Macbeth Essay: Example and Tips

Examples of topics for Macbeth essay

  • Characteristics of the main hero in Macbeth by W. Shakespeare
  • Use of symbolism and its meaning in Macbeth
  • Comparison of Macbeth and Richard III
  • “Macbeth”, literary analysis of the tragedy by William Shakespeare – example

Macbeth essay example. “Macbeth”, literary analysis of the tragedy by William Shakespeare


Tragedies are the creative core of the heritage of W. Shakespeare. They express the power of his ingenious thought and the essence of his era, which is why the subsequent epochs, if they turned to Shakespeare for comparison, first of all because of them interpreted their conflicts. Over time, new and new interpretations left their stamp on Shakespeare’s tragedies, and the main burden was on the shoulders of the central heroes: Hamlet, Othello, Lyra and Macbeth. However, the hero of W. Shakespeare is not the whole play, but only one of her characters; the very same play, in turn, represents the whole stage world. In Shakespeare’s tragic play, a developed, socially and psychologically diverse system in the arrangement and interaction of figures is presented.

Tragic attitude clearly and sharply manifested itself in W. Shakespeare in the middle of his creative path, at the turn of the XVI and XVII centuries. Shakespeare’s tragedies of this period of creativity do not constitute a cycle, they are independent, but all seven plays are interconnected not only with the affiliation of one author, the generality of the genre and the time of their creation. They also develop a general theme for them of the crisis of the Renaissance humanistic consciousness in the conditions of the crisis state of society.

The tragedy “Macbeth” was created by Shakespeare in 1606, three years after the death of Queen Elizabeth and the accession to the throne of the son of the executed Scottish queen Maria Stuart – James I. The work, based on the plot of Scottish history, was not so much an artistic as a political response to an era in which it was necessary to develop a Scottish theme, to emphasize the historical friendship of England and Scotland and to talk about the witches and witchcraft popular with the new royal court.

Historical events and images that formed the basis of “Macbeth”, were borrowed by Shakespeare from the “Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland” by R. Hollenshead. At the same time, the English playwright significantly shortened the time of events: united at one historical moment the Maclonald revolt, the invasion of the Norwegian king and the attack of Caput’s troops on the Scots, and presented the time of Macbeth’s rule as short as the real one which amounted seventeen years.

The main idea of the tragedy is not new. In the work “Macbeth” in the form of a ruthless tyrant Shakespeare shows the weak nature of a man who was broken by the thirst for power. At the end of the work, all that was left of the once great and honest commander was a past valor that turned into a blind despair of a man who had lost everything. The play “Macbeth” is an image of the tragedy of the country during the internecine wars through the fall of the person who placed his honor, friends, even life at stake with death for power and position in society.

Main body. Developing of characters

The character of the main hero was wise and fair in telling of Hollenshead. Shakespeare turned him into villainous and despotic. Perfectly mastering his literary tools, Shakespeare did it not immediately, but gradually, showing his evolution under the influence of the forces of evil (in the beginning – three witches, and then his wife). Noble by nature hero gets off the road, believing in the witch prophecy. His seduction takes place in the classical Christian style: the witches grieve the pride of the commander (glorifying him as king) and give false confirmation of what he will become. Having taken what has been said for the inevitable fate, the protagonist decides to commit a horrible crime (killing the king as the anointed of God on earth is like attacking God himself), and again not immediately. At first he hesitates, fears, tries to backfire, but Lady Macbeth, as a born Eva, tempts him with power, persuades him to take his own, and when the commander kills the king, but does not find the strength to put bloody daggers to servants, she goes to the crime scene herself to smear the last with blood and hide from all the committed sin.

