macbeth essay on death

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Critical Essays Major Themes

The Fall of Man

The ancient Greek notion of tragedy concerned the fall of a great man, such as a king, from a position of superiority to a position of humility on account of his ambitious pride, or hubris . To the Greeks, such arrogance in human behavior was punishable by terrible vengeance. The tragic hero was to be pitied in his fallen plight but not necessarily forgiven: Greek tragedy frequently has a bleak outcome. Christian drama, on the other hand, always offers a ray of hope; hence, Macbeth ends with the coronation of Malcolm , a new leader who exhibits all the correct virtues for a king.

Macbeth exhibits elements that reflect the greatest Christian tragedy of all: the Fall of Man. In the Genesis story, it is the weakness of Adam, persuaded by his wife (who has in turn been seduced by the devil) which leads him to the proud assumption that he can "play God." But both stories offer room for hope: Christ will come to save mankind precisely because mankind has made the wrong choice through his own free will. In Christian terms, although Macbeth has acted tyrannically, criminally, and sinfully, he is not entirely beyond redemption in heaven.

Fortune, Fate, and Free Will

Fortune is another word for chance. The ancient view of human affairs frequently referred to the "Wheel of Fortune," according to which human life was something of a lottery. One could rise to the top of the wheel and enjoy the benefits of superiority, but only for a while. With an unpredictable swing up or down, one could equally easily crash to the base of the wheel.

Fate, on the other hand, is fixed. In a fatalistic universe, the length and outcome of one's life (destiny) is predetermined by external forces. In Macbeth, the Witches represent this influence. The play makes an important distinction: Fate may dictate what will be, but how that destiny comes about is a matter of chance (and, in a Christian world such as Macbeth's) of man's own choice or free will.

Although Macbeth is told he will become king, he is not told how to achieve the position of king: that much is up to him. We cannot blame him for becoming king (it is his Destiny), but we can blame him for the way in which he chooses to get there (by his own free will).

Kingship and Natural Order

Macbeth is set in a society in which the notion of honor to one's word and loyalty to one's superiors is absolute. At the top of this hierarchy is the king, God's representative on Earth. Other relationships also depend on loyalty: comradeship in warfare, hospitality of host towards guest, and the loyalty between husband and wife. In this play, all these basic societal relationships are perverted or broken. Lady Macbeth's domination over her husband, Macbeth's treacherous act of regicide, and his destruction of comradely and family bonds, all go against the natural order of things.

The medieval and renaissance view of the world saw a relationship between order on earth, the so-called microcosm , and order on the larger scale of the universe, or macrocosm. Thus, when Lennox and the Old Man talk of the terrifying alteration in the natural order of the universe — tempests, earthquakes, darkness at noon, and so on — these are all reflections of the breakage of the natural order that Macbeth has brought about in his own microcosmic world.

Disruption of Nature

Violent disruptions in nature — tempests, earthquakes, darkness at noon, and so on — parallel the unnatural and disruptive death of the monarch Duncan.

The medieval and renaissance view of the world saw a relationship between order on earth, the so-called microcosm, and order on the larger scale of the universe, or macrocosm. Thus, when Lennox and the Old Man talk of the terrifying alteration in the natural order of the universe (nature), these are all reflections of the breakage of the natural order that Macbeth has brought about in his own microcosmic world (society).

Many critics see the parallel between Duncan's death and disorder in nature as an affirmation of the divine right theory of kingship. As we witness in the play, Macbeth's murder of Duncan and his continued tyranny extends the disorder of the entire country.

Gender Roles

Lady Macbeth is the focus of much of the exploration of gender roles in the play. As Lady Macbeth propels her husband toward committing Duncan's murder, she indicates that she must take on masculine characteristics. Her most famous speech — located in Act I, Scene 5 — addresses this issue.

Clearly, gender is out of its traditional order. This disruption of gender roles is also presented through Lady Macbeth's usurpation of the dominate role in the Macbeth's marriage; on many occasions, she rules her husband and dictates his actions.

Reason Versus Passion

During their debates over which course of action to take, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth use different persuasive strategies. Their differences can easily be seen as part of a thematic study of gender roles. However, in truth, the difference in ways Macbeth and Lady Macbeth rationalize their actions is essential to understanding the subtle nuances of the play as a whole.

