What are examples of isolation in Macbeth?   

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shakespeareguru eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Your question a a bit perplexing, since you asked one question, but noted Seneca (A Roman playwright) and Senecan elements in your tags.  Seneca's reworkings of Greek tragedies focused on blood, gore, witches and the supernatural and often featured revenge.  Many of these elements appear in Macbeth, but don't really have much to do with isolation.  I will leave this reference to Seneca for you to re-frame, if you have a question about how his work relates to Macbeth, and answer your question about isolation.

There is much intrigue and behind the scenes machination in the play Macbeth, and any character who is acting in secret is subject to some sense of isolation.  The major examples of isolation in the play that I find are:

  • In Acts One and Two, Macbeth is isolated from his comrades because he begins to consider murdering their common leader, Duncan, and cannot share this with any of them, especially his friend Banquo.
  • Also in Acts One and Two, Macbeth is not sure that this course of action is one he should take, this isolates him from Lady Macbeth, who chides him for his hesitation.
  • In Act Two, Donalbain and Malcolm are isolated from their homeland (and the throne) when they flee Scotland for Ireland and England.
  • In Act Three, Macbeth is isolated in his envisioning the ghost of Banquo.  No one else sees this apparition.
  • In Act Four, Macduff is forced to flee Scotland and, in doing so, is isolated from his family.  They are subsequently murdered by Macbeth.
  • In Act Five, Lady Macbeth is isolated from her husband and the rest of the world when her guilt draws her into a sleepwalking madness.
  • In Act Five, Macbeth admits his complete sense of isolation from the rest of humanity in the very famous lines from scene five that begin "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow."

Certainly you might find other examples of isolation in this bleak and tragic examination of the demise of Macbeth, a man who falls victim to his own ambition and hubris.

Please follow the links below to the study guide on Macbeth and a page on Seneca's tragedies for more information on both.


William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In addition to the excellent answer posted by shakespeareguru above, there is a good example of Macbeth's isolation in Act 5, Scene 3 in the soliloquy in which he reflects on his situation:

I have lived long enoough. My way of life

Is fall'n into the sere, the yellow leaf,

And that which should accompany old age,

As honor, love, obedience, troops of friends,

I must not look to have, but in their stead

Curses, not loud but deep, mouth-honor, breath

Which the poor heart would fain deny and dare not.

Shortly afterwards, he learns that his wife has died, leaving him more entirely alone. And a little later, when he is confronted by Macduff on the battlefield, he seems completely alone in the world except for his most bitter enemy who intends to kill him.

Macbeth's soliloquy quoted above seems to be a restatement of the feelings he expressed much earlier in Act 2, Scene 3, right after Duncan's body was discovered.

Had I but died an hour before this chance,

I had lived a blessed time, for from this instant

There's nothing serious in mortality.

All is but toys. Renown and grace is dead.

The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees

Is left this vault to brag of.