||Macbeth Literary Analysis
In Shakespeare’s lifetime he wrote many plays. Many of them were critically acclaimed
and others cast aside. The crowd always wanted to be more thoroughly entertained and
Shakespeare always tried to keep up with the people’s needs. In 1605, Shakespeare was being
hounded for another work of genius. Hamlet and King Lear had just been completed and the
people begged for more. He knew not of what to write and like many playwrights, he did
research. He found two stories from Hollinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland.
Shakespeare had already taken ideas from Hollinshed for his plays like Henry IV and Henry V.
William decided to combine the reign of Macbeth and the murder of King Duff by Donwald and
his wife, altering both to suit his needs. Macbeth is by far the shortest play that William
Shakespeare wrote. The main reason why this is so is not because Shakespeare did not have
much to say, but because King James was so impatient. Macbeth was written basically for the
king. In fact, the emphasis on witchery was because King James so heavily believed in sorcery.
Shakespeare worried very much about the evil powers insulting the king. After all was said and
done, Macbeth was another barrier to be broken in the great scheme of performances. It was an
instant success. King James and the court loved it along with England. No offenses were made
from Malcolm needing help from England. Shakespeare had feared that James would be
offended. From that moment on Macbeth would be known by all. Yet the people begged for
more and hoped Macbeth would be out done by another astounding play. Shakespeare wondered
how such a task could be accomplished. What was it about Macbeth that made it loved by
everyone? Shakespeare’s style has been analyzed by many and some still can not figure it out.
His poetry has influenced his plays immensely.
Apart from the fascinating characters of the two leading roles, the play’s chief
attraction is it wonderful poetry. Scarcely a word is wasted, and vivid images
tumble after each other in a stream of color and ideas. (Ross 43)
Shakespeare put great thought into what he wanted to write and his feelings expressed
themselves through the stylistic devices of tone, characterization, and symbolism.
Shakespeare’s characterization of Macbeth exonerates the impact he had on the play. The
tone in Macbeth remains sinister and depressing throughout the play. Symbolism, on the other
hand, kept the tragedy in tact, and if understood, revealed the whole play in the very beginning of
The character of Macbeth profoundly effects the play, by means of transpiring his actions
to hurt others. If looking at the characteristics of good and evil, it makes the reader wonder what
makes a person good or evil. Evil is not born into people, but it is the only option they have
Three features we have seen stand out clear in the general conception of
Macbeth. There is his eminently practical nature, which is the key to the whole.
And the absence in him of the inner life adds two special features: one is his
helplessness under suspense, the other is the activity of his imagination with its
susceptibility to supernatural terrors...His practical power develops as capacity for
crime...his mind is as scorpions; it is tortured in restless ecstasy. Suspense has
undermined his judgment and brought on him the gambler’s fever...The third
feature in Macbeth is the quickening of his sensitiveness to the supernatural side
by side with the deadening of his conscience...In the reaction from the murder of
Banquo the supernatural appearance-which no eye sees but his own-appears more
real to him than the real life around him. And from this point he seeks the
supernatural, forces it to disclose its terrors, and thrusts himself into an agonized
vision of generations that are to witness the triumph of his foes. (Moulton
Moulton knows what he is talking about. Macbeth was heavily influenced by supernatural
forces. In fact, were it not for them he might be living a happy and content life. The witches had
a profound affect on him. He soon found himself in a world where he wanted to know more and
more and the weird women were the only ones who could satisfy his hunger. Macbeth went from
a man who served everyone but himself to a man who served only himself. The one thing that
Macbeth had that meant the most to him was his wife. Lady Macbeth is his world. For a man
who shows so much hate, gives a lot of love. They are one of the greatest pairs of lovers that
ever existed. There is a spot where the reader can obviously pick up the dramatic change
Macbeth went through. “Seyton: The queen, my lord, is dead. Macbeth: She should have died
hereafter; There would have been a time for such a word “(Shakespeare, Act V, Scene V). His
wife, his love, his world had died and he did not even care. The way he just disregarded her lets
the readers know that he is a changed man, and not for the better. His desire to be unstoppable
and all powerful was what killed him. His ambition clouded his once clever mind to where he
could not look past the apparitions prophecies.
From the very first words, the tone reveals itself as drab and murky. It is thundering and
lightning in the very beginning and rainstorms automatically give the readers an eerie feeling.