Macbeth is very rational, contemplating the consequences and implications of his actions. He recognizes the political, ethical, and religious reason why he should not commit regicide. In addition to jeopardizing his afterlife, Macbeth notes that regicide is a violation of Duncan's "double trust" that stems from Macbeth's bonds as a kinsman and as a subject.

On the other hand, Lady Macbeth has a more passionate way of examining the pros and cons of killing Duncan. She is motivated by her feelings and uses emotional arguments to persuade her husband to commit the evil act.

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The Tragedy of MacBeth

By william shakespeare.

The Tragedy of MacBeth

Macbeth is among the best known of William Shakespeare’s plays, as well as his shortest surviving tragedy. It is frequently performed at professional and community theatres around the world. The play, loosely based upon the historical account of King Macbeth of Scotland by Raphael Holinshed and the Scottish philosopher Hector Boece, is often seen as an archetypal tale of the dangers of the lust for power and betrayal of friends. It has frequently been adapted. In the theatrical world, many superstitions are associated with “Macbeth,” all connected with the belief that the play is somehow “cursed.” Many actors will not mention the name of the play aloud, referring to it as “the Scottish Play”.

Source: Richard Grant White, ed. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (New York: Sully and Kleinteich)

  • Year Published: 1607
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: England
  • Flesch–Kincaid Level: 11.0
  • Word Count: 18,731
  • Genre: Tragedy
  • Keywords: betrayal, cast, characters, envy, murder, power, revenge, tragedy
  • ✎ Cite This
  • Available on iTunes U

Shakespeare, W. (1607). The Tragedy of MacBeth . (Lit2Go ed.). Retrieved September 30, 2023, from

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of MacBeth . Lit2Go Edition. 1607. Web. >. September 30, 2023.

William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of MacBeth , Li2Go edition, (1607), accessed September 30, 2023, .

Home / Essay Samples / Literature / Plays / Macbeth

A Symbolism of Death in the Play Macbeth by William Shakespeare

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Plays , Art Movement , Writers

Macbeth , Symbolism , William Shakespeare

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A Symbolism Of Death in The Play Macbeth By William Shakespeare

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Works cited

  • Shakespeare, W. (2015). Macbeth. Cambridge University Press.
  • This is the original play written by William Shakespeare and is the primary source for the essay. It will be used to support the arguments and to provide evidence for the analysis.
  • Bloom, H. (ed.) (2005). Macbeth. Infobase Publishing.
  • This book provides critical analysis and interpretations of the play. It contains essays from various authors and scholars and will be used to provide additional insights and perspectives on the themes and characters.
  • Kolin, P. C. (ed.) (2005). Macbeth: New Critical Essays. Routledge.
  • This book provides a collection of critical essays that explore various aspects of the play, including its themes, characters, and motifs. It will be used to support the arguments and provide additional perspectives on the play.
  • Boyce, C. (2010). Shakespeare A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Plays, His Poems, His Life and Times, and More. Delta.
  • This book is a comprehensive reference guide to Shakespeare's works and will be used to provide background information on the play and its historical context.
  • McEachern, C. (2007). The Cambridge Companion to Shakespearean Tragedy. Cambridge University Press.
  • This book provides a collection of critical essays on Shakespeare's tragedies, including Macbeth. It will be used to provide additional insights into the play's themes and characters.
  • Garber, M. (2010). Shakespeare's Ghost Writers: Literature as Uncanny Causality. Routledge.
  • This book explores the themes of ghosts and supernatural in Shakespeare's works, including Macbeth. It will be used to provide additional insights into the play's motifs and symbolism.
  • Knight, G. W. (2010). Shakespeare and Religion. Routledge.
  • This book explores the role of religion in Shakespeare's works and will be used to provide additional insights into the play's religious and moral themes.
  • Foakes, R. A. (ed.) (2003). Macbeth: The Oxford Shakespeare. Oxford University Press.
  • This book provides a critical edition of the play and will be used to provide additional textual analysis and insights into the play's language and style.
  • Honigmann, E. A. J. (1999). Shakespeare: The "Lost Years". Manchester University Press.
  • This book explores the "lost years" of Shakespeare's life and will be used to provide additional background information on the play's author and its historical context.
  • Bradbrook, M. C. (1991). Themes and Conventions of Elizabethan Tragedy. Cambridge University Press.
  • This book provides an analysis of the themes and conventions of Elizabethan tragedy, including Macbeth. It will be used to provide additional insights into the play's structure and themes.

