What are the human issues that are brought up in the play Macbeth?

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dule05 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The play can be understood as a study of human behavior and character. Through his plays, Shakespeare implies that human nature is more complex and that human character is a mixture of contradictions and a fusion of both the good and the bad. Our tragic hero, Macbeth, is multidimensional; it would be fairly easy to only cast him as a villain, which he is, yet we must pay attention to all the sides he consists of if we are to understand him properly.

The focus of the play is on Macbeth's unrestrained ambition to become the King, which becomes the reason for his imminent downfall. The play implies that being ambitious is good as long as one does not become consumed and blinded by it. Macbeth, at first, is depicted as valiant, loyal and good. Unfortunately, he succumbs to his perilously uncontrolled ambition to become the King of Scotland and decides to get rid of anyone who stands in his way.

Another important aspect of the play is one's conscience. The play suggests that having a clear conscience is a prerequisite for one's health and success. When Macbeth begins committing evil acts, he is aware that his conscience becomes guilt-ridden and his actions irredeemable. He is tortured by his guilty conscience and realizes he will never be able to regain his peace of mind:

 Methought I heard a voice cry 'Sleep no more!
 Macbeth does murder sleep', the innocent sleep,
 Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care,
 The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
 Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
 Chief nourisher in life's feast...

As the evil deeds accumulate, Macbeth's life becomes a story "told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." When one loses his/her way and yields to sinister desires, nullifying the principles that must be respected, one's life becomes meaningless. And Macbeth realizes that in the end.