seems comforting but is also misleading
-Shakespeare is warning us not to be fooled be appearances
(Ex. Macbeth sees a floating dagger - is it real?)
Malcolm pretends to be evil to test Macduff
The forest comes to Dunsinane
No one can harm Macbeth

-witches predictions are an example of EQUIVOCATION
-that is, they are true but disguised in a misleading way
-Macbeth realizes how badly he?s been fooled in V.v. (I pull in resolution, and begin/to doubt the equivocation of the fiend/that lies like truth)

Order/Disorder


-Elizabethan Order very important; everybody had their place
-monarch ruled by divine right and worst possible crime was to kill a king
-Shakespeare shows when the rightful place of things is upset, then everything will be upset, until situation is returned to normal
-when Macbeth murders Duncan , nature went chaotic
-country not at peace until rightful heir (Malcolm) was crowned
-Shakespeare tries to show us the great disruption caused by Macbeth?s crime:
i) dark in daytime
ii) owl kills a falcon
iii) Duncan?s horses go mad and eat each other

-under Macbeth?s rule, there can be no order
-idea that there is a natural order in the world may be the most important theme
-witches and evil ambition they produce in Macbeth are the forces of disorder which are eventually defeated at the end of the play
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