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William Shakespeare

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The Power of Death in Literature: How a Single Scene Can Illuminate the Meaning of an Entire Work

The Power of Death in Literature: How a Single Scene Can Illuminate the Meaning of an Entire Work

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2. 2004, Form B. The most important themes in literature are sometimes developed in scenes in which a death or deaths take place. Choose a novel or play and write a well-organized essay in which you show how a specific death scene helps to illuminate the meaning of the work as a whole.  a novel or play that depicts a conflict between a parent (or a parental figure) and a son or daughter. Write an essay in which you analyze the sources of the conflict and explain how the conflict contributes to the meaning of the work. Avoid plot summary.

2002. Morally ambiguous characters — characters whose behavior discourages readers from identifying them as purely evil or purely good — are at the heart of many works of literature. Choose a novel or play in which a morally ambiguous character plays a pivotal role. Then write an essay in which you explain how the character can be viewed as morally ambiguous and why his or her moral ambiguity is significant to the work as a whole. Avoid mere plot summary.

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2002, Form B. Often in literature, a character’s success in achieving goals depends on keeping a secret and divulging it only at the right moment, if at all. Choose a novel or play of literary merit that requires a character to keep a secret. In a well-organized essay, briefly explain the necessity for secrecy and how the character’s choice to reveal or keep the secret affects the plot and contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole. You may select a work from the list below, or you may choose another work of recognized literary merit suitable to the topic. Do NOT write about a short story, poem, or film.

1999. The eighteenth-century British novelist Laurence Sterne wrote, “No body, but he who has felt it, can conceive what a plaguing thing it is to have a man’s mind torn asunder by two projects of equal strength, both obstinately pulling in a contrary direction at the same time.” From a novel or play choose a character (not necessarily the protagonist) whose mind is pulled in conflicting directions by two compelling desires, ambitions, obligations, or influences. Then, in a well-organized essay, identify each of the two conflicting forces and explain how this conflict with one character illuminates the meaning of the work as a whole. You may use one of the novels or plays listed below or another novel or work of similar literary quality.

2003, Form B. Novels and plays often depict characters caught between colliding cultures — national, regional, ethnic, religious, institutional. Such collisions can call a character’s sense of identity into question. Select a novel or play in which a character responds to such a cultural collision. Then write a well-organized essay in which you describe the character’s response and explain its relevance to the work as a whole.

2004, Form B. The most important themes in literature are sometimes developed in scenes in which a death or deaths take place. Choose a novel or play and write a well-organized essay in which you show how a specific death scene helps to illuminate the meaning of the work as a whole. Avoid mere plot summary.

2005. In Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (1899), protagonist Edna Pontellier is said to possess “That outward existence which conforms, the inward life that questions.” In a novel or play that you have studied, identify a character who outwardly conforms while questioning inwardly. Then write an essay in which you analyze how this tension between outward conformity and inward questioning contributes to the meaning of the work. Avoid mere plot summary.

2005, Form B. One of the strongest human drives seems to be a desire for power. Write an essay in which you discuss how a character in a novel or a drama struggles to free himself or herself from the power of others or seeks to gain power over others. Be sure to demonstrate in your essay how the author uses this power struggle to enhance the meaning of the work.

2007, Form B. Works of literature often depict acts of betrayal. Friends and even family may betray a protagonist; main characters may likewise be guilty of treachery or may betray their own values. Select a novel or play that includes such acts of betrayal. Then, in a well-written essay, analyze the nature of the betrayal and show how it contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole.

2008, Form B. In some works of literature, childhood and adolescence are portrayed as times graced by innocence and a sense of wonder; in other works, they are depicted as times of tribulation and terror. Focusing on a single novel or play, explain how its representation of childhood or adolescence shapes the meaning of the work as a whole.

