How does Renaissance individualism relate to the play of Macbeth?
The Renaissance was a period of history that critics broadly agree began in Italy in the fifteenth century, and featured focusing on man as the principal agent in his own destiny. The Renaissance brought with it a new focus on the individual and the capacity to which he could make his own decisions and chart his own course in life. It also featured a rejection of medieval values, which saw God as the centre of everything and was quite fatalistic in terms of man and his destiny.
In this play therefore, Renaissance individualism is expressed through the characters of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth. Both serve to demonstrate examples of characters who determine to act and shape their own destiny, no matter what the consquences. Both pledge themselves to the forces of evil in order to get what they want, deliberately going against what they know to be good and honourable in order to make Macbeth king. Note what Lady Macbeth says in her famous soliloquy in Act I scene 5:
Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark
To cry, "Hold, hold!"
This can be compared to Macbeth's speech when he asks the stars to hide themselves before he goes and kills Duncan. Both of these characters are good examples of Renaissance individualism in the way that they determine, in no uncertain terms, to shape their own destiny, whatever the consequences.