Macbeth Theme Essay
Throughout Macbeth Shakespeare reveals characters in Macbeth frequently have close counter experiences with each other. Lady Macbeth manipulates her husband by questioning his manhood and wishing that she could be “unsexed.” In this same manner Lady Macbeth lures Macbeth into murder. Macbeth provokes the murderers he hires to kill Banquo by questioning their manhood. In the play Macbeth, Shakespeare shows such acts that both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth equate masculinity with naked aggression, and whenever they converse about manhood, violence soon follows.
In Macbeth, Shakespeare portrays Lady Macbeth as a person full of violence and evil. The witches’ prophecies spark Macbeth’s ambitions and then encourage his violent behavior; Lady Macbeth provides the brains and the will behind her husband’s plotting; and the only divine being to appear is Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft. In Act 1, scene ...view middle of the document...
Later in Act 1 Macbeth is deciding whether to kill Duncan or not. When he lists Duncan’s noble qualities (he “[h]ath borne his faculties so meek”) and the loyalty that he feels toward his king (“I am his kinsman and his subject”), we are reminded of just how grave an outrage it is for the couple to slaughter their ruler while he is a guest in their house. If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well/ To plague th’inventor. This even-handed justice/ So clear in his great office, that his virtues/ And falls on th’other” (1.7.1-28). As the soliloquy ends, Macbeth seems to resolve not to kill Duncan, but this resolve will only last until his wife returns and once again convinces him, by the strength of her will, to go ahead with their plot.
Ultimately, the play does put forth a revised and less destructive definition of manhood. In the scene where Macduff learns of the murders of his wife and child, Malcolm consoles him by encouraging him to take the news in “manly” fashion, by seeking revenge upon Macbeth. Macduff shows the young heir apparent that he has a mistaken understanding of masculinity. To Malcolm’s suggestion, “Dispute it like a man,” Macduff replies, “I shall do so. But I must also feel it as a man” (4.3.221–223). At the end of the play, Siward receives news of his son’s death rather complacently. Malcolm responds: “He’s worth more sorrow [than you have expressed] / And that I’ll spend for him” (5.11.16–17). Malcolm’s comment shows that he has learned the lesson Macduff gave him on the sentient nature of true masculinity. It also suggests that, with Malcolm’s coronation, order will be restored to the Kingdom of Scotland.
Throughout the play Macbeth, Lady Macbeth manipulates Macbeth until she can get her way. She continues to question his manhood until she gets control of his conscience. Once Lady Macbeth gains control of Macbeth’s conscience she turns it into mush and then inputs her plan to do whatever is necessary to seize the throne. This is why I think the relationship between cruelty and manhood is the main theme of Macbeth.