2009, Form B. Many works of literature deal with political or social issues. Choose a novel or play that focuses on a political or social issue. Then write an essay in which you analyze how the author uses literary elements to explore this issue and explain how the issue contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole. Do not merely summarize the plot

Many works of literature depict characters struggling to maintain appearances that are in stark contrast to their inner lives. Choose a significant novel or play that focuses on this struggle and write an essay in which you analyze how the author uses this struggle to create the meaning of the larger work. Avoid plot summary.

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Home — Essay Samples — Literature — Macbeth — How Does Lady Macbeth Die


How Does Lady Macbeth Die

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The essay analyzes the role of death and the character of Lady Macbeth in William Shakespeare's play "Macbeth." It highlights how Lady Macbeth's pressure for power and her manipulation of her husband, Macbeth, play a significant role in the tragic events of the play.

The essay delves into Lady Macbeth's relentless ambition and her ability to control and influence Macbeth's actions. It emphasizes her role in persuading Macbeth to commit regicide, showcasing her ruthless ambition and the subsequent guilt that plagues her.

Furthermore, the essay discusses the power dynamics within their relationship, with Lady Macbeth often portrayed as the dominant figure, manipulating Macbeth to achieve her desires.

In conclusion, the essay underscores how Lady Macbeth's actions and her pursuit of power contribute to the tragic downfall of both herself and Macbeth. Her ambition and manipulation ultimately lead to a series of events that result in death and despair.

The Tragedy of Lady Macbeth (essay)

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Macbeth Essay: Who is responsible for the death of Duncan?

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Who is Responsible for the Death of King Duncan in ‘ Macbeth’ by William Shakespeare?

In the debate of responsibility for Duncan’s death it would be rational to primarily consider his murderer, Macbeth. A number of factors lead him to kill Duncan. It is evident that he did not go about his crime acting entirely of his own accord – there is an element of corruption from the witches and his wife – however he must have had an existent ambition and desire for the throne in order to follow the plot through. Initially, the witches inform him that he ‘‘shalt be King hereafter’’. Macbeth adopts this prophecy as an objective, even calling it ‘‘ the deed’’ as if it is something he must accomplish. His ambitious nature yearns to accelerate the process by removing Duncan from the throne forcibly. This reveals the evil within Macbeth, because the ‘‘weird sisters’’ only tell him that he will be king, they give him no advise as to how to go about it – it is his own ‘‘black and deep desires’’ which control his sinful actions. Immediately after hearing the witches’ foresight, he is very interested, and asks to ‘‘tell me more’’. The ease at which evil has Macbeth wanting more information suggests that Macbeth might have subconsciously wanted to commit the murder anyway, as if the prophecy is just a trigger for an inevitable course of action, signified when Macbeth declares ‘‘if chance will have me king, why chance may crown me’’. Shakespeare emphasises the repeated use of the words describing destiny. This sense of necessity could be the way Macbeth is justifying the act, to feebly satisfy his human apprehensions and ethical conflicts. Ultimately, he allows himself to be corrupted, and for this is allowed no innocence – he becomes unholy and ‘‘horrible imaginings’’ consume him. The idea to ‘‘look like th’innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t’’ appears to progress throughout the play to become a way of life even after he has succeeded: ‘‘love and health to all’’ when he really wills them all dead.  

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Macbeth is not solely culpable however. It was Lady Macbeth who convinced him to eliminate the king so that he could seize the throne. Early in the play she resolves to ‘‘pour my spirits in thine [Macbeth’s] ear’’ therefore her so-called spirits can be blamed for overwhelming Macbeth. It can be said that Lady Macbeth has more liability for Duncan’s murder than Macbeth himself as she used her position as his wife to induce her husband to the sin. She knew the ‘‘adoration’’ and ‘‘dearest love’’ Macbeth had for her and threatens this by questioning his manliness and devotion to her. This is her wicked tactic to manipulate Macbeth into going ahead with the killing. Lady Macbeth is also directly a cause for Macbeth’s actions. She forms the details of the plan to kill Duncan, and orders him throughout the play, such as ‘‘give me the daggers’’ and ‘‘leave all the rest to me’’, both very demanding. It appears to me that without Lady Macbeth’s ‘‘ direst cruelty’’ Macbeth would not have had the willpower to carry out the task. Perhaps he is merely a tool, manipulated by Lady Macbeth to achieve her goal to be queen.