A.C. Bradley states
Darkness, we may even say blackness, broods over this tragedy. It is remarkable
that almost all the scenes which at once recur to memory take place either at night
or in some dark. The vision of the dagger, the murder of Duncan, the murder of
Banquo, the sleep-walking of Lady Macbeth, all come in night scenes. (Bradley
Bradley is merely stating that the atmosphere remains uniform. There are a few places where the
dreary mood is blanketed by things that appear to be happy. When Macbeth arrives home, Lady
Macbeth seems so enthusiastic to see him. Her excitement is truly genuine, but beneath her
happiness is a plot of deceit and murder.
Lady Macbeth: Your face, my thane, is as a book, where men may read strange
matters:-To beguile the time, look like the time; bear welcome in your eye, your
hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it.
(Shakespeare, Act 1, Scene III)
She is telling him that his face can easily be read and that he needs to act like normal, but
underneath to be cunning. This passage takes an almost cheery moment and takes it back to a
world full of betrayal. Another place where gaiety is almost achieved is toward the very end of
the book. “Malcolm: We will perform in measure, time, and place: So thanks to all at once, and
to each one, Whom we invite to see us crown’d at Scone” (Shakespeare, Act V, Scene VII). All
seems merry, but if thought about it, the reader can easily see that trouble awaits. Malcolm has
just defeated Macbeth. However, he did not do this all on his own. He had help from England in
the defeat. England would not send troops in to help fight a war for nothing. They would soon
try to recapture Scotland. Therefore, the “happy ending” is not really going to end “happily ever
Through foreshadowing, Shakespeare was able to give the play a deeper meaning.
Foreshadowing was used in the very first scene. The three weird sisters in Act 1, Scene III, were
discussing about someone whom they were going to place a curse on. “3 Witch: Sister, where
thou? 1 Witch: A sailor’s wife had chestnuts in her lap” (Act 1, Scene III). This sailor is
referring to Macbeth. Macbeth was at first the Thane of Glamis, which represents the sailor of a
ship. The witches later go on to describe what they do to the sailor.
1 Witch: I’ll drain him dry as hay: Sleep shall neither night nor day Hang upon
his pent-house lid; He shall live a man forbid: Weary sev’n nights, nine times
nine, Shall he dwindle, peak, and pine: Though his bark cannot be lost, Yet is
shall be tempest-toss’d. (Shakespeare Act I, Scene III)
Macbeth was literally being drained dry as hay, “Macbeth: And, with thy bloody and invisible
hand, cancel, and tear to pieces, that great bond which keeps me pale” (Shakespeare Act III,
Scene II). He often complained how he never slept. He had insomnia and it had all started the
night he had killed Duncan. “Macbeth: Still it cried, ‘Sleep no more!’ to all the house: ‘Glamis
hath murther’d sleep: and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more, Macbeth shall sleep no more’”
(Shakespeare Act II, Scene II). Shakespeare used foreshadowing in most of all of his plays.
There are also many who believe that Macbeth and the Bible are related to one another. Paul N.
Macbeth resembles Adam in being suggested to evil by demonic forces, in the
deliberate choice of evil which seems good, in his desire to rise in the scale of
being, and in susceptibility to wifely logic. Thus his characterization is
universalized and made applicable to every man. Evil in Macbeth is given the
same wide reference by the protagonist’s linkage with Judas, Lucifer, and Saul.
Macbeth is like Judas in that his victim, Duncan, is a Christ-figure overflowing
with love and grace; in his welcome at Dunsinane to Duncan as being reminiscent
of Judas at the Last Supper; and in the earthquake and eclipse that accompany the
crucifixion of Christ and the murder of Duncan. (Monarch Notes 4)
In my opinion, I never would have thought about Macbeth and the Bible relating to one another,
but everyone has their own opinion. Symbolism played a very important part in Macbeth.
Blood, for instance, was very key in it. Duncan’s blood on the Macbeth’s hands is a symbol of
the evil crime they committed, the guilt of which cannot be washed away. Macbeth’s curse,
“Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will
rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red” (Shakespeare Act II, Scene
III). “Lady Macbeth: Out, damned spot! out I say!...yet who would have thought the old man to
have had so much blood in him” (Shakespeare Act V, Scene I). The guilt of Duncan’s murder,
although more present in Macbeth at first, has grown in Lady Macbeth until she began having the
same insane visions of her hands getting bloodier and bloodier not ever coming clean.