What is the main theme in "Macbeth"?

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pmiranda2857's profile pic

pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The main theme that dominates Macbeth is a complex study of man's nature, particularly Macbeth when he is given a piece of information that presents a tremendous temptation.  Shakespeare was a student of humanity, he observed human interactions and in his day it could be very brutal.  Lots of plots, murders and vicious battles.  So when Macbeth is given the prophecy by the witches, his secret desire to be king is brought to the surface.  The question is what is he going to do about it. 

Macbeth chooses, along with his wife to align himself with evil.  Part of the theme centers on the forces of good and evil in nature.  Both the physical world and the interactions between human beings.

Macbeth, through his choices to pursue his goal, to be king, through unchecked ambition that acts outside the order of nature, outside of laws, ethics and morality, unleashes into the physical world a power evil that disrupts everything.

Macbeth makes a choice to harness the power of evil, both by acting on the witches prophecy and by killing everyone in his way to the throne. Therefore, the lesson of Macbeth that Shakespeare leaves us with is simple: be mindful of the gifts that evil bestows, the joy will quickly turn to sorrow when the forces of darkness collect their fee.  Don't make deals with the devil, the price is too high, most likely your humanity, your sanity, your soul. Its not worth it! 

queen1's profile pic

queen1 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

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The main theme of the play is the role reversal illustrated throughout the play by 'fair is foul and foul is fair' (witches, 1.1): good and evil mixed up in each other reflects Macbeth's battles against himself.

cp5467's profile pic

cp5467 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

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Witches: Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air. (1.1)

This leads into the theme: "When values are reversed, chaos ensues." Look at Act 2, Scene 4 where Ross says to the Old Man:

And Duncan's horses--a thing most strange and certain--
Beauteous and swift, the minions of their race,
Turn'd wild in nature, broke their stalls, flung out,
Contending 'gainst obedience, as they would make
War with mankind. (2.4.15-18)

The horses act unruly because of the unnatural deeds that have happened, and in turn eat each other: "'Tis said they eat each other." This chaotic affect comes about because of the unnatural murder of King Duncan.

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