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What are some of the ambiguities or unanswered questions in "Macbeth"?What are some of...

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shudabenblonde | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 8, 2009 at 6:47 PM via web

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What are some of the ambiguities or unanswered questions in "Macbeth"?

What are some of the ambiguities or unanswered questions in Macbeth?

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 9, 2009 at 1:08 PM (Answer #2)

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How about these for starters:

Is Macbeth a man?  Literally, yes.  However, Lady Macbeth raises this question, and he goes along with her...does this prove or disprove his masculinity?

Who is the third murderer?  Macbeth sends him/her since he doesn't really trust the first two...or anyone...to get the dirty work done.  Who is it?

Is human society basically amoral?  Is the world we live in violent, full of chaos, and dog-eat-dog?  Is Macbeth correct when he says that human life itself is meaningless and tiresome?   

Is the message of Macbeth one of despair or one of hope?  What is Shakespeare saying about Malcolm and the English King with all his symbols of goodness and Christianity?  How can this be true if human society is basically amoral?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 15, 2009 at 8:38 PM (Answer #3)

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The witches have always left me with some unanswered questions. Did they control Macbeth's destiny or just tempt him in such a way that his own destructive ambition is awakened?

In other words, does Macbeth act from his own free will, or is he  doomed from the beginning once the witches begin to toy with him? For instance, the witches prophesy that Banquo's heirs will rule. For this to happen, Macbeth must fall. Do the weird sisters know the future? Do they create the future? Are they just really good guessers?

There are a lot of implications in the drama that the witches just make mischief and trick Macbeth into destruction, but I always keep coming back to this question: Do they really possess supernatural power, and if so, how much?


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mrerick | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted January 15, 2009 at 9:18 PM (Answer #4)

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Sticking with the idea of free will vs. destiny, one of my questions has always been where Shakespeare himself would have argued that issue.  Did he believe that Macbeth was motivated by the stars (dear Brutus!), or was it his own blinding ambition?  Certainly Shakespeare attacks this in Romeo and Juliet as well, but he seems to attribute the deaths of the star-crossed lovers more to circumstance than to fate: too many people making poor decisions too many times.  The addition of the witches in Macbeth clouds the issue.

Amy, in my opinion (take it for what it's worth!), I don't think Shakespeare made an attempt at morality in this play.  I think this play was mostly about stroking King James's ego a little bit.  Considering the king's ancestory and the recent Gunpower Plot (and the way WS completely hacks and fictionalizes the historical truth of this time), I'd like to think that Shakespeare was just writing a plot driven story instead of an allegory.  My humble two cents...

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted April 20, 2010 at 12:09 PM (Answer #5)

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Good questions about the hags and if the sparked the ember or merely fanned the smoldering embers. Another question I’ve pondered: had Lady Macbeth allowed Macbeth to follow his desires in his own way in his own time, what would the outcome have been?

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