Themes In Macbeth 2 Essay, Research Paper
Themes in Macbeth
While reading the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare I found four basic themes. First, The detrimental force humans have on nature. Second, the impact of manhood. Third, the different ways Shakespeare used masks. And finally, the theme created by light versus dark.
“Thunder and lightning.” This is the description of the scene before Act I, Scene I. The thunder and lightning represent disturbances in nature. Most people do not think of a great day being filled with thunder and lightning. So thunder and lightning surrounds the witches. Also, the first witch asks about the meeting with Macbeth, “In thunder, lightning, or in rain?” The meeting will also be filled with these disturbances. The witches are also surrounded by more undesired parts of weather: “Hover through the fog and filthy air.” The weather might personify the witches, meaning that the witches themselves are disturbances, though not limited to nature. The bad weather also might mean that the witches are bad creatures. In Act II, Scene I, it is a dark night. Fleance says “The moon is down” and Banquo says, “Heaven’s candles are all out, implying that there are no stars in the sky. Darkness creates feelings of evilness, of a disturbance in nature. It creates a perfect scene for the murders. Another disturbance in nature comes from Macbeth’s mouth, “Now o’er the one half-world, nature seems dead. This statement might mean that nowhere he looks, the world seems dead. It might also give him conceited ideas that the murder he is about to commit will have repercussions spreading far. The doctor says in Act V, “A great perturbation in nature,” while talking about Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking. This is just another example of how nature is disturbed by human doings.
“Come, you spirits. That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,” says Lady Macbeth (Act I, Scene V). She wishes she were a man. And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full of direst cruelty! Make thick my blood, stop up the access and passage to remorse, that no compunctions visitings of nature shake my fell purpose, not keep peace between the effect and it!” This is what a true man is to Lady Macbeth. To help convince Macbeth not to call the murder off, Lady Macbeth questions his manhood. She says, “When you durst do it, then you were a man; and to be more than what you were, you would be so much more the man.” The sad part is that Lady Macbeth truly does believe that Macbeth wouldn’t be a man if he didn’t agree to the killing. Probably the most direct example of manhood being a theme in Macbeth is Macduff at the end of Act IV. While Malcolm implores him to “dispute it like a man,” Macduff says that he must also “feel it as a man,” which changes the image of a man given above by Lady Macbeth. While she portrays men as being cruel and cold-hearted, Macduff shows that a man is cruel and cold when he needs to be, but feels just as intensely as he acts.
In Act I, Scene V, as Lady Macbeth talks to Macbeth, she gives him specific instructions: “Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye, your hand, your tongue: like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it.” Or in other words, put on a poker face so no one will suspect us. Be foul though seem fair, is how the witches put it in scene one. Throughout the play, many characters put on metaphorical masks to hide their true nature, thoughts, or feelings.
In Scene VI, Lady Macbeth puts on her mask. She says that the service and hospitality are nothing, “Against those honors deep and broad wherewith your Majesty loads our house . . .” She easily keeps any suspicion off of her in her trick. “But be the serpent under it.” Lady Macbeth might be referring to herself, that she is the serpent under Macbeth, and that Macbeth is the mask, or screen, which diverts attention from Lady Macbeth. Banquo is able to see through Macbeth’s masks. In Act III, Scene I, Banquo puts up his own masks. He almost knows that Macbeth is the murderer, but he hides his suspicions while he talks to Macbeth. The masks aren’t always limited to uses of evil.
Much of this play is filled with the struggle between light and darkness Macbeth asks for darkness to hide his desires in Act I, and then darkness shrouds the night of the murder. The light in the first two acts is King Duncan, but the struggle went in favor of darkness. This struggle occurs in every act of the play. Also, in Act V, Scene VII, Macduff enters and says, “If thou best slain and with no stroke of mine, my wife and children’s ghosts will haunt me still.” Macduff can’t rest until he gets revenge on the killer of his family, something Malcolm and Fleance whose family was also killed by Macbeth didn’t say. Macduff is the light that will soon come to a final climactic battle with the dark (Macbeth). There is also religious meaning to this: God against the devil, Macbeth being the devil. This theme is an epic battle of good vs. evil.