"Unnatural deeds/ Do breed unnatural troubles." How does the destruction of the natural order become one of the main themes in the play Macbeth?

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misstemple1261 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The destruction of the natural world in Macbeth shows how Macbeth’s murder of King Duncan upset the entire natural order. It was not merely a political act, but rather a blow to the entire structure and organization of Macbeth’s world. For example, our quote “Unnatural deeds/ Do breed unnatural troubles” is said by the Doctor in Act Five, Scene One. In this scene, he quickly describes Scotland’s  horrifically altered state, one in which “Foul whisp’rings are abroad” (5.1.49). These unnatural troubles echo the Old Man’s news in Act 2, Scene 4, shortly after Macbeth kills Duncan. The Old Man tells Ross:

“On Tuesday last,

A falcon, tow'ring in her pride of place,

Was by a mousing owl hawked at and killed.” (2.4. 12-14.)

Ross replies by describing how Duncan’s horses wildly attacked one another, another example of the natural order run amok.

The Old Man sums it up by saying, “'Tis unnatural,/ Even like the deed that’s done” (2.4.11-12.) The doctor has the same opinion; he explains that  these foul rumors and unnatural troubles are the consequences of unnatural deeds. Of course, readers of Macbeth know that Macbeth viewed the murder of King Duncan as an unnatural deed that betrayed the god-given divine right of kings as well as the longstanding rules of hospitality.

In Shakespeare’s time, people believed that each individual aspect of creation, whether a King or an owl, had its own place in creation, and that if this specific order was disrupted even slightly, chaos would result. This concept was referred to as the "Great Chain of Being."

Shakespeare develops this theme throughout the entirety of Macbeth. Macbeth’s first line, “So foul and fair a day I have not seen” (1.3.39), hints at the theme of disturbance and uncertainty. Lady Macbeth’s bloodlust and her desire to take on a man’s role clearly show a particularly potent role reversal during a time when gender stereotypes were more entrenched.

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Macbeth

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