Symbols and Themes


Themes are the central topics of the work.

Tyranny and Ultimate Power

Before he becomes the king of Scotland, Macbeth thrives on the battlefield and may seem to some to be the protagonist of the play. However, as soon as the witches’ prophecies begin to come true, Macbeth slowly loses the ability to act as a sympathetic force. Once he gains more power, Macbeth loses sight of others’ wishes and needs. Instead, he becomes fixated on extending his power to its fullest force. Macbeth stops considering the consequences of his actions; he especially disregards how those consequences hurt the political structure of Scotland and the needs of the citizens. Although he never admits to becoming a tyrannical ruler, Macbeth relies on terrorizing others to get his way. However, Macbeth’s tyrannical rule does not last long; indeed, the brutish murders he endorses cause him to lose power and, ultimately, his life. His unchecked power eventually leads to his own demise.

Feminine Ambition and Hostility

Throughout Macbeth, Lady Macbeth often appears more frightening than her husband. Her role in the play strongly contrasts with the typical portrait of the 11th-century woman. Instead of desiring to raise children and maintain a perfect household, Lady Macbeth wants to rise in power along with her husband. At times, it seems that Lady Macbeth often wishes for more power than her husband. Despite her husband’s mixed emotions about killing the king, Lady Macbeth does not flinch when suggesting the murder of King Duncan. Instead of relying on feminine wiles or domestic expertise, Lady Macbeth uses her ambition to push Macbeth toward ultimate power in Scotland. Gender does not stand in Lady Macbeth’s way; only when it comes to the actual slaying of Duncan does Lady Macbeth wish to be male so she can physically perform the murder herself.

However, Lady Macbeth’s ambition...

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Essays About Macbeth