How would you interpret the question of morality in the the play Macbeth?and Shakespeare's dramatisation of evil and power through individuality, politics i.e gender politics and social...

How would you interpret the question of morality in the the play Macbeth?

and Shakespeare's dramatisation of evil and power through individuality, politics i.e gender politics and social politics,and spirituality i.e the cosmic and the metaphysical?

Asked on by mr-t

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lynnebh's profile pic

lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

Macbeth is a play that is full of the supernatural and of evil. Shakespeare uncovers the baser nature of humankind - blind ambition, power struggles, control, unholy alliances, dysfunctional relationships, gender supremacy and social politics, wars, etc. And yet, it is interesting that the evil in the play comes from the humans, not the supernatural. In the very beginning of the play, when the three witches sense Macbeth is coming, they say:

Something wicked this way comes

So they, who are supposed to be evil, ugly and scary are actually the ones who recognize the evil, ugly and scary soul and heart of Macbeth. Macbeth is frightened by them, but they should be frightened of him. Notice that when Macbeth and Banquo meet up with the witches, Macbeth is more afraid of them than Banquo. This is a curious juxtaposition, don't you think?

Fair is foul and foul is fair

I believe Shakespeare uses this juxtaposition to expose the treachery that lies in Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. They are both beyond immoral!

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are both driven and tortured by their sins. Macbeth sees ghosts and Lady Macbeth sees bloodstains on her hands. The supernatural world haunts them because of their guilt. In fact, Lady Macbeth calls upon the supernatural world to change her human nature into a non-human one so that she can carry out her evil plan:

Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,

There is an excellent discussion of the themes in Macbeth here on enotes that can help you with your question.

dstuva's profile pic

Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Shakespeare's Macbeth is very much a play about good vs evil. 

The Macbeths and the witches are evil, and Duncan, Banquo, Macduff, etc. are good.

That said, as oriented as the play is toward good vs evil, the characters are not siimplistic, black and white constructions.

Macbeth has qualms about killing Duncan because the king is humble and fair.  Lady Macbeth prays so that emotions like kindness and mercy won't enter her mind and stop her from killing Duncan.  And, when she has a chance to do it she can't, because the sleeping Duncan reminds her of her father.  Even the witches, one can argue, only bring out what is already present in Macbeth.  And they don't actually do anything such as kill anyone, though they are certainly partly responsible for the killings.

Thus, while it is a play about good vs. evil, it is not a simplistic, black and white depiction of good guys vs. bad guys.

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