I need help writing a thesis statement on the role of supernatural in Macbeth. In my essay I have talked about how the witches were real but Banqo's ghost and other things Macbeth saw were...

I need help writing a thesis statement on the role of supernatural in Macbeth.

In my essay I have talked about how the witches were real but Banqo's ghost and other things Macbeth saw were hallucinations.

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huntress's profile pic

huntress | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

First, it helps to think of a "thesis" as an answer to a question--which is all it is. This means you must begin your essay (French "essai" = to try (to answer)) with a question. The question must be specific and narrow enough to answer well, with textual evidence, in the space allotted. This means "What is the role of the supernatural in MacBeth?" is a bit broad, unless you're writing a thesis or dissertation. 

To play on thanatassa's suggestions above, I'd ask IF the audience thought Banqo's ghost and the witches (with true power) were "real" in the play, and why. 

The play was written as a tribute to King James (of King James' Bible fame, presumed to have descended from Banquo) who was so fascinated with the supernatural and witches that he wrote Daemononlogie in 1597--a book about witches and ghosts. He had ended the witch hunts shortly thereafter, long before the play was written and performed, but his fascination with the ideas no doubt remained. 

Also consider the fact that Banquo's ghost has been performed as a hallucination--in which nothing appears to the audience and MacBeth is talking to an empty chair--and as an actual being which the audience can see (just like the dagger). The director makes these choices, depending on intended effect and audience. 

I would personally have a hard time making the case that the witches (and their supernatural powers) were real but the rest was mere hallucination. If the supernatural exists in the play "world," where do you draw the line? 

thanatassa's profile pic

thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Your thesis statement should summarize your main lines of argument. It essentially constitutes the assertion that the body of your text seeks to prove. Thus in order to write your thesis statement, you need to think of what reason you have for arguing that the witches were real but the ghost not.

Your first line of evidence needs to be the beliefs of the period. Ghosts occur as plot devices in several of Shakespeare's plays; Hamlet's father, for example, identifies Claudius as the murderer and persuades Hamlet to kill Claudius. How does this affect your argument?

As you decide on your thesis, you will need to address the following issues:

  • Did Shakespeare believe ghosts and witches were real? Or just witches?
  • What did Shakespeare's audience believe? Would they have thought the ghost real?
  • What about the characters in the play? What sort of statements do they make that might be evidence of their opinions concerning the reality or unreality of ghosts and witches?
  • What would a modern audience believe?
  • In the case of the witches, were real women doing real witchcraft or just clever women pretending to be witches? What do you think Shakespeare and his audience believed?

Your answers to these questions will give you the logical distinctions you need to make in your introduction as a thesis statement.

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