It could also be argued that the witches, out of spite, spurred on by pure evil, set up the whole thing for their own pleasure. For the prophecy to become reality, itself is essential. Because, if Macbeth hadn’t been informed that he would be king he would never have considered regicide. Macbeth proves this when he questions the witches, ‘‘to be King stands not within the prospect of belief’’ clearly surprised by their prophecy. It is undisputable that the ‘‘three sisters’’ are malevolent and supernatural. Shakespeare uses language to portray this – the witches do not speak in blank verse like all the noble characters, they also rhyme words often making their conversations seem like incantations: ‘‘when the hurly-burly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won. That will be ere the set of sun.’’ It is apparent that compelling Macbeth to murder could be some kind of game to the witches. It seems to be a regular outing for them, when one jovially asks ‘‘when shall we three meet again?’’ It is sensible to put the witches at fault because they act with no guilt or remorse because they do not know right from wrong as is evident by the phrase ‘‘fair is foul, and foul is fair’’.

The final culprit for Duncan’s death is Duncan himself. His own blind trust in the members of his court even though one of them had all ready betrayed him is what doomed him. Ironically when Duncan refers to the original Thane of Cawdor after he was told of his execution he describes as ‘‘a gentleman on whom I built an absolute trust”, he in my opinion is unconsciously referring to the new Thane of Cawdor as well, as if Macbeth inherited the traits of his predecessor with the title. The crucial mistake Duncan made was to have faith in a person who shares all the attributes of the traitor. This fault was fatal as it proved to be at the time of his demise. He was overconfident with his friends, when secretly they were his enemies and should have been more wary of the treason. Duncan is far too kind and welcoming with potential adversaries and as a result cannot see the deceit in them: the person who plans his death and latter cover-up is to him simply ‘’our honoured hostess’’. He seems incapable of perceiving evil.

To conclude the discussion, I would answer that there is no individual culprit for the death of Duncan, because each contribute importantly: The witches commence the reaction that starts the series of events leading to murder; Lady Macbeth reassures Macbeth, pressures him into the sin, and conceals the evidence by ‘‘[smearing] the sleepy grooms with blood’’; Macbeth has the ambition, and is too weak to resist corruption and not be persuaded into proceeding with Lady Macbeth’s plans; and Duncan is foolishly naïve and  fails to notice a plot right under his nose, even bringing himself to the scene of the crime with only two guards. Without either of the factions the death would not occur, therefore they are equally responsible.

Macbeth Essay: Who is responsible for the death of Duncan?

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Macbeth: Ambition, Paranoia, and Self-Fulfilling Prophesies Macbeth is an iconic tragedy by William Shakespeare, which borrows some key themes from a classic Athenian tragedy of Oedipus Rex. Apart from the evident similarities like the themes of self-fulfilling prophesy and paranoia, a Shakespearean tragedy about the bloody King of Scotland manages to uncover a variety of topics that are unique to the Renaissance worldview of the author. There’s probably not a single research paper on Macbeth that would not draw those clear parallels between the two iconic tragedies, but that’s not what we are here for. We are here to outline the key points of the story and discuss pivotal topics stressed by the author. It all starts with the main character being a prominent Scottish General who’s just won a decisive victory over invaders. On his way home and to meet the king, our hero stumbles upon a trio of witches who tell him he was going to become the King of Scots in case he kills the current king. Not being that kind of guy, Macbeth does not want to kill the king he’s been so loyal to for years. Lady Macbeth, though, has other plans. She plots the murder of a king and stages it all up in such a way as to ensure her husband being out of suspicion. Macbeth manages to become a king, but it all ends bitterly for our unlikely murderer of the king, and subsequently, the killer of many innocent people too. That’s not the end of the story though, and you might want to check other examples of essays on Macbeth including but not limited to Macbeth character analysis, persuasive essay, and argumentative essay examples. Looking for the Macbeth essay example? Check our website out, we have tons of those.

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