Is there more evil than good in Shakespeare's Macbeth?I'm trying to prove that there is more evil than good but I can't seem to put my thoughts to words. So far I have: there are more innocent...

Is there more evil than good in Shakespeare's Macbeth?

I'm trying to prove that there is more evil than good but I can't seem to put my thoughts to words. So far I have: there are more innocent people killed than guilty ones and most of what appears 'good' is actually evil in disguise.

Thanks for your help!

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Simply put, there is more evil than good in Macbeth.  There are forces of redemption in the drama.  Yet, there intensity and venom with which Macbeth and Lady Macbeth hatch their plan for usurping power, along with the ominous presence of the witches really makes for more of a despairing feel to the play than a redemptive one.  There is no clear lesson at the end that allows the reader to feel at ease with the amount of brutality witnessed.  At least at the end of King Lear, there is acknowledgement, albeit too little too late, and there is a sense of the "full circle" of tragedy present.  Romeo and Juliet ends with their deaths, but the families recognize the wrong of the feud. In Hamlet, there is total death to all, but with it comes the hope that the moral corruption that infected everyone in Denmark is also finally eradicated as everyone infected by it dies.   Even Othello features some redemption as Iago is exposed for the villain he is and Othello himself acknowledges his dreadful choice of alignment.  Yet, in Macbeth, I struggle to find good being a dominant force.  I think that there is good in the fact that Macbeth has been stopped.  Yet, I cannot help but there seems to be a certain hollowness in Scotland when Malcolm has finally stopped Macbeth's reign of terror.  There is evil that is present and, somehow, even with Macbeth's death, there is justice missing.  Everything being equal, Macbeth took out more than his death could replace.  This is confirmed with the supernatural focus never quite being fully explained or redeemed.  Just consider the opening to the enotes summary, something that might help put this in context:

Probably composed in late 1606 or early 1607, Macbeth is the last of Shakespeare's four great tragedies, the others being Hamlet, King Lear and Othello. It is a relatively short play without a major subplot, and it is considered by many scholars to be Shakespeare's darkest work.

Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I prefer to think there is more good than evil in this play.  Now, I suppose if we take it line-by-line there would be no doubt that evil dominates due to the dramatic focus, BUT one must not neglect how the play ENDS.  In the battle of good vs. evil, good always wins, ... at least in the case of the general definition of tragedy.  That is what I want to focus on here.

The horrid ambition of Macbeth that has lead to murder has been stopped (mostly by his head being mounted on a stick, but still ...), and so good is allowed again to reign.  Malcolm and Macduff are the hope I speak of here.  Look at the final lines in the play:

We shall not spend a large expense of time / Before we reckon with your several loves, / And make us even with you.  My thanes and kinsmen.  / ... As calling home our exiled friends abroad / That fled the snares of watchful tyranny, / ... By the grace of  Grace / We will perform in measure, time, and place:  So thanks to all at  once and to each one, / Whom we invite to see us crowned at Scone.

Malcolm, as the new king, plans to reward subjects for their devotion and not waste time in doing so.  It is truly a "new" age of goodness in Scotland.  With Malcolm as king, hopefully there will be justice for all.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm with #3 on this one, though perhaps what I would say is that while there is plenty of evil in this play, good is more powerful than evil because evil is defeated. The sheer number of evil acts are overwhelming; however, the people of Scotland are free in the end. Your thesis is that there is more evil than good; I think you can support that thesis by listing the deaths of all the innocents, the greed and selfishness of the pretender king and queen, and the suffering of the people because of it.  What I would remind you of, though, is that more evil does not mean it is stronger than the forces of good which eventually win. People in this play make great sacrifices to ensure that evil does not win.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, for all their evil deeds, do have consciences.  And, they love each other.  Of course, good triumphs as the English king "brings God's healing power."  Let us not forget that Shakespeare wrote this play in England!  And Elizabeth I attended his plays.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From your question it sounds like if you are asking if Macbeth is evil or good.  I think that Macbeth is too complex a character to call pure evil.  He is acting in what he thinks in the right way, and the best interest of the kingdom and family.