Lady Macbeth in Hollenshead’s story is described by one phrase revealing the ambition of a woman, her desire to become a queen and a verbal influence on her husband who does not dare to challenge destiny. Based on the reading, Shakespeare created a vivid female character, combining the craving for evil and the inability to survive a committed crime. The walk of Lady Macbeth in a dream, her attempts to wash her hands of blood and conversations aloud testify to the clouding of her mind. The subsequent suicide of the queen indicates a sharp rejection of the crime by human nature. Strong, courageous, capable of any act for the sake of power Lady Macbeth by the end of the tragedy becomes a weak and painful woman, while her husband, on the contrary, is hardened (his wife’s death he perceives as sad news that came not in time.

The fearlessness of Macbeth is partly due to his excessive belief in otherworldly predictions. After hearing from the witch-induced ghosts information that his power will not end until the Birnam Forest goes and his life is threatened by the hand of a woman born, the king decides that he is omnipotent and almost immortal. Macbeth’s mistake lies in the fact that he interprets their words literally and perceives what he heard through the prism of ordinary human notions about what is possible and what is not: the king has never seen living trees, all people, in his opinion, can be born only by women. When Macbeth reveals the figurative meaning of ghost warnings, he resigns himself to his fate and prefers to perish, rather than expose himself to the general outrage as a tyrant.

The image of Macbeth in the tragedy is contrasted with the images of Banco (the founder of the new royal house – the Stuarts), MacDuff (the Scottish nobleman, who stood up for the defense of his homeland and lost his patriotic aspirations to his wife and children) and Malcolm (the eldest son of King Duncan). The character of Banco is intentionally idealized by the English playwright: the real hero was Macbeth’s friend and accomplice in the murder of King Duncan, a literary character – an unknowing friend, warning the general from getting into the evil network.

Two key murders of the tragedy are portrayed by Shakespeare in a somewhat different way than it was in reality: in Hollenshead, the sent servants are killed, Shakespeare describes it differently; in Hollenshead, the murder of Banco occurs after a feast at Macbeth, in Shakespeare – before. The changes made by the English playwright in the first case emphasize the sharp fall of Macbeth – one night from a loyal subject and noble person to a mean traitor and murderer, in the second – the inner heat of passions and the necessary continuation of the witching theme. The specter of Banco takes the place of Macbeth on the feast not by chance: he predicts the quick death of the commander and his future accession in the person of eight kings, one of whom (Jacob I) in the vision shown by the commander holds in his hand a triple scepter indicating the submission to him of three countries – England, Scotland and Ireland.

The spirit of the murdered Banco is seen only by Macbeth. Here, Shakespeare follows the beliefs of his era, according to which the ghost is a specific person and remains invisible to everyone else. Knowing this, Lady Macbeth tries to persuade those present at the royal feast of her husband’s illness: seizures, according to the queen, are a safer explanation of Macbeth’s behavior, rather than confirmation of the presence of a ghost that is a direct indication of the crime committed by the protagonist.


The introduction into the tragedy of a supernatural element in the form of three witches and their leader Hecate was the starting point for an outbreak of internal conflict (Macbeth and his wife’s desire to get power at any cost) and explaining the reasons for the sudden change in the personality of the loyal commander Duncan. The outer side of witchcraft was borrowed by Shakespeare from oral legends and demonological treatises popular in England at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries (for example, the ingredients used by witches for cooking potions were taken from R. Scotte’s Exposition of Witch’s Art (1584) .

The tragedy “Macbeth”, like many dramatic works of Shakespeare, was created on the basis of the legend of the tyrant king, whose image was so artistically embodied by the author. However, researchers of Shakespeare’s works and historians came to the conclusion that the pathos and plot of the work contradict historical facts. During the reign of the Scottish King Macbeth, the bardic poets belonging to the opposition circles created a story about the killer ruler, which served as the source for writing the play.

The work is created in the classical staging genre, which is achieved by a heap of scenes unfolded by the system of images and the dynamic development of the plot. This was the reason for the high popularity of the work. From the time of Shakespeare to the present day, the tragedy “Macbeth” is included in the repertoires of theaters around the world, as well as numerous screen versions of the work.